Here I sit in Austin, Texas, the supposed epicenter of all things hipster cool (or one of them at least) and I want, I need, I ACHE to be somewhere else. Not because Austin isn’t beautiful, because it is. The people are friendly, the music scene is great, the food and culture are amazing, rent is cheap(er than Brooklyn), and all I can think of is one place.
Today is the day that my heart, my hometown, my Cleveland becomes a ‘real city’, as so many have said over the past few days, because we finally won a championship and welcomed our heroes home with 1.3 million of greater Cleveland’s finest on the streets of downtown and millions more, I am sure, watching from home all over Northeast Ohio. I want so very, very, very much to be one of the wine and/or gold specks in this photo, to lose my voice screaming my heart out for the Cavs, my team since I learned how to cheer, to celebrate with so many other Clevelanders in the streets I know so well, that I’ve seen so empty now be so full and alive, because I love it. I love it so much that when we won, I reacted like this.
And then I ugly cried like this.
But I’m not there, I can’t be. Because I left.
I left like so many do – for opportunity, for the chance at a different life than my city could offer me, for the dream that was New York, and then for opportunity that carried me even further, all the way down to the Lone Star State, cats, West Side (Brunswick, boo hiss) husband, and all.
I left. Like Lebron after me, like so many before me, I left. From the day I moved, I felt a tug on my heart every day to return to the land that I love, but I stayed where the possibilities were. Only for a year, I said.
I’ll leave once I reach x goal, or y goal.
After 7 years, that’s it.
At the ten year mark, it’s straight home.
But this opportunity is so amazing, I said to my guy. Let’s go to Austin now while we have the chance, Cleveland will always be there for us. Let’s ride this ride away from it for just a little while longer. We agreed.
Cleveland will wait, everyone has always assumed. The mistake by the lake will always sit there, waiting, begging for you to return, right? Part of me wanted it to stay where it was until I got back, as if it were waiting for me to return before it blossomed into the buzzing metropolis I knew it would be one day. Part of me is angry that my beautiful city would take its first worldwide leap to relevancy when my back was turned. Angry that I didn’t make the trip.
But work, I said.
Its just that the tickets are so expensive now that they won.
I can’t leave with this little notice.
And here the day is, this once in a lifetime moment in my city’s history, happening without me. As magical as this huge win has been for my husband & I, I’m shedding a tear (or twenty, in public for goddess’ sake) as I write this, because Cleveland didn’t wait for me. And why should it?
Enough waiting around for all of the opportunists that left to come back and make it great. No more promises unkept about when its sons and daughters would return. It would wait, right? Cleveland would always be Cleveland, waiting there for you to visit during the holidays with its same sights and smells, Nela Park, the West Side Market, Sokolowski’s and the orchestra and museums and Coventry and downtown’s quiet streets and oh, wait, I’ve been priced out of my dream neighborhood. Holy crap, this street used to be boarded up, now there’s nightlife! East side, west side, downtown, there is revitalization and change and renewal. Cleveland and its amazing team and its beautiful people did it, and although it pains me to say it, they did it without me.
I didn’t deserve today. I left.
I know I’ve told you this so many times before, dear Cleveland, but I will re-earn my true Clevelander status, because I know that to earn your way back into the hearts of Northeast Ohio, you just have to be true to your word that you were going to someday come back, and then give back. Just ask LeBron. Today, though? Today is a day for those tough enough, smart enough, true enough to what they believe to stay. Well, for them and for those with enough disposable income or saved up mileage to book a same-day flight back from wherever they fled the CLE for, but hey, I’m just jealous. I don’t hold others to this same standard, but for me, it’s all or nothing. People always give some sort of cache to living in NYC or any other ‘big city’ and talk about ‘getting out’ as such a huge accomplishment in itself, and from the other side I can say that I suppose it is, but just as much as adventuring out into the unknown to try your hand at whatever life may throw your way, sometimes true bravery is making the place where you are planted bloom, and today, Cleveland is afire.
Will this change everything? No, probably not. I’m sure you’ll still be able to buy a house for the price of a VCR in some neighborhoods for years to come, and I’m positive that West Sixth Street will always be the perfect place if you’re a douchebag, but this is the beginning. Gritty, unique, hardscrabble, funny, welcoming, badass, hardworking, forgiving, creative, beautiful Cleveland, I will be back. I hope when the day of my return comes I can afford a home and build a life near those that I love and close to your heart. But until then, enjoy today and its international press and its euphoria. You’ve earned it.
Until that day? Keep on defying the odds. Because that’s why I love you so damned much.
Here’s to Cleveland.