A Love Letter to Pittsburgh

Dear Pittsburgh,

I am sorry that I left you. It seemed abrupt and too soon, but I had to go. It wasn’t that you weren’t good enough or beautiful enough, but it was the sad irony that  you gave me what I needed to move on, to move away, to bigger, better things.

Me with Pittsburgh, 2012

When I first met you I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, over-eager 23 year old who had been accepted to Pitt for my Ph.D. At first, I didn’t see the charm that everyone else saw in you. I found Pittsburghese to be uneducated rather than homey. Coming from DC where politics rule, I was insulted when the Steelers home opener was the headline story over the mayor’s death. It was grey and I clearly remember wearing 7 layers of clothing my first winter in my hundred-year-old rental. The small-town feel of Pittsburgh felt claustrophic and it irked me that I was routinely slowed down on the bus, in lines, at restaurants, when friends saw each other and stopped to chat, seemingly not noticing that they were blocking the way or taking up resources.

In 2007 I did something that most 23 year olds can’t do- I bought a beautiful condo in Shadyside, the young, hip, part of town and on the day of my closing my best friend bought the condo two doors down. B and I spent years walking barefoot to and from each other’s place to drink wine, make each other dinner, commiserate (ok, if you’re me cry) about grad school, fill each other in about our dating successes and failures and just love and support each other. B was one of the best friends that Pittsburgh gave me, but there are so many others. In Pittsburgh I met the brightest, kindest, funniest, most loyal people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know, let alone call my friends. As my connections grew and my friendships deepened one of the things that I learned to love about Pittsburgh was that the small city feel that I had initially hated meant that I regularly ran into friends at dinner, in the grocery store, and on the street while walking the dogs or out for a run. I became one of those Pittsburghers holding up another patron to see how the bartender was doing.

B celebrating my 40 Under 40 recognition with me

Pittsburgh’s slow and friendly style of living taught me to be patient with others, but that is not the only thing I learned in Pittsburgh. Professionally, I was exceedingly fortunate to be trained at one of the best programs in the world for what I do. I have become a better scholar, but most importantly, my training at Pitt has taught me to care for, help improve the lives of, and ease the suffering of others- something that I do not take for granted.

University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. I trained on the stairs, taught a summer course and enjoyed this view every day on my walk home.

Pittsburgh is also where I learned that I can be an athlete. I went from a gym rat to a semi-professional athlete who traveled the world to race. Going to Antarctica and the Amazon were incredible, but one of the best parts was coming home to a place with people I loved. While in Pittsburgh I became active, engaged in the community and began what I hope is a lifelong relationship with health and wellness.

One of many ultras I ran as a Pittsburgher

I also began a lifelong relationship with the love of my life. Like me, The Boy came to Pittsburgh for education. Upon our first contact it was immediately clear to me what an incredible man he is. Pittsburgh helped shape him into the smart, athletic, engaging and funny man that I love so dearly.  It seems as though everywhere I turn in Pittsburgh, there are warm memories of us starting our life together. Our first home was in Pittsburgh and it amazes me how full of happy that home was. We were happy individually, happy together and happy to share our very good fortune with our very good friends. We added Wally to our fabulous furry family here and our lives were warm, vibrant and joyous.

Pittsburgh addition to our fur baby family

But Pittsburgh, the problem is, you were too good to us. My good training here allowed me to match for internship in Denver and The Boy’s good training allowed him to start a company in San Diego. The low cost of living allowed us to have enough savings to move cross-country, and the great housing market allowed me to quickly sell my condo. Suddenly, it was logistically very easy, yet emotionally very hard to leave Pittsburgh.

Leaving my condo where I found B, my friends and my sense of adventure, leaving our home where The Boy and I solidified our commitment to each other and grew our family, and saying goodbye to our friends, mentors, and colleagues has been nothing short of devastating. We know that we can come back, enjoy the beautiful city, the great restaurants, and adore our friends, but now we are visitors, and our home is no longer in Pittsburgh.

Our first home as a family

However, that’s not to say that Pittsburgh is no longer in our home. We will take our formal educations and help others. We will take the love with which our friends have showered us and use that to grow new relationships. We will be lifelong Steelers fans and I will always use the word “nebby” because it is perfect and should be a word everywhere. I will speak fondly of the bridges, reminisce about how friends were on every corner, and will be a better person for my too-short 6 years with you. You will be part of the story that we tell our children and grandchildren about how they came to be because two people fell in love after a cold, rainy winter day resulted in an aborted hike in Frick Park and a very long talk in an East End coffee shop.

Thank you, Pittsburgh for loving me and giving me so much. I am sorry that I need to leave you. I will miss you and you will always have a special place in my heart.

My first view from Mt. Washington, just days before I left.

With great love and admiration,

Kat

PS- Go Steelers!

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