Erie, To be or not to be: Who you know
Toby Keller concludes his summer-long series about living in Erie and entering the "real world."
Sadly, summer is over. The winds of change are rolling through once more, challenging the beautiful thing I've had going for the last few months. I knew it would come to this eventually; I should have prepared myself more. Since May I've given Erie an honest shot at my heart—going to events as often as possible, and working in a position that allowed me to be out on her streets during the day. I was as committed as I've ever been. Now I'm not sure I know how to say goodbye. Instead, I've moved even deeper into her.
In the last month, I've moved from an apartment above East 38th Street to a house on East 26th, I've wrapped up my summer job, and I've started the torturous task of preparing for another semester of college. I'm going into my last year, and in May, I'll be entering the "real world." The term makes me wonder what sort of world I've been living in for the past 22 years. My conclusion: I live in a world that is entirely about who you know.
Coming from a small town, where it only took a few years of elementary school to know everyone I would graduate high school with, I underestimated the importance of connecting with others. Erie has given me a renewed sense of joy in seeing unfamiliar faces and greeting people that wouldn't have been in my life otherwise. There is a community here, I've found; Erie bonds her people tightly together. It's something that I know will be hard to get away from.
More than that, I've had the pleasure of getting to know Erie herself. When I get in my car, I know where I'm going, and I know how to get there without directions pouring out from a speaker attached to my windshield like some sort of backwards antenna. I know where to go to have a good time, and what to expect when I roll down State Street in the morning, and again with the lunch crowd. I've found my favorite spots: those booths, bar stools, park benches, sandy beaches, and blacktop patches that I've spent a summer growing accustom to. She's my baby, Beautiful Erie.
In 9 months or so, I might say goodbye. Maybe I'll move to Vermont with a brown-haired girl who wants to live in the shadows of a ski resort, or maybe I'll find a shack on a beach in the Carolinas and find a job covering basketball, or possibly I'll head west to California to write a movie, or Italy to study abroad. Maybe I'll be going for my master's degree in some godforsaken city that accepts me. There is always a chance that I'll stay right here – with her. Lord knows, if I do go, I'll have the stranger's blues and my mind will flashback to her streets, where I felt I was finally learning my way, and I'll feel some remorse.
I hope I never know how it feels to say I can't go home, but I know, at some point, I'll have to be moving on. Erie and I, well, we had our good times, and I'm going to miss her if I go.