Ten years ago, I relocated to St. Louis from the Chicagoland area with my family.
I was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of the Windy City; so needless to say, I was hesitant, even downright reluctant at times, to familiarize myself with these new surroundings.
During the first year we lived here, I can vividly recall how several people told us that St. Louis was like a ‘transfer city.’
“It’s a great place for a family,” they reassured us. “Temporary, maybe, but still great.”
These transferred folk like us always seemed to move on again. Seemed like a trend.
So, naturally, I didn’t expect to stay long.
I never expected to graduate from high school here. Or university, for that matter. It just wasn’t in my forecast. Never would I have anticipated exploring different pockets of this city and appreciating the cultures living within them and beautifying them. I certainly never pictured myself working in downtown St. Louis, let alone writing about how likeable this city can be.
Somewhere along the way, I connected with this city and it rooted me down. There isn’t a memory in my mind that illuminates the moment I became a ‘local’, but it happened.
At some point, I began referring to both cities as my ‘home.’ I stopped living like I was a displaced individual or like I had to choose one city over the other as my home turf. I chose a different path, which ultimately meant choosing a different mindset. I began to live my life here in St. Louis as a part of the community that embraced me.
Like some of our favorite characters in literature, St. Louis has character flaws. But it is because of and in spite of these imperfections that we instead highlight the good happening in our hood.
That good is made up of the people, places and things that we encounter on a daily basis. They’re the lifeblood of our city. We see them on our morning commute. We experience them in stores and restaurants and classrooms and shops.
This city is deceiving; it’s much vaster than it appears. If you’re looking for recommendations on where to go or what to eat or where to shop, who do you turn to? Who is considered an expert? Who gives the best advice?
It’s time for all of us to stop acting like we’re just passing through. We’re not tumbleweed. We need to bring our energy and support back into the community and throw our creature-of-habit attitudes aside. Don’t wait for an excuse to discover new (or familiar) places in the neighborhoods around St. Louis.
If you’re like me, you’ve always wanted to discover more about the city you call home. And over the course of the year, I’m going to do just that. I’ll do the research, you can reap the rewards.
This isn’t some artificial, tour-guide-inspired, rehearsed monologue meant to tug at your heart strings. From one St. Louisan to another, this is about learning to appreciate our city that much more.