About a month ago, I wrote a column in this very newspaper that was supposed to be my last published piece in The Daily Pennsylvanian. As a graduating senior, it was time to say goodbye and move on to bigger — and better? — things. So I dispensed some sappy advice and signed off.
That was silly, wasn’t it?
Today I find myself back in the city that I was so ready to leave, living, albeit temporarily, just five blocks away from the very offices where this lovely newspaper is produced. I’ve decided to take on the ultimate graduation challenge — staying here while the most important people in my Philadelphia experience have moved on.
Don’t get me wrong. Philadelphia is wonderful. I rave about it to anyone who wasn’t lucky enough to spend four years here, but in the month before graduation, my aims laid elsewhere. The jobs I was applying to were located exclusively in Washington, D.C., a city I fell in love with last summer. Tons of my friends were going to be there. We planned to have our own little Penn enclave in our nation’s capital. On a whim, I applied to one job in Philly.
Guess which one I got?
Getting a job offer has a strange way of changing your priorities. When presented with the option of earning a decent salary and health benefits in a city you weren’t expecting versus toiling over application after application for a city that doesn’t really seem to want you, your dreams become surprisingly malleable.
So after an initial period of pontification, I took the job. And now, as I shuffle off to Center City every morning on the trolley, I find myself wondering: What am I doing here?
It’s a little lonely out west. It’s not that I don’t have friends here, I really do. It’s just different. My experience is boringly similar to any other grad moving to a new city. The difference is, my city isn’t new. Every day I see the high rises as I walk down Spruce Street, or I take a detour past my old apartment, and the memories come rushing back.
But the longing for the past ends soon enough, I assume. Let’s face it; I don’t want to be back in college. It was a fabulous time, but I’ve overstayed my welcome. And when I reach a point in the day when my mind is clear, I realize just how excited I am to have another shot at this city.
I want to be a Philadelphian without a permanent address in another city. I want to vote in local elections and actually feel attached to the issues up for debate. I want to get pleasantly drunk at Center City Sips on Wednesdays after work and stroll aimlessly through city parks and down obscure (but safe!) side streets.
Philadelphia summer is, in its essence, a time for new beginnings and new discoveries. The truth is, I’m embarrassed by the vast amount of Philadelphia I just haven’t seen yet.
I’ve assigned and edited a 2,000-word article on the South Street Magic Gardens, but I’ve never been. I’ve seen ads for Picasso and Dali and Cézanne at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but I haven’t stepped foot in the building since freshman year NSO. I’ve read food blogs and reviews of the city’s greatest new restaurants, but most days a buffalo chicken wrap from Varsity Pizza was enough to hold me over.
Quite simply, I’ve got a lot left to do.
They say that when you go abroad, you never have enough time in your new location. In a city like Philadelphia, the same thing is true about college. So when you get your diploma, give some thought to sticking around. Chances are, you won’t regret it.
Paul Richards is a recent College graduate from Carlisle, Pa. He began work this week at a social security and disability law firm in Center City. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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