Wednesday, June 8, 2016

An ode to Albany

I think every time after a race, I have a bit of writers block. I'm forming new routines, getting out into the real world a little more, and am re-prioritizing what my goals and plans are. I haven't had much to write about lately, yet have also had tons going on in my head. I'm going to get back into a normal rhythm soon and give you some updates on life, training for Australia, and fun I've been having in Atlanta - but first, I want to change the pace for a post and write about a place near and dear to my heart.

This week I received an e-mail from my old friend Greg at All Over Albany asking if I would submit a piece they are doing for a series on the blog. All Over Albany is the local blog in my former hometown of Albany, NY -- and for 6 years AOA kept me up to date on what was going on every week, local news, and put me in touch with some of the other amazing bloggers and social media junkies in Upstate. Oh yeah, and they threw awesome birthday parties every year.

Greg was reaching out to people who have since moved away from the Capital Region and asked them to submit something short about any perspective the distance has given them to life in Upstate New York. I gave him a short piece, but also wanted to dig into it a little deeper (and longer) because I'm super wordy and always have a lot to say. Also, because I love and miss my former home.

My relationship with Albany is much like that of many people's with their younger siblings. You can pick on and tease them as much as you want, but then the second someone ELSE says something bad about them - you'll defend them all the way. When I moved there, I didn't know anyone and I thought that I would be there for 2 years. I ended up there for 6 and left with a family of friends who I miss every day.

So let me get into it a little bit. Greg's question to me was, "What is something that you've taken with you from the Capital Region, and why has it been important or significant to you?" And I will try to answer.

My time in Upstate NY exposed me to different cultures. It might not seem accurate at first but it is true. My job helped with that immensely as I worked at a site that I think counted 50 different nationalities. As well, the networks that I sought out for myself. I had friends from Ghana, Jamaica, Iran, Brazil, India, Morocco, and all over the U.S. There is a great diversity within the Capital Region if you look for it. I think living in Albany helped with that as opposed to other areas that some young people choose to live. There is great international food in Albany and Schenectady with the Chinese supermarket, great Pho, and of course Italian. It gave me a great appreciation for learning about other cultures and other people, which I have taken with me as I have moved away. And legitimately, I have not had better Moroccan food than Tara's Kitchen in Schenectady. I miss that place.

I never thought I would say this but moving away also gave me an appreciation for the smallness of good ol' Small-bany. Yes, it could be frustrating to be young and single and dating and have everyone know everyone and run into the same people all the time. But your friends were also close by. Living in a city like Atlanta, it is big and people can live in all different corners. When living in Albany, your friends were all within a couple blocks. I miss being able to run down from my apartment on State Street to my friends on Willett. I miss having bars that I knew were a 2 minute walk for my whole group of friends. And even when I lived outside of Center Square, in Pine Hills, having it be 1.5 miles or 5 minutes down the road. In Atlanta, even if you just need to travel 1.5 miles it might take you 20 minutes due to traffic. And oh my gosh, don't even get me started on how much I miss not having to deal with traffic.

I miss the people. Being a part of a small city, I think it's welcoming. It can be a little overwhelming to find your way in a big city and find your community. I miss my friends in Upstate every day. Given that I worked at a place where a lot of young professionals moved for their jobs - I ended up with a community of friends who were in similar situations to me. Young in career. Living in a place without immediate family nearby. Eager have something to do. And mainly just needed someone to help organize things. Being a social person, I often ended up being the social coordinator for my group of friends! Send out an e-mail or a group text, and people were bound to turn up. And it wasn't just the access to people that I miss. It is the people.

Being young in career and in a city without family, your friends become your family, and you do a lot of growing up together. I know I have written this before on the blog, but I grew up and into the person I am today more during those 6 years than any of the time before that. It was my friends in Albany who helped me pack up and move into my first adult grown up solo apartment, who put candles in cupcakes and decorated the outside of my apartments on my birthday.

It was those friends in Albany who took me to the hospital and sat with me in the ER when I had a kidney infection. Who cheered for me when I ran my first 5K. Who sat with me on the couch as I sobbed after getting my heart broken for the first time. And listened to my stories of bad first dates and awkward crushes. My friends in Albany who helped me jump start my car in the rain when it was dead in the office parking lot. Or drove me back and forth from work to my apartment when I locked my keys in my car. Who helped me put up my first real Christmas tree.

And whose weddings I danced at.

These were the friends who we all held our first dinner parties together. Who I supported through deaths of parents. Who I celebrated with when they got promotions. Whose relationships I saw spark, unfold, and grow before my eyes. These were the first friends I had to see and be by their side for every step of a pregnancy. These people became my family and there's no other way around it.

I could go on an on about what I will take away from the six years I spent living in Center Square and Pine Hills in Albany. OR I could post forever about why, when I worked in Schenectady - and could have lived almost anywhere in the Capital Region - I would choose Albany again and again out of Latham, Schenectady, Saratoga, etc. Although all those places are great and I hung out there often!! I loved Albany.

For people that were moving there, I would say just live with your eyes open. There are things to do in Albany and in the Capital Region. There are amazing restaurants and bars. Commuting is easy. There's nature all around you and beautiful lakes and mountains so easily accessible. Speaking of accessible, New York City and Boston and so much is a short drive. Living is CHEAP.  Heck, moving to Atlanta, which is incredibly reasonable as far as housing goes, it was still a drastic sticker shock to me. I paid $750/month for an entire first floor of a house with a basement, front porch, front and back yard, laundry, driveway and extra parking, and it was a short walk to bars, restaurants, movies and grocery store. It was amazing.

All this being said, if I were given the opportunity to move back there today, would I take it? No, I would not. Maybe someday. But not right now. As much as I love it there and miss my friends dearly and raise my hand for every work trip that will get me a flight back to visit. I couldn't move back right now. The world is too big and Albany is exactly what I said it is at the beginning - it's small. There is more to see and more to do and more adventures to be had for me. I will never regret spending 6 years there, even though at the time, I hoped to move multiple times within those years. My time in Albany means so much to me. It will always be a home. I will always love playing darts at Lionheart. And coffee at the Daily Grind. Finishing summer nights with blueberry beers at Suzie's then pizza at Soho. Shopping at the Albany Co-Op. And running my 3-mile loop where I first learned to run around Washington Park (from where Madison and Washington meet down Madison, left onto Willett, left on State, merge into Washington and back to the point... it's a little over 3 miles.) I don't have enough pictures or enough time to tell you all the things I love. Snow included.

But for now, I'm here and experiencing and loving all that Atlanta has to offer. Incredibly diversity. More restaurants and bars to try than there are meals to eat. Options galore of running clubs, live music, festivals, shows, and incredibly cool events and opportunities to get out and do something. I love access to an airport where I can fly direct to almost anywhere in the world. NFL, NBA, and MLB teams right in your backyard. And the incredible people who have become a part of my life here.

Cheers to you though Albany, and to all the people who may be reading this just moving there - you're very lucky!

No comments:

Post a Comment