Friday, January 05, 2007


I thought about not blogging over the break, but I think I need the practice with words. After six weeks or so of continual foot-in-mouth incidents at the beginning of the semester, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and I ought to clam up if I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to say. Now the pendulum has swung back too far in the opposite direction, and I keep finding myself surprised that people don't know what I think or how I feel about something, and then realizing that I haven't actually vocalized any of my thoughts on that subject.

To sum up: I need to talk.

I'm in Pittsburgh now, through the end of the week. This is such a simple city, a city that rarely asks more from you than you are willing to give it. It's very easy to live here when distracted, tired, or not feeling well. It's so cheap to live here that you can be out of work for a while, or work part-time pretty much indefinitely, and not have to worry about making ends meet. You don't have to leave your own neighborhood for much of anything. On the other hand, if you're feeling claustrophobic, there are zillions more places to go that have little in common with wherever you live. It's less a city than fifty or so small towns all pressed shoulder-to-shoulder against each other, plus downtown, which is its own animal.

The up side of Pittsburgh is also its down side: it doesn't challenge you. You can live here for years and spend the whole time treading water. You can also do incredible work here, if your motivation comes from within you, because the city presents so few obstacles.

If I move back here after finishing law school, I'll be making a real, definite choice to live here, a choice with a purpose behind it. I didn't do that when I moved here for the first time in 2002. Then, I came here because my fiancé wanted to come here and wanted me to come with him. I hated this place for the first two years I was here: I resented it for being something I hadn't chosen for myself, and felt like a timid houseguest everywhere I went, afraid to do anything other than put everything back just where I left it, afraid to claim any space for myself. Then for the next two years I largely ignored it: it was simply the backdrop for a more important drama that was unfolding, one that involved finding out what kind of work I wanted to do as well as finding out who I was all over again, post-marriage. If I move back here, this city will not be an adversary or a backdrop. I'll be moving here to interact directly with the city of Pittsburgh, doing what I can to shape and improve the landscape while helping the neighborhoods retain their character. I hope that I'll be doing that no matter where I end up.

It's exciting to see the city through that kind of lens now. And it gives my work in law school a focus, a purpose, other than just learning about the law because it's interesting, or proving to myself that I can still study and learn. Pittsburgh is so far from being perfect that it's often frustrating. But it's so full of character, so different from the sanitized, strip-mall-filled cities that I find dehumanizing, so potentially exciting.

This isn't what I expected to find here. I came here to see a collection of friends that I had missed over the few months I've been away. I've been doing that, and it's been great. But I thought this was going to be an escapist retreat from law school, and it hasn't been that at all.

It's good not to find what I expect to find—not easy, but good. I need to stop looking so hard for the answers that are easy, and looking instead for the answers that are right.


Blogger common_sense said...

My brother in-law just moved to Pittsburgh, and he is definitely enjoying it so far, although he is a little ways away from the city center. I hope that your improved clarity leads to some answers that bring you long term happiness.

1/6/07, 9:01 AM  

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