Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Growing Up in Pittsburgh

I’m sure the headline of this article might trigger a few raised eyebrows, so I’ll cut right to the chase:

I grew up 30 miles east of Pittsburgh in a town called Greensburg, PA. Growing up like many teenagers in small town America, I couldn’t wait to get to the big city and leave the farm fields behind me. New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, you name it. I started applying to colleges to meet my only three requirements: “far, far, away.”

Flash forward over a decade later and let me tell you about what “far, far, away” has taught me. I have lived all over the world – from Rome to Sydney to Washington, D.C. to Colorado. I’ve seen a lot of things in my life. I’ve met a lot of people. And you know what? Nothing compares to my hometown, my heart and soul – Pittsburgh, PA. Here’s why:

  1. All Friendships Are Not Created Equal

Some of the best friendships I’ve ever had are the ones that started while I was growing up in Pittsburgh. My closest friends are the ones that I’ve known and been joined at the hip with since we were four years old. I’ve grown and gained a lot of friends over the years, and have also come across a lot of friends that don’t know the value of good people and friendships like Pittsburgh people do.

Going to school in Washington, DC I heard stories and stories about girls who had the WORST friends growing up. I’m talking serious “Mean Girls” stuff, and they would refer to them as their best friends. They became fascinated with our hometown and circle of friends. They couldn’t understand how loyal our friend base was. We were the friend group looked after each other, protected one another, and was always just a phone call away no matter how far geographically apart we are.

  1. True Love is Right in Front of You

After living away for eight years, I moved back to Pittsburgh and ended up dating a man who I first met as a seventeen-year-old from a neighboring high school. (Later evidence would show we actually knew each other from preschool!) After years of chasing the wrong boys in DC, the wrong relationships and the wrong type of love, I realized my perfect match had been right in front of me all along. No one knows the way to my heart or fits me better as this guy – and I have to credit a lot of that to the fact that he grew up with the same values, priorities (go Pirates!) and background as I did.

  1. You Can Do Anything You Want to Do if You Work Hard Enough

During one of my first job interviews, my interviewer stopped and took a deep pause when he read “Pittsburgh, PA” out loud from my resume. Not sure where he was going with it, I smiled and nodded and responded a brief, “that’s right.” He replied, “I like Pittsburgh people. All of the hardest working people I’ve ever known were from Pittsburgh, PA. You guys know how to get things done. Let’s see what you got.” And that was my interview.

And he was right – how many other people in DC could say their mother’s college job was working in a steel mill? Or that she herself had spent a summer break from college working in a foam factory on a production line making pillows for Greyhound buses? (fun fact). Pitstburghers know how to make things happen.

  1. Take Pride in Where You Come From

Living in the big city, I came across a lot of people who were looking to others as a means to get them to the next level. They were embarrassed of their small-town pasts and tried to bury them in exchange for budget three-piece suits and entry-level jobs on the Hill. When people would ask where I was from and they heard Pittsburgh, many people responded with “I’m sorry” or “Yikes, that sucks.”  I couldn’t believe the amount of disrespect and frustration I felt. I said, “Sorry for what? Sorry you didn’t get to grow up in an amazing town with incredible sports teams? Me too.”

They say distance makes the heart grow founder, and in those years, that I had to constantly defend my hometown, the love I had for Pittsburgh continued to grow. I couldn’t wait to get back to every visit.

  1. Find & Cherish Your Tribe

In Pittsburgh, your high school social calendar revolves around football games and sporting events. I had black and gold in my closet to wear to parties during senior year. It was a natural thing for everyone to like sports. When I left Pittsburgh, I realized there were some serious stereotypes that only tomboys and lesbians were supposed to like sports while the other girls were out shopping and getting manis and pedis. Knowing the girly life was never the right one for me, it always took comfort when I went home knowing I’d be right at home. That question on a Sunday of “Where’s you black and gold, girl?” never got old. It didn’t matter that the things other city girls liked wasn’t my cup of tea, there was another universe where I fit right in.

  1. Family First

I credit Pittsburgh with teaching me the very important lesson prioritizing family first. I’m lucky that I come from a strong family unit; I’m close with not just my immediate family but my aunts, uncles, Grandma, cousins, etc. My best friends’ sisters and brothers became like my own, their parents my own second set of parents looking out for me, and their grandparents another set of elders imparting their wisdom on us young kids. My friends helped me learn to not take my family for granted or complain about having to spend time with them. We all knew that at the end of the day, how lucky we were.

All in all, I’m a lucky girl. I’m lucky for the people around me, the town where I came from and the town that shaped me. Wherever I go, I know I’ll always have that with me. As they say – you can take the girl out of Pittsburgh, but you can never take the Pittsburgh out of the girl.

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