There’s been a big conversation online lately about my hometown. Erie is the fourth-largest city in Pennsylvania (well, fifth when Penn State has a home game) (seriously). I’ve lived here my whole life – nearly 30 years – and while I’ve done my fair share of complaining – who hasn’t? – I feel inclined to write this post.
CBS recently ran a story that made me feel sick to my stomach. You can read it here, but I’ll save you the time. Erie is a “sinking ship”, the headline yells. You need to escape it. You need to get your affairs in order and get the hell out. You won’t make more than a Walmart employee here (also, sidebar, but what the hell? Don’t look at Walmart employees as less-than you. Look at the company’s horrible treatment of their employees however you want, but do not insult the employees themselves).
I’ve experienced the family devastation of a parent losing their job. I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. It’s a horrible experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but it’s not the entire human experience, and it would be terrifically sad if that was the case.
The Erie that I know and love is so much more than the loss of manufacturing jobs. It’s significantly more than the crime and violence that, for some reason, people think is only here? (There’s a definition on Urban Dictionary for Erie that zeroes in on crime here… hi, have you been to literally any other city in this country? Crime is everywhere).
Many of my high school classmates vowed to leave Erie after graduation, and to never return. If they’ve found their happiness in other places, that’s wonderful! But so many people think they have to pair that move with sincerely ridiculous trash talk. It doesn’t stop after they leave, either. I’ve been told my life here isn’t “impressive” (newsflash: I don’t care). I’ve seen countless tweets and posts ridiculing Erie and its residents. A super fun thing is the way many of these tweets dive headfirst into racist and sexist discourse, but that’s another post for another time.
This post goes hand-in-hand with one I wrote previously – I don’t care what you do with your life. If you’re happy and fulfilled, do whatever you want, as long as in the process, you’re not harming anyone. If you’re unhappy here in Erie, or if it was a terrible place for you to grow up? Get out! Forge a new path for yourself. But, that doesn’t give you a free pass to think any less of anyone who is doing things differently than you are.
If, for whatever reason, you want out of Erie, but have to stay, let me share with you some of the reasons I have come to love this city. Note that I said I’ve come to love it here? For several years, I wanted out, too. Clearly, I’m still here, and I’ve found more than a handful of reasons why I’m now more than thrilled this city is my home.
Probably the most known beautiful part of Erie: our Bayfront and Presque Isle. They’re a photographer’s dream, and our sunsets are famous, for good reason. Driving the peninsula is a rite of passage for every 16-year-old here, and now that I’m an adult, those drives have become sacred catch-up time with my best friend. There’s been a ton of development on the Bayfront over the past several years, and it’s now one of my favorite places to spend a summer evening. Watching the Brig Niagara sail to and from port very sincerely never gets old.
The resilience. It’s probably cheesy, but, thanks to the War of 1812, Erie’s slogan is, “Don’t give up the ship.” The current attitude about Erie is nothing new. Even now, with the attitude toward the city being unnecessarily negative, there are beautiful things happening here, all the time. The arts are thriving – our local community theater continues to win awards. There are so many unique galleries and performances spaces. Our local sports teams have huge followings, and do you know the name Connor McDavid? We got to watch him play here for four seasons! Young adults are finding so many new ways to change the scope of this city, and it’s incredible to watch and be a part of .
Erie is a Sanctuary City (and we are so much better for it). There are over 10,000 refugees living in Erie. That’s 10,000 people adding to our economy, buying houses, working in all sorts of jobs, enjoying entertainment, and making the city a diverse place. In this current political climate (mess), it’s more important than ever to recognize the important role these people play in our community. Erie wouldn’t be the same without them.
We get to experience all four seasons, without the scary storms other places get. Okay, I’ll admit that I don’t drive in the snow unless I have to – it’s a big trigger for my anxiety. That being said, winter is actually my favorite season! While there’s something to be said about the year-long pleasant weather in desert and tropical climates, there’s something even more beautiful about watching the city come back to life every spring. And, honestly, I would go crazy if every single day looked the same. Even though we see every sort of weather, things never get as severe here as other places. There have been some tornadoes that I can remember, and we do get a lot of snow, but I’m so thankful natural disasters aren’t in the mix.
Our close proximity to so many more cities. My husband and I recently made up a summer bucket list – mainly full of day-trips to the surrounding area. We’re two hours from Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, and four hours from Detroit and Toronto. Do you know how many cool little places you find in between? While we love visiting big cities, the wildly unique smaller cities and towns we find are what keep us on the road.
The damn millennials and their go-getter attitudes. Okay, I did my share of complaining about my old classmates who don’t like Erie. But, us millennials aren’t all bad! I know so many people around my age who are doing some incredible things here. There’s actors, musicians, tattoo artists, restaurant and store owners, journalists, web designers, photographers… I could go on and on. Nothing makes me sadder than when Baby Boomers paint our generation as lazy and entitled. We are changing this city and we are making it better, every day.
Erie has historical significance. Historical significance means cool architecture, big old trees, and lots of lore – a photographer’s dream. I could gaze at the architecture downtown and in the county for hours on end. It’s important to remember that us current Erieites are a part of something. I think when you remember that, you realize that while things may not be overall perfect here currently, we are simply a part of a much bigger story, and that’s what makes #MyErie a place I am proud to call home.