Exploring Jax.

I’m a Pittsburgh girl at heart.  I will always love that city, whether in a ‘long-time friend who you pick back up as if you’d never left’ or a ‘annoying sibling who you love to hate’ kind of a way.  I feel a bit like a traitor when I say that I love Jacksonville now.  I realize that people move all of the time.  It’s completely normal for professionals to relocate their entire lives to brand-new areas for jobs, sometimes several times a year.  I just feel that the first move away from your home is probably the hardest.

I’d be lying to you if I said that moving to Jacksonville was easy.  I miss my family, friends, and boyfriend more than just about anything in the world.  That being said, I’m loving exploring a new city with new friends, colleagues, and experiences to add to my life.  And this is where I feel torn.  Sometimes I feel a bit black and white.  I know it’s funny to say that, because typically young kids think in black and white, and adults are cognizant of the grays.  Still, I feel the dichotomy of loving Pittsburgh and all yinz guys dahntahn n’at and loving Jacksonville and all ya’ll have to offer down here.

Southern living is really a bit more north of Jacksonville, but I still hear folks calling this city a southern town.  “Ya’ll” is dropped on the daily, and at the school I’m working, a day doesn’t go by without a “good morning, baby,” or “how you doin’, child?”  This is one of the most interesting cities I’ve been to.  Jacksonville has a funny layout (maybe funny isn’t the right word, but I don’t have a better adjective at the moment).  I live in a beautiful section of town called Riverside, about two blocks from St. John’s River.  The general consensus is that I’m in the “hipster” part of town (and I am perfectly fine with that!).  A few blocks away, there are a few historical districts: Five Points and Avondale.  Go further down the road, cross the train tracks, and you reach Murray Hill.  Now, I can’t say firsthand, but from everyone I’ve spoken to, that’s not a place you want to go to alone, especially late at night.  Surprisingly, Murray Hill is maybe a two or three minute drive away from Riverside.  And so it goes, around the city, nice areas hip-bumping the not-so-nice areas.  I have never seen anything so well-defined.

Not to mention: the hospitality! I was shocked at how welcoming people can be to a 20-something white girl from good, ol’ PA (For my friends back home, we either get the “Amish” or the “rough-neck-of-Philly” reputation down here. I’ve already had two people ask if I was a Eagles fan. “Steelers country, baby!” –I’m no football fan, but I can still say I support dem Stillers 😉 ).  Just about everyone I’ve come in contact with is willing to help me out in some way or another. I’ve added more phone numbers to my address book in the past week than when I started college!

Oh, and you had better say “good morning” to everyone you cross paths with down here.  I didn’t realize just what southern living was like, until everyone was recommending the fried green tomatoes, the shrimp and grits, and dropping “ya’ll” in every sentence like the “yinz” bomb.

Getting used to Jacksonville is like starting over for me.  There really aren’t any stores like there are up north.  A Giant Eagle is simply a large bird, and Publix is THE place to be.  Tijuana Flats not only trumps Chipotle, but by a landslide (Plus, my awesome neighbor and new friend works there, so I’m going to be a frequent customer, for sure!).  Starbucks are similarly just around every corner, but the land is so flat, you can get just about anywhere you need to go in 20 minutes.  The only hills I’ve seen are the entrance and exit ramps on the highway, which is an incredibly distant cry from Canton Ave.

So, I’m torn.  I do and always will love Pittsburgh, but eating dinner outside in the middle of February is an enormous perk.  I miss the snow, but hey, isn’t that what vacation is for? 😉


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