Will you wait for me, Philly?

A love let­ter to the City of Philadelphia

3 minute read
Facing Fairmount from the top of City Hall — my favorite view. (Photo by Lane Blackmer.)
Facing Fairmount from the top of City Hall — my favorite view. (Photo by Lane Blackmer.)

Dear Philadelphia,

I keep hearing that there’s no such thing as “bad timing” for a relationship. But ours is a case that rebuts modern-love blogs, listicles, and clickbait advice columns. It wasn’t that I didn’t love you — you emboldened me, empowered me, filled me with vivacious energy and creativity. I just needed something for me that couldn’t coexist with you.

Life began getting very difficult on my education and career path. It was time for some personal growth. To fill the void, I relentlessly researched your grad-school programs. But here’s the truth: The best program for me was down South. It had a specialization in my field of study that nobody else — not even you — could offer.

And I simply couldn’t compromise my future, even for your sake. Without the steps I knew I needed to take, life got unbearably hard as I approached my 30s, and that’s not what I wanted for myself. That’s why I had to leave.

In my new home, my studies consumed me. I barely had enough time to sleep. But I noticed right away that my new address was no match for you. I graduated, and I even tried my luck in another place when a career opportunity I couldn’t pass up arose. I was disillusioned enough to think I could be swayed to love another city.

As three years passed, I realized how special you really are. I loved you, but I took you for granted. There’s nothing like your dirty, narrow streets filled with history, character, and charm. I could wander them for hours. There’s no match for your sense of community pride. It’s no wonder that your 1.5 million residents fervently represent you in a way that nobody but folks who know you seem to understand. There’s no frills, no motives hidden by a smile. You have legitimate problems, but people like me want to acknowledge them and work through it with you — and I’ve even learned to love some of them. That’s how much you matter.

Look who I met! Ben Franklin lives in Elfreth's Alley. (Photo courtesy of Lane Blackmer.)
Look who I met! Ben Franklin lives in Elfreth's Alley. (Photo courtesy of Lane Blackmer.)

I really needed this time for me, but I feel sad about missing out on so many things. For better or worse, I missed so many milestones. New restaurants putting Philly on the map for everything from sushi to barbecue, a Super Bowl win, another Comcast tower, the demise of Capogiro and Little Pete’s, the advent of Gritty, axe-throwing hipsters, and rising rents.

When I visited you over Thanksgiving last year, you were just as amazing as you’ve always been. You filled me up with love and renewed my creativity like only you can. I feel more like my authentic self when I’m with you. I did what I had to and I don’t regret it, but I hope I can find a way to pay you back for all the love you’ve given me over the years and everything you continue to give me from far away.

But most of all, I hope that you’ll take me back. It’s risky even considering it because I know we’ve both changed so much. What if it doesn’t work anymore? What if all the excitement of our younger days has worn off? But if I don’t try to get back to you, life will be full of regrets.

I’m not ready now, but the day will come. Please wait for me.

With love,

Lane Blackmer

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