A couple months ago, my wife, son, and I took a quick trip back to my hometown of Cleveland, OH to attend a Cavaliers game. I really wanted to see LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love while the team was still intact and I’d never been to an NBA game before. We decided on a game against a sub-par opponent (in order to get reasonably priced seats!), bought tickets, and made plans.
I also wanted to give my almost sixteen year-old son a family history lesson. He’d been to Cleveland before, but it was about ten to twelve years ago and he doesn’t remember much from that trip. I wanted him to see where I grew up–to see my old neighborhood, my old house, and where I was “formed” into the person I am today. So much of where we grew up plays a pivotal role in who we become. We can change for the better (or worse) but our lens to the the world is created in part by our surroundings in our early years.I wanted him to see and appreciate what made me – “me.” It will be years before the lesson sinks in. He’s a teenager, my expectations aren’t too high yet. (I know what I was like back then!)
But something else happened on this trip. My city–the city I claim with every chance, the city I root for in the darkest moments, the city I identify with–isn’t mine anymore. Not like it used to be anyway.
Forever my lens to the world will be dominated by my upbringing in that city, but I’ve been gone so long, it doesn’t feel mine anymore.
So many things have changed. New office buildings downtown, Public Square closing off to traffic, and buildings torn down and replaced with new stores and offices. As a drive-thru worker where I used to work so eloquently stated, “It’s the same but different.” It’s still the city of my childhood, it’s still the city of close sports championship opportunities (still hate you MJ and Elway!) but the city doesn’t exactly feel like mine anymore.
We ate lunch in Terminal Tower sitting at a window overlooking the Cuyahoga River and I remember feeling like a stranger. I felt like an outsider. I’d been gone so long my Cleveland existed in my memories. It existed as a series of moments forever branded in my mind, but it wasn’t the city as it is today.
I guess that happens to everyone that moves away from the town or city they grew up in. We move on hoping for a brighter future with awesome opportunities while always leaning on our past for strength and identity.
I hadn’t expected to feel that way. I hoped to reconnect with the city and in some ways I did, but a sense of strangeness overwhelmed me.
It’s still my city. But now it’s different. It’s dynamic, it’s changing, it’s the same, but different.