Six years ago today, I drove to Allentown with my mom to check out some places to live during my three-month internship at Bicycling.
It was pouring rain, just like it is now. We got horribly lost trying to find the house I was seeing first. (Thanks, Mapquest!) We finally found it, I decided to live there, and because we had already planned to stay overnight–at the glamorous Wingate, right by the I-78/Hamilton Boulevard interchange–we needed to entertain ourselves.
So we drove to King of Prussia and went to the mall. Obviously.
Here are the things I knew about Allentown before that first visit:
- We passed it en route to my aunt’s when she used to live in the Philly suburbs.
- Dorney Park was there.
- Billy Joel wrote a song about it. (Which I only learned a few days before I visited, and which I only later learned was more about Bethlehem than Allentown.)
Here are the things I learned about Allentown during that first visit:
- King of Prussia isn’t that close to Allentown.
- Pay attention or you might turn from Cedar Crest onto Hamilton Boulevard going the wrong way.
- The Wingate is a pretty decent hotel.
Seriously, we did not do much exploring. I was only going to be there for a few months, after all, and then I would move to a more exciting, urban place like Philadelphia where I could just continue having the same friends and doing the same things I did in college.
In fact, during my first full weekend in my new home, I left a party my housemates were having to drive to Philly to hang out with college friends.
Literally on my way out the door at said party, I met Paul. (And by “met,” I mean, my friend Matt introduced us as I was heading to my car with my overnight bag, and I was like, “Hi. Bye.”)
And I’m living here in Allentown, six years later, just a few blocks from that first house, very happy with my life, planning my wedding to Paul.
I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. “Be a total turd, leave the party early, and you’ll still end up with the person you’re supposed to be with”?
That’s probably not it. It’s probably more like, if you’re living in a new place, give it a freakin’ chance.
I totally didn’t do that for my first six months in the Lehigh Valley, even after I’d gotten a full-time job. I was constantly visiting college friends in Philly, high-school friends in Binghamton, or, later, my college boyfriend (an ill-advised reunion born of a mutual unwillingness to give our respective new places a freakin’ chance) in Richmond.
It’s hard being in a new place and living a new life. I remember feeling completely out of my mind with Wishing I Were Still in College some nights. “Why don’t people want to do stuff during the week?” I thought. (Because, work. I’m one of those people myself, now.) I remember thinking how much happier I’d be if I lived in Philly. In fact, I had an interview for a job in Philly the same week I got my job in Allentown. (A job that sounded totally sucky, in retrospect. I’m glad I decided to stay here!)
But the painful transition phase probably wouldn’t have lasted so long if I’d spent less time wishing I was elsewhere.
In conclusion…Allentown is cool!