The most common conversation I’ve had since being back in Ohio revolves around the question, “Why did you come back?”. I’ve lived in New York City, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, San Diego, and many other cities in the past few years. I’ve spent the last two summers backpacking around Europe and attending the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Despite what many think, it’s actually one of the easiest questions I’ve ever been asked. Two years of on-the-road touring was the most unique life experience I’ve ever had, but last November I experienced something that I’ve never felt in my life; homesickness. While I was living in San Francisco for the second time, I started thinking about Mikey’s Late Night Slice, easily accessible Jeni’s Ice Cream, a monthly gallery hop, and an evening on a porch with my best friends. I developed a bittersweet desire to sit in traffic on GameDay morning just so I could holler “O-H” out my window to the crowds of scarlet and gray while listening to Paul Keels, the voice of the Buckeyes. I cringed to think that my niece was growing up, and all we had was a relationship via Skype and the occasional holiday meet-up. When I left Central Ohio a few years ago, my mission was to find the perfect city to live in; little did I know that I’d be right back here, more excited than ever.
The transition back has been a long journey. I slept on dozens of couches and looked at countless apartments in pursuit of the right fit. But it is with great joy that I find myself living in Grandview and playing a bit of catch-up with the community. This city is in an incredible place of opportunity right now; one can sit in a beautifully crafted coffee shop surrounded by entrepreneurs, check out an independent film screening, or enjoy a fine dining experience at one of the newest restaurants; all within walking distance of one another. Fortune 500 companies are realizing the potential in the diverse consumer market of Central Ohio, bringing headquarters relocations and test market opportunities, thus creating more jobs. The city is near capacity for housing, but beautiful apartment complexes are showing up all across town for the floods of young professionals migrating to Central Ohio to be a part of the movement of collaboration, connection, and community. For those who don’t fancy an upscale high-rise, communities like Grandview and Clintonville are preserving old homes with rediscovered character. Mayor Coleman has been proudly supporting local business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs with the training, networking, and resources needed for success. The food and beverage industry is at it’s peak, as each neighborhood is developing it’s own unique tastes and spots; meanwhile hometown heroes like Jeni Britton Bauer are showing the rest of the world what we can do. Just last week we hosted the USA vs. Mexico World Cup Qualifier and brought our hometown “twenty one pilots” back to the local music scene after a highly successful touring year. Even the under-utilized world of transit has improved with the addition of the CoGo Bike Share for easy access to all parts of the city. Unlike many major cities in the country, Columbus has a place for everyone; from the creatives looking for studio space to the suburban dwellers looking for a backyard for peace and quiet. In 2010, I developed a “Tastes of Columbus” tour to highlight some of my friends’ favorite places in just one evening; in just 3 years, that list has evolved into several weeks of restaurants, bars, and late-night hangouts.
Columbus, in many ways, has been a pen-pal of mine for the last few years. I never stopped reading Chamber of Commerce updates, asking friends to send me 614 Magazine articles, or tweeting at my Columbus Yelp crew to find out what I missed. I’m fortunate to have gone through the transition process with some of my best friends who have found themselves coming back to the area, or some arriving for the first time in their lives. To live, work, eat, drink, create, and play with such a dynamic community of people is very life-giving. “Why did I come back?” There was simply no way I was going to sit back and watch Columbus evolve and shape itself into one of the USA’s top cities. In just a matter of months, I’ve reclaimed my ground and look forward to growing with this city for the years to come.
photo courtesy of “Death to the Stock Photo“, a Columbus startup