I take a seat outside of Wheeling Coffee and Spice, just across from the bustling sounds of Main Street, with a few great friends. The type of friends who make you grow as a person, but can also shamelessly talk about our old boyfriends, jobs and weekend debauchery. We get so comfortable — behaving like we are in my living room or having a dinner party. Today, we talk about our futures, furthering our education and what we want to do next weekend.
This is one moment in Wheeling. Only one. I look forward to this moment and the many I am lucky enough to have like it.
I have these moments when I go kayaking on the Ohio River, when I grab lunch with my husband, when I go to local festivals and when I want to go to the playground with my nephew. It took years to get here — years. For the longest time, I was just like every other millennial in this city saying, “I cannot wait to get out of here.”
I have come to learn, know and love that this city has what every city has — people who have been here their entire lives and know nothing else. Every young person everywhere has uttered the phrase, “I cannot wait to get out of this town.”
I’m sure you, the reader, has said this at some point in your life. You may not even be from here. Why is that? Why are we so desperate to leave where we are born, and why did it take me so long to realize how special Wheeling is?
My theory is that when we are just starting out, we think there are two types of people: the type who leave their hometown and never come back, and those who never set foot anywhere else. We have longtime friends who leave to pursue other conquests. They begin to create families with their significant other, and we are here, in the same town, doing the same thing. It really is quite easy to feel animosity toward any place you live in when you feel alone, and we have all felt it.
Luckily, I have had paddleboat rides at Oglebay, I have gone golfing with family, I have gone sledding with my husband. While I do cherish those moments, I have also been lucky enough to travel outside of Wheeling to other states and other countries. We get ourselves so worked up for years saying how bored we are with a place, but maybe we never stopped and thought during those moments of disdain to say, “Maybe I’m boring?”
Now, I know that sounds self-deprecating, but it is not at all meant to be. It is simply meant to make one think, “Perhaps my surroundings are not the problem. Maybe I am.” I just look back on myself 10 years ago and think of how much I didn’t appreciate or take advantage of anything in Wheeling. I wondered why people came to visit here and why people made an active effort to live here.
Many things have changed for me since then, including Wheeling. I look at the city with hope and light and am inspired by its future — by my future. Not even just the activities that I am surrounded by or the great food I get to indulge in, but no matter what job I take or what city I end up in down the road, everything in my life began here.
This is where I began my first real steps as a young adult, and I am not the only one. Thanks to other young people in Wheeling, I was featured in my first art show this year. Thanks to Wheeling, I can really let myself let go in yoga classes with the absolute best teacher, Kylie. I mean, these places that provide me with growth are owned by people around the same age as me, and they are thriving like crazy. This city allowed me to meet my husband and some of the closest friends I will ever have in my life.
This city has given me so many gifts. The gift of great food, the gift of safety, the gift of education, the gift of career building and the gift of love in finding my husband and my friends. Though this is not quite a love letter to Wheeling, it is a thank you to its prosperity and endless will to make people change their minds about saying, “I cannot wait to leave this town.”
• With a background in journalism and being a true Wheeling native, Jessica Broverman was destined to work with Weelunk. She holds a degree in journalism with a minor in criminal justice and works with Williams Lea Tag as a legal proofreader. When she isn’t typing away for Weelunk or WLT, she is enjoying a coffee at one of her many favorite spots in Wheeling, spending time with friends, or having fun with her husband Zachary and their two cats, Proctor and Max.