A few years ago, I moved to St. Louis, Missouri to work at a large, new client for my first job after college. Recently, I returned to the city for the first time since working there, and it was surreal to return to the place where so much of my life had changed.
I won’t lie. St. Louis was not my cup of tea for too many reasons to count. The American Midwest culture was really jarring as someone who lived his entire life on the East Coast. The people, while friendly in many respects, I felt were often really hard for me to connect with for some inexplicable reason. I also felt that some of St. Louis’s pastimes (baseball and beer come to mind) were things I had never really been into, whereas some of my other interests (such as basketball) had little to no presence.
I won’t go into too much detail on why St. Louis had such an impact on my life, though I may write more about that in the future. However, I will say that a large part of that impact was from the people I met during my time there, as I was fortunate enough to make several new friends in St. Louis. In fact, the reason I went back in the first place was for a wedding between two good friends of mine. This group helped make my time in the city that much more enjoyable, and they helped me open up to more new experiences and trying new things. I learned to appreciate craft beers, and many of my friends pre-St. Louis would know that I was not a fan of beer at all (at least those I had tried up to that point).
During this latest trip, I stayed for a few nights in the Central West End, the neighborhood that I used to live in. It’s considered one of St. Louis’s nicer areas, considering some of the relatively upscale homes and apartments in the area. However, walking through the streets, I realized it really hadn’t changed all that much. Sure, there were some minor changes; now there’s a Whole Foods, and a few restaurants I remembered had closed down and been replaced with new ones. But the atmosphere was exactly the same, and I was relieved that one of my favorite parts of the city was still intact.
I also realized that this was my second chance to go to places I originally missed out on. In retrospect, I don’t really have an excuse for missing out on some of St. Louis’s most notable attractions and restaurants when I lived there. But by staying there for only a few days, I knew I could potentially “catch up” and visit some of those places. In the end, I ended up going to the City Museum with a huge group, which was a ton of fun and a great place to get yourself lost in. As I relaxed with everyone on the rooftop that cool night, I asked myself, “Why did I never go here?” Of course, that wasn’t the only place we hung out, as we all went out of the way to eat at some amazing restaurants and bars, many of which I had never been to before.
And of course, we took the time to visit our local favorites for a bit of nostalgia. The 24-hour coffee shop in Central West End’s main plaza, the pizza place with a great variety of deep dish pizzas, and a beer hall with dozens (or hundreds?) of beers to choose from… all of these places were within a few blocks of where we were staying. Much of the trip was not only a time to catch up with old friends, but a chance for me to revisit the past and appreciate what originally I took for granted.
While I wouldn’t call St. Louis an exotic location, there is still a charm to the city that I appreciate more now compared to when I actually lived there. Perhaps it’s because I can’t see myself ever living there again, or maybe it’s because I have become more aware of these things after traveling to other cities. But either way, it’s a good feeling to know that even if the city hasn’t changed, or maybe because the city hasn’t changed, there are reasons for me and my friends to go back there.
Until next time, St. Louis.