I choose it. I'm fortunate enough to live anywhere and I picked Louisville.
I've been hearing that a lot lately from family, friends, colleagues and even strangers. People that know me are curious to know why a Jewish girl who grew up in CT, went to school in NY and has lived in Portland Oregon for 16 years choose to live in Kentucky.
Many reasons, actually. I've been thinking about relocating for a couple of years now, but wanted to continue to give Portland a chance after many life changes occurred a few years back. And I did. I have an amazing community of Portland family that isn't ever going to go away. But, as the years went on, my biological family felt farther away and the rain of the Pacific NW during winter starting to get to me, even with all my travel. While enjoying my life goal of bicycling 4200 miles across the USA this past summer on an adventure I called Road to Rhode, I envisioned my life in 5 years from now. 10 years from now. And, it became clearer what I hope for. What I want in my professional life. What I dream my home and community would look like.
As I finished my 4200 mile journey on Charlestown Beach Rhode Island on Labor Day this year, my brother, David and sister-in-law Cassia told me they were expecting a boy in March. I would become Aunt Jess. See blog post called Best Day Ever (scroll down a little on the blog page to find it). That was it. I needed to be closer to family. I wasn't very interested in moving to CT/RI where my parents were, or to Miami (love having 4 seasons!), but began developing a list of criteria (yes, a rubric, in fact!) of livable cities for me. And, I narrowed it down, but decided on Louisville. I have some friends and colleagues in Kentucky, although only really one friend in Louisville or within an hour of me (Stacie!), but it is a bicycle friendly city, has an arts community (yes, Opera!), it's incredibly affordable (coming from Portland), there is SUNSHINE in the winter, amazing food, four seasons (although not too brutal in winter), an airport (I travel about 50%), no MLS team, but UofL has a strong Men's Soccer Program and I'm already a 2014 Season Ticket Holder (they are currently building an $18M stadium), a welcome to Louisville group called New2Lou, a social organization designed as a resource for transplants to Louisville, who are looking to meet people, try new places and connect to the community. Louisville has a livable, urban downtown with access to the Louisville Loop, a 100 mile trail system still being developed that will encircle Louisville. It's an easy walkable/rideable mile from my apartment. Kentucky is doing amazing school health work, thanks to leadership and partnerships at the Kentucky Department of Education and Kentucky Department of Public Health. I will love living in a state where health and education are working cohesively, effectively and passionately addressing the link between health and learning. Other groups and partners working on these efforts in KY include Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, KAHPERD and Action for Healthy Kids.
Need I say more? In exactly a week, I've done so much already. During my first week living in Louisville, I've attended the UofL Men's quarterfinal game versus Rutgers (devastating loss), attended the monthly New2Lou Meet Up event and met many people, some whom I plan on going mountain biking with in Cherokee Park as soon as my mtn bike arrives! I've already had multiple opportunities to meet new colleagues like Jeff Mushkin at SPARK for a meeting yesterday downtown and Julia Bauscher, Jefferson County Food Service Director. I reconnected with former undergrad professor and good friend Gary English, Chair of Public Health Department at Western Kentucky University and will over the upcoming weeks see more colleagues at events around school health. I've gone for a hike in Cherokee Park, bicycled and run along the Louisville Loop, received my Kroger Food Shopping card, been lost over and over again and reframing getting lost as an adventure. I've successfully found my local grocery store, bank/atm, cafe to do work (first floor of my building) Miss C's on Chestnut… all within walking distance. Life is good and I'm enjoying it so far. This weekend, my friend Stacie is hosting a "Welcome Jess to Louisville" bonfire and I'll be attending the Festival of Trees and Lights and going to a viewing of a documentary called Out of Print.