My Phoenix Story | This Could Be Phoenix - Part 3
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My Phoenix Story

Some time ago, we started a series called My Phoenix Story. This column features members of the Downtown/Central Phoenix community and tells their unique experiences of life in this city. It serves as a snapshot of the community where we live, work and play, providing a firsthand look at what it’s really like to experience Phoenix on a daily basis. We’ve seen wonderful stories ranging from the transplant who found her passion in advocacy to the Phoenix native who has watched Phoenix reinvent itself before his eyes. But we want to see more. That’s where you come in. We are now opening a call for submissions to our My Phoenix Story column. We are looking for strong first-person accounts of what brought you to Phoenix, why you stayed, and what Phoenix means to you. Stories should have an emphasis on Phoenix’s good qualities and potential. We know you love your city. Here’s your chance to tell us why.

Arizona is my home- and the years I have spent living here have truly shaped me as a person. This integral part of me most likely derived from my parents’ adoration for the state. Both my parents were transplants to Arizona. My father’s family relocated from Long Island, New York when he was just thirteen years old. Meanwhile, my mother moved to Arizona right after high school from Detroit, Michigan.

An Arizona Childhood

If I had to categorize my father, I would say he is somewhat of an explorer. In his younger years, he took advantage of what the state has to offer including by exploring the various parks, rivers, mountains, and lakes. My fondest childhood memories all include my father’s enthusiasm about showing my brother and me everything he had discovered. I have had the privilege to experience parts of Arizona that most people will never see-or did not even know existed. I developed an understanding early on of how unique Arizona is and how lucky I am to live in a place filled with such beauty. Still to this day, I can’t think of a more radiant sunrise or sunset other than those in Arizona. I couldn't imagine starting or finishing my day in any other place-again, this is my home.

I’ve been living in LA for going on three years now, and as I see the city evolve, I can’t help but think about the similar transformation Downtown Phoenix is going through. When I left Phoenix and my work with Roosevelt Row in 2007, I had no idea how many of the lessons I learned there would apply to my work in arts and culture in other cities. LA, like Phoenix, suffers from urban sprawl, siloed neighborhoods, and mediocre (though improving) public transportation. Both cities are going through a revitalization of sorts, and lately, I find myself asking how LA and other cities can be more like Phoenix.

New York City. That's where I expected to be by now. I told myself at 21 that if I was still in Phoenix by 30, it would mean that I had failed at pretty much every aspect of life. Well, I just turned 39 last month and I have never lived anywhere but Phoenix, save for college years spent in Tucson.  But I realize now that just because I didn't grow up to live in the city that I thought I would have doesn't mean I have failed. I've actually come to love the city I was born and raised in and have called home for nearly 40 years, though, I can't lie, it's taken nearly every one of those years to realize that. My disdain for Phoenix began in my mid-teens and held strong until my early thirties. But it wasn't always there. As a little girl, I can remember trips to my dad's office at the Historic City Hall building. I can remember the thrill of hustling through the crowds of office workers, my dad's firm grip on my hand. Navigating the unique buildings, giants in my little girl eyes.

"Ew" was one of the first words I heard when I told people I was moving to Downtown Phoenix. Yep, seriously. They would ask, "Is it safe?" or "What's even down there?" My parents were even guilty of this vision of Downtown, two people who have lived in the Valley since the 1970s, and worked/played in Uptown Phoenix in its early booming days. As unnerving as those questions sound now, at the time I really couldn't blame them. Downtown Phoenix was just starting to be "revitalized" after years of what seemed like dormancy. It didn't help that I grew up in Scottsdale and graduated from ASU – a school full of transplants who (7 years ago) would say, "Phoenix has a Downtown?"  Yep – that comment also seriously happened. Outside of sports arenas and concert venues, most of the people I knew seemed to see Downtown Phoenix as a barren wasteland.