Dear City of Norwalk, CT:
I didn’t know what to think when I first met you. We had been acquainted before— I saw you in college once or twice passing through— but when we were officially introduced, I admit, it was not in the best of circumstances. I was brought to you for a job that I did not like and soon lost. I contractually had to stay with you for a year. Alone. With no job or friends close by. I was disheartened, I felt stuck. And, for one of the only times in my life, I felt hopeless.
Coming in with all that baggage didn’t help the start of our relationship. I ignored you— I barely left my dark, crumby apartment— and for that I apologize. I was in a rough spot and needed some time to figure myself out. But I did. My temp job dragged me out of my cave and back in to the world. That was what really got our relationship started. After my shift, I would walk around my quiet neighbor. Taking in your beauty in early spring, I thought— hey, maybe Norwalk isn’t so bad.
And you really aren’t. You’re way more than “not so bad.” You’re fun and lively and diverse and I love you so much. But I’ll get there soon enough.
With my head out of my own self-pity, I was able to see much clearer. My walks got longer and took me more deeply into town. I went to pet the goats at Stew Leonard’s, I walked to the Green for a concert, I watched a soccer game at Nathan Hale. You, Norwalk, were giving me opportunities. I just needed the courage to take advantage of them.
You opened your doors to me through your community. In a small attempt to squash the loneliness of living alone, I joined a local community group. The Norwalk Gamer Symphony Orchestra brought me back to myself and out into your streets. Spending time with people my age who had similar interests was the best thing that could have happened to me. I now had a group of friends to eat, play and explore with. I started to eat at new local restaurants, meet up for movie nights, and prowl the streets for Pokémon and ice cream. If I wanted to try something new, I could just text a friend and someone would be there to enjoy a new experience with me (The Orchestra frequents the Tacos del Azteca food truck, by the way. Best. Tacos. Ever).
As I transitioned from an indoor to an outdoor cat, I got to see more of you. I slowly started to take notice of the people walking your streets, the faces sitting on the benches, the stores filled with niche and incredible products. Did you know you have a Russian grocer called Made in USSR? A Filipino restaurant and Italian coffee shop that share a storefront? Your stores and people are so diverse and help mold your beautiful landscape. I can eat Latin American, authentic Chinese, and great pizza on the same street. Anyone can find a little piece of themselves here. That makes you unique, Norwalk. That makes you really special.
I was prompted to write this letter by the action that helped me fall in love with you in the first place: walking. Well, to be more specific, running. My best friend from your neighbor Fairfield signed me up for a half marathon which sparked many emotions in me: hatred, regret, and the desire to win. You see Norwalk, I don’t like doing things halfway. It’s go big or go home for me. So I had to start running around you. Training for the race made me wake up, get up, and get out there more often; I was able to see almost all of you at once, and that made me love you even more.
It started at the Endurance House, your running shoe store— which of course you have because you have anything someone could need. Once I got my shoes, I ran (haha, get it?) to the internet to find a place to run. And there, with arms wide open once again, was your community. The NorWALKERS, a community of walkers and runners who map out trails for runs and hikes in the area, introduced me to the Norwalk River Valley Trail. The well-paved passage weaves through all the areas that make you great— the SONO strip, the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion, the river, Veteran’s Park. Running through now is like running down my year’s memory lane— celebrating my friend’s engagement at Mecha Noodle, date nights at Match, freelance jobs at the mansion, Pokémon hunting on the draw bridge. You made me love the smelly flowers that used to grow outside my elementary school. You made me appreciate small, four screen movie theaters. You made me dance at shows at the Wall Street Theater, mash to The Atomic Unknown.
Over the past few months, running circles around you, I realized that you’ve done more than lift me up from a low point in my life; you’ve helped me make new friends and try new things. You made becoming a full-fledged adult fun.
The contract for my apartment ended in February. It’s May and I’m still here. The me from last year wouldn’t believe this, but I’m here because I want to be. You helped me evolve from a dejected twenty-something struggling to pay rent into a happy young adult who is involved in her community (and still struggling to pay rent). I regretted meeting you, Norwalk. Now, I can’t see myself leaving you any time soon. My best friend (now pending thanks to that half marathon) and I are talking about getting a nicer apartment in town after she graduates. We want to try your new breweries and pubs. I can’t imagine leaving the Gamer Symphony Orchestra. I love it too much. I’ve built a little life here; it’s small enough to hold in my hands. But even though it’s small, I’m happy, and that’s also something I didn’t think I would be a year ago. You took me on a wild ride, but it was worth it.
So thank you, Norwalk. I love you.