Name: Mary Staropoli
I am:  Mother of two beautiful daughters (9 & 6 yrs old), wife of a pretty awesome husband, member of a kick-ass family, neighborhood and city enthusiast, non-profit administrative professional (currently working for Rochester Downtown Development Corporation)
Years in rochester:  18 childhood years + 11 adulthood years = 29 years
Current home:  Highland Park neighborhood

Dear Rochester,

I write this love note sitting on a bench in Highland Park, my happy place. In fact, this whole city is my happy place. But I haven't always thought of you this way. Iā€™m a Rochester native, born and raised here. I was the product of a self-doubting city (did they teach it in school?), and when I left for college, I was one of those people who said, "I'll never come back here." Rochester was for losers. I was going out into the big wide world and was going to stay there, thank you very much. I stayed away summers, and didn't spend more than a few nights back home over school breaks. I spent about 10 yrs living in the fine city of Boston, a place with a constant hum, with national sports teams, with shopping and culture galore. But it was a lonely place, full of transients, and community was hard to come by. I didn't know my neighbors and they didn't know me. When I went to the grocery store, the chances of running into a familiar face were slim to none. I was anonymous, disconnected. The decision to return to Rochester (dragging along my Boston native husband) was mainly due to my large and loving family calling me, and because it was a place we could afford to buy a nice house where we would start a family.

Returning as an adult, I began to see Rochester through a different lens, and what I saw was...
 -A town full of neighborhoods like mine (Highland Park) where people are connected to each other, and passionate about where they live
 -A town small enough to see people you know everywhere you go (and have fun figuring out your degrees of separation), but big enough that you will always keep meeting new and interesting people
 -A town that's "Big enough to get Springsteen. Small enough to get tickets.*"
 -A town with more festivals and culture than I could ever take in
 -A town where I can take my kids to a great ballpark without breaking the bank
 -A town with beautiful parks to enjoy, and in short driving distance to gorgeous natural sights and places to visit
 -A town with short commutes, where everything I need is in a 5-10 minute radius, so I get to spend my time doing things I care to do
 -A town with four unique seasons, where I've learned to embrace the beauty and fun of winter
I could go on.

Over the years I developed first a defensiveness, then an outright pride in my hometown. In fact, put me on a plane seated next to a stranger and I'm a traveling promotional advertisement for the place.

So I'm writing to say that I'm sorry I ever wrote you off, Rochester. You're one cool chick. And I want to thank you for being my happy place.


*Taken from a VisitRochester promo ad