Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes a mix of national and local commentaries online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


Three years ago, I wrote a dreamy love letter to downtown Minneapolis in pandemic conditions that was published by Star Tribune Opinion ("What I don't talk about when I talk about the pandemic," June 2021).

At that time, I was an office coordinator commuting into downtown daily.

Having gladly gone from 127 to 120 pounds in a year due to decreased work stressors.

An ambivert finding hoops and lists manageable due to a dearth of in-person communications.

Up at 6:15 a.m. and home at 6:15 p.m. with no stops.

Three years later, I remain in the same role and commute.

Morning views from the connector bus yield Surdyk's, the post office and dogs walking their people.

City Center is still standing, but the lower-level Marshalls is no more.

The IDS Center Starbucks is again hopping, its in-person line in full swing and out the door most days.

The connector bus home brings a return jaunt through Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Marveling as I behold the city skyline for the second time in 10 hours: I'm still here.

Like many Minnesotans, I'm here because my immediate family is here.

(Winters are tolerated for this reason only, with this last one proving a delightful exception to the rule — if not for the less delightful reminder of global warming.)

But my extended family is out East; as such, summers were spent at the shore with "the Philadelphia cousins."

Autobiography assignments from middle school onward found me making a living as a Manhattan writer with a Holland lop-eared rabbit for company.

(A gently indirect reply to my Philadelphia-proud grandmother's oft-heard "I don't know what's so great about New York.")

Autobiographically, then, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: an English major.

And I was lucky to be a product of two fantastic departments: the University of Minnesota and Macalester.

But because I transferred to Macalester, I brought enough humanities credits from the U to be unable to justify the study-abroad experience that interested me most: Oxford.

While I couldn't justify the cost of studying abroad, though, I could certainly justify the cost of studying away.

As taken from "The Great Gatsby" narrator Nick Carraway, "the [Midwest] … seemed like the ragged edge of the universe — so I decided to go East … ."

In short, my post-graduation plan consisted of two words: Get out.

I spent the year after graduation applying to East Coast programs. Visions of Ithaca, Manhattan and Providence — oh my! — danced through my head.

I imagined myself making my way to graduate seminars on a leaf-laden, sun-dappled street, Starbucks in hand.

(Never mind that I already moseyed my way to undergraduate seminars in this manner. Surely the East Coast experience was completely different.)

I ended up getting into one of the nine English programs to which I applied. While it was an East Coast program, it was also a summer program.

I spent the next two academic years in Minneapolis and St. Paul — the very metropolises I was ostensibly trying to leave.

And I spent the next two summers in a town with easy access to maple syrup and fairly easy access to Manhattan.

I made my way to seminars on a shade-dappled road, Dunkin' Donuts coffee in hand.

That same program happened to have a sister campus at Oxford — its sole sister campus abroad — and accompanying financial aid.

As taken from Gatsby himself: "I only stayed [two] months. That's why I can't really call myself an Oxford [wo]man."

But because of said program, those two months remain a brilliant memory.

Had I gotten into any of the eight other English programs to which I applied, I would have gladly gone — and I would likely, glumly, still be making time and space to pay off debt.

An occasional coffee would be all I would be able to afford.

But because I didn't, I now make time and space to write in cities in which I am able to afford a daily habit.

I'm not making a living as a Manhattan writer, certainly.

Instead, I'm making strides toward publishing work while in the metro. (Which includes this paper.)

I'm still here.

And so I beat on with other like-minded graduates, boat against the cities' current, pointed ceaselessly toward the present.

Vanessa Waltz is an office coordinator in downtown Minneapolis.