Every morning and every evening, I have the unique opportunity of watching the world while the world can’t watch me back. I have my window to thank for that – a massive window that stretches from one side of the wall to the other; an ever-changing masterpiece that still manages to take my breath away every time I look outside.
The world I watch is St. Paul. To my left, the sparkling skyscrapers of downtown. To my right, the powerful Mississippi River. And in front of me… I’m not quite sure. An old train yard maybe? Part of the beauty is not knowing. All I know is that if I squint my eyes on a misty morning, the Mississippi River bluffs turn into quiet, fog-covered mountains, just before I blink and remember the nearest mountains are miles away from my city.
I never used to picture myself living here, standing in front of my window watching the blurry lines of cars that tangle together to form stories I’ll never understand. I had always pictured myself in Minneapolis, on a quaint street surrounded by trendy coffee shops and people way cooler than I’ll ever be.
My sister told me, Minneapolis is the guy you date, but St. Paul is the man you marry. It may have been a rushed arranged marriage, but here I am. And yet, already, I seem to be falling in love.
Our capital city is a bit of a puzzle. Often overlooked as the “other” twin city, downtown St. Paul has a more mellow mood while still having all the perks of a big city. It may not knock your socks off right away, but give it time. As I look down upon the streets 26 stories below, I see the beauty forming. The nameless blocks now carve themselves with memories: sunny farmers’ markets and Wild games and mid-morning brunches. My favorite brunch spot just a few blocks away, The Buttered Tin, keeps me drooling over the maple bacon pancakes.
Each day is a new adventure that I can walk, bus or lightrail my way through. I can stroll through Rice Park and skate under the castle-like edifice of the Landmark Center, or I can take a drive and be dazzled by the Cathedral illuminated high on the hill. Or I can choose to stay in, desperately hoping that no one can see me, most likely naked, standing in front of my dimly lit window watching the world below.
Moving to St. Paul has been about learning. Learning how to catch a city bus every day and not weep when I have to wait outside in the snow for 20 minutes. Learning that living in St. Paul may be less expensive than Minneapolis, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to fork over a small fortune for a craft beer or a trendy taco. Most importantly, I’m learning how to find myself in this city, and how to not feel small living among the skyscrapers.