a view of Philadelphia from the one liberty observation deck in center city. a pink sunset cast falls over the whole image

   My freshman year of high school my friends and I had a tendency of galavanting around downtown Raleigh. We explored intently and found treasures in iced coffee and thrifted sweaters; eager to be a part of what we perceived to be a big city. My school was located in a suburb of Raleigh, tucked safely into the triangle. Cary North Carolina-- often referred to as the "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees" or "The City of Beige-- was voted the safest town in the country many years in a row. Cary exists in a strange limbo between Southern and Northern with equal parts rednecks and new yorkers. It's a tiny-big town where it's easy to feel suffocated driving down the same streets and going to the same Cook Out daily. Raleigh was as close to an escape from this as we could get. It had boutiques, coffee shops, bars and street festivals. Most of us were born and raised in Cary, some of us had never left the state. Taking the bus or the train the 15 minutes into the city was a huge relief from our suburban hell.
     All of these feelings of teenage rebellion and restless energy seemed to culminate in one location-- a nine-story parking deck on South Wilmington Street which we discovered by chance some steamy summer night. On the highest floor of the deck it felt like we could see miles in every direction. We weren't on top of the city, but we were smack dab in the middle of it. We lovingly dubbed it "Floor Nine" and we return on every single trip downtown to this day-- sometimes traveling to the city solely to park there and enjoy the view. Nine floors felt like a lot. It gave us an incredible sense of scale--- in a fairly small city on a fairly small building we ourselves felt very very small.  To us, floor nine was the heart of Raleigh. We felt the city living and breathing, and it was something special to be a part of it.
     This week, 3 years later, I visited Philadelphia to explore my future home at Temple University. Whether it can be attributed to my love of Raleigh or to the fact that I am privileged enough to be fairly well-traveled, I have wanted to live in a city since I can remember. Getting into Temple meant that those dreams would come true, but it didn't quite feel real until a journalism info session took myself and a handful of other scared prospective students to the One Liberty observation deck in center city-- 57 stories high. My tiny southern mind just about exploded.
     Walking in circles trying to process the view from all the way up there, I imagined floor nine standing proud so many hundreds of miles away. I felt silly for feeling so small with 9 floors under me. In a huge city on a mega-huge building, I felt even tinier. I missed floor nine. But that sense of scale gave me clarity to the fact that things were about to get much bigger for me. I'm terrified to move from my comfort zone town to a big city. I'm terrified to put myself out there and grow. But there's so much more out there for me than Cary or Raleigh has to offer, and it's time for me to move on. I'm excited to come back to Floor Nine once I transition to city life. I'll stand proud on top of that building and know that I am both small and important. I've conquered nine floors, so 57 of them will be a piece of cake, right? All I can do is feign confidence and take the elevator.

-Celina Carra

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