I’m a 20-something now making a life in Peoria. A born-and-raised Peorian, I’m one of those prodigal children who returned home thanks to COVID-19.
In high school, I dreamed of living in a sitcom like “Friends” or “Saved by the Bell.” Quite frankly, sitcoms just don’t take place in the Peorias of the world. I thought real life only happened in shiny places.
After high school, I went off to Saint Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana. I transferred to Illinois State University as a sophomore, where I discovered my passion for writing and got my bachelor’s degree in English. I then got my master’s in theology from the University of Notre Dame.
After that, I promptly moved to Florida for no other reason than I wanted something adventurous, and yes, shiny. Then the pandemic made me reevaluate the important things in life, so I came back to be near my favorite people in the world — my family.
I grew up in West Peoria and went to St. Mark’s Catholic School, which means that I spent most of my time in the Moss-Bradley neighborhood. Over here, it’s historical, collegiate, cultured, and quaint. I will never not think that the west side is the best side.
Now I’m settled here in my recently purchased first home. I work for OSF HealthCare as a writing coordinator in the marketing division. I love getting to be a part of such an integral piece of the Peoria fabric, both past and present. I never knew jobs like that existed here.
Beyond that, my favorite things about Peoria are:
- Hour-long commutes are a thing of my past. Everything is only a 20-minute drive (or less!) away.
- Having a yard and a driveway isn’t just a pipe dream. Housing is affordable for first-time — and second-, third- and fourth-time — homebuyers.
- The connections. You can’t go very far in Peoria without making some kind of connection, and I love that. It strengthens that feeling of belonging to something big and small all at the same time.
- I always look forward to the festivals, especially Oktoberfest. Those Germans sure know how to throw a good party.
- I love reading and I love libraries, and Peoria is spoiled with an incredible library system. In the last decade, I have collected library cards from four different cities. None compares to the Peoria Public Library. I go to every single public library here — downtown on Main, Lakeview, North, Lincoln and McClure. Even if you don’t love reading, the library is a great place to get music, movies, magazines. What a luxury!
There’s a lot that I didn’t realize Peoria had to offer until I came back and really started looking.
It’s been fun to discover and rediscover what Makes Peoria a great place.
When I lived in Florida, I loved living by the water. I’d drive over the bridge from Tampa to St. Pete every morning and all I could see for miles was the sun sparkling across the water. It was gorgeous. I thought that was the thing that I would miss the most moving back to the cornfields of Illinois. When I came back, I realized I had been missing what was right in front of me the whole time. It’s a different kind of experience — a little more still, somehow more reminiscent of a slow, storied past — but the Illinois River gives us a life on the water, and the sun sometimes reflects off of it the same way it did in Florida.
And, to quote my sister in New Jersey: “There’s nothing like a Midwestern sunset.”
Since being back, I’ve found that Peoria is a shiny place. It’s been fun to discover and rediscover all the things that make Peoria a great place to call home. And, truth be told, my life is a bit like a sitcom here. The kooky characters are all there, the slapstick situations are at least a weekly occurrence, and the heartwarming moments are enough to get me through until the next episode.