Author: Lauren Genesky
I moved to Buffalo in the dead of winter in 2018. I had been looking for an apartment on and off for a couple years prior, and in my mind there was no time like the present to try and make the leap. I had just accepted a job offer in the city and the idea of déjà vu a la staying at my parents’ place in Batavia and commuting every single day was enough to make me cry myself to sleep at night. I had to do something about my current situation.
I took to Craigslist and found a three bedroom apartment on the upper West Side of Buffalo fairly quickly. The photos looked too good to be true: there were hardwoods throughout, exposed brick in the kitchen, a fireplace, spacious rooms with lots of closet space, big windows that let in incredible natural light, and it was an upper, which was a no brainer, especially because I am a single and planned on living alone. It was too good to be true, and I cannot believe I fell in love with, and got offered, the very first apartment I looked at. It was as if it was in the stars, and I still pinch myself that I found it. Snagging this apartment and actually pulling the trigger and signing a lease (it was month-to-month but, an even better scenario) was a huge step for me.
Growing up in Batavia, I always loved Buffalo and saw it as the place I might end up eventually. I really thought that I would graduate high school and study journalism at NYU, but Buffalo was a happy compromise for me considering the cost of living was much lower, it wasn’t as crowded, and it had everything I desired in a city. It was close to my hometown and my family, most of whom settled in Western New York, which was a huge perk. I also didn’t have the typical post college move-in by yourself moment, hence an apartment I shared with a childhood friend in Batavia for a while. Nothing about my twenties was normal or by the book, but I don’t think the concept of ‘normal’ really exists in your twenties. Most people (unless they decided to get married off and start having kids) seem to float through their twenties with a lot of missteps and awkward moments. Now that I’ve passed that decade I can see that, but back then I felt like an outcast, and that I was the only one going through it.
Buffalo is an incredible town and is known as the “City of Good Neighbors.” The history here is unparalleled; the architecture is incredible with City Hall in the heart of downtown, an art deco masterpiece – hands down my favorite building in the entire city. Every time I look at it, I see a new intricate detail I have never seen before.
A great part about Buffalo is actually its ill-fated past: a rust belt city that lost a lot of its blue collar jobs made much of Buffalo ‘down and out’ decades ago. But that poor fortune contributed to saving a lot of the gorgeous Buffalo houses and historic buildings around town. Revitalizing Buffalo was not a priority when the economy was poor and jobs were hard to find – not many people were moving to Buffalo either. That would eventually start to change.
These days, the West Side has especially benefited from the city’s resurgence. When Buffalo finally invested in its waterfront, many of the old, abandoned houses on the city’s West Side were simultaneously rehabbed and sold to young professionals looking to live and work close by. Conveniently, downtown is under three miles away from where I live, and the trendy Allentown neighborhood borders the West Side, bringing with it many eclectic shops and restaurants. All across the West Side, investments and renovations of gorgeous old “Big Buffalo Houses” are bringing higher sale prices and a much more competitive housing market.
Even with the changes taking place all over the city, which lured me in and made me want to move here, Buffalo also provided me with something else I desired: diversity. Growing up in Batavia, a small city in Genesee County where the population was about 18,000 left me longing for diversity. My public high school had different ethnicities, and there were people with different backgrounds that lived there, but for the most part that didn’t translate to the overall cultural make-up of the town’s landscape, such as the restaurants, for example. I found myself craving more than what was offered.
Many of the people I went to high school with went away to college and then drifted back to Batavia to marry and start a family. Why didn’t that idea make me happy as well? My hope was to experience something – somewhere – new. It’s not as if Buffalo is all that far away – in fact it is only a 40 minute drive. Sometimes, it was more about me feeling stuck in a small town where I thought I was going to perhaps stay forever? It might sound dramatic, but leaving my hometown was something that I felt that I had to do, and if a place like Buffalo could exist under an hour to the west, why wouldn’t I at least try to make it work there?
Once I moved to Buffalo in 2018, my life finally seemed to make sense to me. That also sounds very dramatic, but my late twenties and early thirties were some of the most transformational and productive years of my life. I started running in January 2018, and by May of that same year I ran the Buffalo Half Marathon for the first time. I will spare you my run time and let you know that my pace was somewhere between a walk/run, but I crossed that finish line, which was unfathomable to me just months prior. I ran it again in 2019 and was signed up in 2020 before the world turned upside down. I hope to build up to a full marathon someday. After the running accomplishment, I decided to cross off a bucket list item and applied (and was accepted) back to the University at Buffalo, where I studied English and finally finished my bachelor’s degree at age 32. Things were looking up – I landed a job at a downtown company and thrived in the role. I made new friends too… something that I found to be incredibly scary, and more difficult as an adult.
What is incredible to me is that all of these things happened in Buffalo: my adopted city. It’s hard to explain to people that have never lived here how remarkable it is. From Black Rock to the West Side, over to North Buffalo, these bustling little neighborhoods provide the vibrant city life and diverse population that I had been craving. A person can live a comfortable life here, and still travel a lot and have a savings account – something that would be harder to do in a bigger city.
Not surprisingly, I categorize myself as a “typical Buffalo sports-crazy person.” I have been obsessed with the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres since childhood, partially thanks to the obsessive nature of an older brother. Aside from plenty of sports opportunities, there is a vibrant music and art scene right around the block from my front door in Elmwood Village, along with some of the best coffee shops and restaurants, offering almost any cuisine imaginable. I can literally celebrate my Italian heritage one evening and celebrate my Polish heritage the next day, before treating myself to a vegan masterpiece the day after that—and sometimes I do!
Don’t get me wrong. Buffalo isn’t without its faults–I spent the first few months driving the wrong way down the maze of one-way streets in my neighborhood and have more parking tickets under my belt than I am willing to admit. And yes, the winters can drag on a bit (but they’re not as long as they used to be).
I realize that Buffalo is not perfect, but what city is? It’s the city that I have come to love. Whether I am nostalgic about a certain moment in time that I spent with someone special to me, or how I feel as though I grew up here (as I have accomplished so many milestones since I arrived), I can’t seem to get enough of it. I spent my teens and early twenties envisioning a future for myself that was much different than what I have now, oddly enough. But that’s the thing: what I have now and where I’ve ended up is so much better than what I could have ever imagined years previously.
Singular experiences from the past few years, since my move to Buffalo are like scenes—postcards of moments in time, together with friends and co-workers that I have come to know. And with each postcard, even though they aren’t physical pieces of paper – rather indelible memories – I mark each one: “To Buffalo, with Love.”