Editor’s Letter, June 2021: We Just Keep Coming Back

I learned that “boomerangs” were a thing here—a current of people leaving and then moving back years later.

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

I moved to Cincinnati in the late 1980s because a company recruited me. The first time I ever visited here was the job interview; the second time, I was driving a U-Haul truck with my brother. People came and went a lot in the marketing and advertising agency business, my career field then, so there were plenty of nonnatives in the office, and we had fun discovering Cincinnati together. As I met the friends of coworkers who were lifelong locals, I always sensed they were a little amused and perplexed by my arrival. More than one asked, Why would you move to Cincinnati on purpose?

I loved Cincinnati right away, and my new friends were always welcoming. But I wasn’t a Reds or Bengals fan, and I didn’t go to their high school or a rival school, so there was a lack of connection. Over the next few years the city was gripped by the Mapplethorpe art exhibit controversy and the passage of anti-gay laws, and criticism from “outsiders” like me was not especially appreciated. I remember the palpable tide of a Love it or leave it attitude rising here through the ’90s.

I know a few natives and newcomers alike who left Cincinnati during those years. People still leave today, for a new job, for college, for an adventure, for love. Anywhere, U.S.A. is often more appealing than Hometown, Ohio, especially for young adults. For many, getting out of Cincinnati was and is Goal No. 1; everything else is TBD.

Over the years I learned that “boomerangs” were a thing here—a current of people leaving and then moving back years later. There was sometimes a feeling that the return was sort of Plan B, that the escape from Cincinnati had been a triumph and the return a failure or, at least, a surrender to reality.

This month’s “Boom Time for Boomerangs” resets that dynamic, I think, by interviewing 20 Cincinnatians who left for greener pastures and returned. Being home is anything but second choice, though some aren’t ready to commit to staying forever. To them I’d flip the script of my earlier experience and ask, Why would you leave Cincinnati on purpose?

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