I still remember that drive to Philadelphia when Monika told me from my passenger’s seat that she was moving to Denver, Colorado. I was trying really hard to not make my crying too obvious as she told me the fateful story.
For years, as Monika lived in her mom’s apartment in New Jersey and worked at a public relations job she hated, she told us how she was going to move out West, which seemed to be a fitting spot for someone who loved hiking and running so much. However, Monika’s immediate family, her entire network of friends, her boyfriend and her best friend and sister all lived here.
It seemed like a pipe dream and selfishly, I was glad – I didn’t want to be left alone without one of my best friends, who could always make a lame Saturday night into a memorable one and, with her questions, curiosity and great listening, always made me feel like my life and problems mattered to someone else, too. She was, and still is, simultaneously one of my favorite people to stay out until 2 a.m. with and also one of my favorite people to vent to, a combination you don’t find often.
That all changed when Monika was supposed to do a road trip with her sister down the coast, only to be rained out by a big storm ransacking the area. So instead, they did the next best thing – they booked a ticket to Denver, where our college pal Kyle had moved years ago and had barely been back since. In Denver, Kyle mentioned to Monika in passing that his roommate was moving out, and he would need a new one.
When Monika returned home the following day, she came into work to find out her job had been eliminated. She had two choices – take a layoff now, or work for six more months and hope they would find a new position for her. She took the former and then promptly called Kyle and asked if that room was still available.
A short few months later, Monika packed up and moved to Denver. I wondered if she would return. I asked my boyfriend for his opinion. “She’s not coming back,” he said. “It’s Denver.”
He was right. Almost one full year later, Monika is still loving it in Denver, and that is not going to change.
A few weeks ago, I flew out to visit Monika and check out the scene, or should I say her scene, because that’s exactly what it was. The city was practically made for the girl.
Everywhere I looked, there were millennials – and mostly men (it’s called ‘Menver’ by some, but don’t get it twisted – “All of the guys came here to ski and snowboard, they don’t want to meet anyone,” I’ve been advised) and good looking ones, too. Everyone loves to party, have a stiff drink and eat some good food. And hiking. These people love to hike.
Luckily, I escaped the worst of the hiking (“Monika, there is no way I am getting up at 6 a.m. to hike,” I unapologetically let her know) but we did do a few leisurely walks with some nice scenery, although they certainly lacked the distance to ever be called a hike.
It was a fun, modern city, full of activities, trendy restaurants and people from every corner of the world. Which actually, struck me as kind of weird.
Out of everyone I met while in Denver, only one was actually from there. Being from Jersey, this is pretty bizarre – 95 percent of the people I know in Jersey have just always been there, and a good chunk of those people have a real Jersey pride. But to create a smorgasbord of people in a random state full of mountains is very not Jersey.
You can see it one of two ways, I guess. You can see it as a place with a strange identity, one where people pass through, stay for awhile, have some fun and then head back home when they’re ready to settle down.
Or, as my friend Craig said, “I think that’s what makes Denver so cool. Everyone that’s there wants to be there – they chose it. Here, everyone is just… here.”
Regardless of which way you see it, Monika has certainly found her spot in Denver. Unlike many of the friends of hers I met who plan on staying for a few years before moving on, she’s ready to buy a place there and hang out for the long haul.
Of course, it would be nice if all of my best friends lived within a 60-mile radius like they once did – they’re now shipping off to Boston, Raleigh, and now Denver. But that’s life. In the meantime, I’ll keep penciling Denver into my calendar – although Monika, let’s keep the hiking to a minimum.