Plaza Midwood was the first place I fell in love with when I moved to Charlotte 11 years ago.
It was my first week of college. I’d met a local who took me to Common Market. We sat in the back alley eating Funyuns, drinking coffee, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, and people-watching bearded, tattooed hipsters in Obama t-shirts.
I decided then Plaza Midwood would be my home. And it was for 11 years. Even though I didn’t always live there, it was always home. I bought a house there. I fell in love there (twice).
Now I’m leaving Plaza Midwood for an Uptown high-rise, and I can’t wait.
I’ll be waking up to a view of Uptown from my floor to ceiling windows and lounging in a rooftop pool. I’ll be shooting billiards in the clubhouse and then walking to BB&T Ballpark.
Why? It’s kind of complicated.
Living in Plaza Midwood isn’t a personality.
In a weird way I’d started to use the neighborhood as a crutch.
I’ve been viewed by friends as “the Plaza Midwood hipster” for so long, it’s almost become a part of my identity. That’s not a good thing.
A neighborhood shouldn’t define me, because then I’d run the risk of thinking other people’s neighborhoods define them. I do that a lot, and I need to knock it off.
South End bros. Matthews suburbanites. NoDa gentrifiers. And Plaza Midwood hipsters. Yuck.
It’s not just me. All of Charlotte is doing it.
The idea of a “hipster” neighborhood and a “yuppie” neighborhood is outdated.
Let’s play a game. I’ll describe a neighborhood and you tell me which one I’m talking about.
“This neighborhood contains a lot of renovated warehouse space, a very popular brewery, and a new restaurant that got a lot of buzz online. Parking is a nightmare, but it’s got a few great bars. Young people, families, and even older suburbanites will spend hours there when the weather is good. Housing prices are ridiculous. And it was so much cooler five years ago.”
See? That could be NoDa, Plaza, South End, SouthPark, LoSo, and even Wesley Heights. Dilworth, Myers Park, and Uptown are just a warehouse and a brewery away from being the same.
Everyone is going everywhere. Everyone is intermingling. It’s no longer cool to hold on to the silly idea of what each neighborhood is supposed to look like. It just makes you sound like a cynic.
There’s such a thing as being too invested in a neighborhood.
At the core of neighborhood debates is personal connection. I realized I was taking mine too far.
I feel almost suffocated when I think about how much Plaza Midwood means to me.
Last month I found myself seriously worrying about how N.C. Red might affect the neighborhood. A few months before, I was worrying how Sushi Guru would impact Soul Gastrolounge.
I watch high-strung social media debates about why this bar owner is horrible for supporting the police, and why that bar owner is horrible for not supporting the police, and why this restaurant owner is racist, and why that restaurant owner is sexist.
It’s too much. Everyone is trying to gain ground in the war for Plaza Midwood’s soul. I’m choosing to stop fighting.
Neighborhoods are just groups of people. What made Plaza Midwood seem so special to me 11 years ago wasn’t the tattoos or the beards. It was the sense of hopefulness that came from being around people who cared about each other. It was 2008 and Obama was on TV telling us “Yes We Can.” Plaza Midwood is the kind of place that made me feel like Yes, We Could.
Attaching that to just one neighborhood or another hurts Charlotte as a whole. I can take that spirit to any part of the city. And I should.
So peace out, Plaza Midwood. This Uptown girl is ready to be kicked back at a rooftop fire pit this summer.