How Richmond Chose Me
As a native Richmonder, If anyone asked me why I stayed in Richmond after graduation, I’d answer with the same general responses: “There’s so many good companies here..” and list a bunch of companies with zero knowledge of the company or its function. Or, I would tell them that my family, friends, and boyfriend are in Richmond, which honestly gave me little to no incentive to move. In actuality, I initially chose Richmond because it was comfortable. I had grown up here, went to school here, and even fell in love right here in the city. It didn’t dawn on me that my presence in Richmond had a bigger meaning until very recently. Over the last couple of years, I’ve received so many opportunities to really immerse myself in the Greater Richmond community, that I had some semblance of an epiphany: maybe I didn’t choose Richmond, instead Richmond chose me.
It all started with my decision to attend Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), a school located directly in the “Heart of the City”. Because I grew up in Henrico, one of the three neighboring counties surrounding Richmond City, I just knew that I was going to be the RVA expert! I mean, I had driven up and down Broad Street about a trillion times, knew how to get to the campus Walmart, and was a master at reading the street signs, if I do say so myself. But, somehow someway I kept getting lost around the city and soon realized I was wasn’t the RVA connoisseur I thought I was. Being a first-year at VCU allowed me to access different events in The Fan area, which introduced me to events like Broad Apetit and First Fridays on Broad. While in school, I also developed a greater appreciation for the places and events I was already familiar with, such as the 2nd Street Festival and all the delicious restaurants located on the historic street, my personal favorite being Southern Kitchen. (I recommend the country fried chicken!)
As I got a bit more acclimated to city life, I decided to explore Richmond further, meaning outside of campus! Richmond is home to some of the nation’s most important history lessons and historical figures, with its history starting even before the United States was a sovereign nation. St. John’s Church in Richmond was where American revolutionary Patrick Henry gave his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. I made sure to take a trip the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood, home to Maggie L. Walker, the first African-American woman to charter a bank. One October day, a few friends and I took a chilling tour of the Edgar Allen Poe museum, luckily for us there weren’t any Ravens around! I also made sure to take a moment to visit Shockoe Bottom and its historic ports and auction houses to learn the painful but necessary history of slavery in Richmond, and how the city has progressed since then. It was important for me to get to know the city where I lived, and it’s even more important for me to be somewhere that is constantly learning from its own history and taking measures to progress forward despite a challenging past.
While in school, I continued to get to know Richmond by interning with several various organizations that represent the many different industries in the region. During my first year, I was one of a few virtual social media interns for a movie production called “Born That Way”. I was able to tap into my creative side and run a Tumblr blog featuring imagery I personally curated. I traveled to my favorite scenic locations in Richmond such as Carytown, Maymont Park, the Virginia Capital Trail, and Belle Isle, most commonly known as “The Rocks” by most Richmonders. RVA’s vibrant landscape made for beautiful blog posts as well as the portraits of Richmond’s unique and diverse population. After that internship, I decided to take on another job in the entertainment field as a volunteer for the Afrikaana Film Festival. The Afrikaana Film Festival is a three-day event in Richmond that highlights the work of Black filmmakers. I was fortunate enough to work with some of the best filmmakers, restaurant owners, event planners, and dedicated community representatives to put on a wonderful event showcasing a respected artform in Richmond. Working this event helped me to become familiar working with professionals with high experience in their careers and pick up on a few soft skills necessary for young professionals to have in the workplace. The skills I mastered within my first two internships helped me to land my final one at ChamberRVA. While at the Chamber, I was able to use what I learned from previous jobs and apply them to a totally different industry. Working multiple jobs in Richmond helped me to develop a better understanding of the city, introduced me to different ways Richmond companies work with each other, and helped me to become a better professional. After graduating college, I was offered a full-time position as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at ChamberRVA!
After starting my job, it took a few months to transition from being a full-time student to a full-time professional. Learning how to maneuver working downtown was a bit of a challenge, especially learning where I could or couldn’t park. I came up with a perfect route into the city in the morning using the GRTC Pulse. It took a couple tries, but after a few trips I started catching the Pulse like a pro and even started to recognize people on my morning commute! I moved out on my own into a community I absolutely love! Growing up East of Richmond meant I spent my childhood playing in corn fields and riding my bike down long, rural roads. Now that I’m on my own, I chose to stay in Glen Allen, a northern-Henrico area that’s 20 minutes away from every place I’d ever frequent. The Greater Richmond Region is unique because each part of the city has a different look and feel, which allowed me to not feel limited when looking for places to settle down.
Now that I have been out of college for almost a year and have finally adjusted to my new life in RVA, I’m realizing that Richmond was the best choice for me from the jump! I chose to stay in Richmond because it felt like the safest option, but now I’m realizing that Richmond chose me. RVA is a city full of rich history and opportunity that calls out the ambitious. This city has reinvented itself to become a place people are proud to be from and is striving for better. Every professional opportunity, girl’s night out, and trip to work fit perfectly into my life. All this time I thought I was playing it safe, I was really developing into a talented and eager young professional in one of the best environments on the East Coast. Although there may be other lovely river cities, nowhere has the perfect balance of leadership success, business resiliency, and regional prosperity quite like Richmond! If you’re looking to align your goals and ambitions to a progressive and dynamic city to settle down in, Richmond, Virginia is the place for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janéa Tyler is a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University who majored in Mass Communications. From college to a full-time professional, see how she has made the most of her time in RVA. Click here to read Janéa’s full story!