Five years ago, yesterday, I boarded a plane on a one-way ticket to Boston. My suitcase was full of interview suits and resume paper. My heart was full of anticipation to see my boyfriend after two months of separation which involved different hemispheres and many e-mails composed in internet cafes.
Mid-flight, I realized that I was having my period early. I wasn't prepared.
And neither was I prepared for the life that I was beginning in this charming colonial city, this Red Sox nation, this hahbah town. The six weeks that followed entailed a frustrating job search, the worst heat I have ever experienced in any Boston summer, and an almost nightly bickering session with my boyfriend who was working two jobs while I stayed and baked in his apartment in search of the job to which I believed myself entitled with my BA in something liberal artsish and unmarketable.
Needless to say, when I found my glorified desk job and moved into the apartment with the wainscotting and lovely girls who watched too much British TV, I was part thrilled and part relieved. I believed that my life was beginning now that I would have my first full-time job and my first rent payments. With responsibility comes a kind of freedom. When one is responsible for reporting to work each day not hungover, and when one is responsible for paying one's rent on time, there is a freedom. I am responsible for these things, these to-dos, and therefore I can decide how I will manage them. It took me a long time to understand this responsibility, but the past five years have taught me that the more I am responsible for my own present and for my own future, the more free I can decide myself a content person today, and one hopeful for tomorrow.
This is why, when I look back on my five years in Boston, which have netted me many good rides on the T to meet friends, to take classes, to see my peaceful reflection in the mirror of a yoga studio, I think about my personal history, ahem, my herstory. It is filled with love and laughter. Its pages are also filled with many sordid tales of heartbreaks, McJob dead-ends, and a dark, cavernous depression. When I page through this history, I see it all as a set of opportunities to become responsible for my own actions and my own self-care.
Whenever I hear someone say that it's hard to meet people in a certain city, or it's especially hard to find a job, or to find oneself, even, a question surfaces in my head: Are you blaming the city, or are you taking responsibility for yourself? It is too easy to blame the coldness of a place for one's own misery, and much more challenging to wrap one's arms around a cold city and stifle the cold with one's own warmth. But I believe that it is possible.
If I, who is always quick to laugh and who hates Vera Bradley and who thinks Cape Cod is overrated can make Boston my home, the home that I love, then I believe that the ingredients for making a life in a new city are: resolve and learning to keep certain things to oneself in the presence of true locals. Bostonians are rarely quick to laugh. I've never met a Bostonian who was as quick to laugh as their Mid-Western counterparts. Bostonians are intelligent and scrutinize everything. Boston women love Vera Bradley. Bostonians defend Cape Cod as their "southern jewel."
I have never fit in here and yet I have found the parts of this city that feed me, that interest me, and I have taken those, like sides in a cafeteria, and pieced together a diet upon which to live here.
I have second-guessed my move here a thousand times. I have dreaded coming back to Boston after holidays spent with my friends and family in the Mid-West, tugged by the palpable and familiar love that I had missed. I have also yearned to come back to Boston after holidays spent with my friends family in the Mid-West, asphyxiated by suburbia and its lack of public transportation.
The boyfriend that I moved to be closer to is now my bunkmate, my husband. We live well and laugh often in the home that we own which we will never be able to pay off completely. We still contend with extreme heat in the summer and we still bicker occasionally about things that will not matter in the morning. We are responsible for our own happiness and now that our lives are one, we are responsible for a shared happiness. Although, by many measures, we are both indebtted, we are both tied down, we are also free to make our home and our life here as wonderful as is possible. The happily ever after is not just a fairy-tale. I can tell you that for five years, you need to take responsibility for that happiness, though, and then another five, and then another five....