The 3 most significant places in my life are, without a doubt: New York, the town in New Jersey where I grew up, and Boston.
Boston is an extremely polarizing place for me.
I first experienced Boston as a college student. I cannot imagine a school better suited to me than my alma mater, Tufts University.
I graduated and moved to New York, but spent three years making regular trips back to Boston. First it was just to visit friends, and then later it was because I was dating someone who lived there. While I wouldn’t have traded my life in New York for anything, I loved these weekend excursions.
In 2008, I moved back to Boston for business school. I moved a month before classes started, so I spent this free time wandering the city and lamenting the fact that everything reminded me of the boyfriend I was newly broken up with.
A few months later, our breakup went from good to trying-not-to-cry-in-the-middle-of-class bad. I was miserable. Constantly.
Shortly after that I almost got kicked out of school for writing an unfavorable (yet truthful) blog post about something that happened in my program.
And that was just my first year.
By the time I graduated in 2010, I was OVER IT. Though I loved business school, Boston had become associated with too many painful memories and I needed a separation. I came back to New York, swearing that if I never returned to Boston again it would be too soon.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since then.
I was never once tempted to go back, choosing to harbor my resentment from afar. It isn’t even a quiet bitterness – anytime anyone mentions Boston, I can’t help but go on a rant about how much I hate it.
By the time this post goes up, I’ll be in Martha’s Vineyard, a cute little island off of Massachusetts. As I planned how I would get there, I realized that instead of going straight up from New York, it made so much more sense for me to go to Boston first for a few days.
I put out some feelers to see who would be around, found a couch to crash on and booked a bus. It was official. I was going back to Boston. Ack.
As I started scheduling my weekend, I realized something: I was excited. Overjoyed, in fact. I’m writing this post and a few days from now I will be back in Boston and I CANNOT WAIT.
This is kind of not the reaction I expected. I thought that if I ever went back, I’d have this blasé attitude of “FIIIINE I’ll go but only because you’re making me.” But I have a list of places I want to go, restaurants I want to eat at and people I want to see and I am so insanely pumped that I’m almost shaking and I kind of just want to get there and skip up and down Newbury Street while showering the ground with daisies.
WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!?
For good or for bad, I can’t deny that Boston is a huge part of me. The 6 years I spent there helped shape who I am today, and I will never be able to even think about going there without becoming emotional.
It may not make a lot of sense, but there’s a feeling of comfort that comes with the thought of a familiar place, even if the memories affiliated with that place aren’t always happy. I still know Boston really well, so the excitement I feel about going there isn’t the feeling I get before visiting a new city. It’s like I’m going to see a good friend I haven’t spoken to in a while; I know we’ll pick up right where we left off.
Maybe it’s the passage of time that makes me feel more sentimental towards Boston than I ever thought possible. All the stuff that bothered me – the breakup, the scary disciplinary hearing, the blood, sweat and tears that went into my MBA – has long since ceased to upset me. And what’s left is a city that gave me some amazing things – like some of my closest friends and two degrees, to name a few.
I’m happy that this trip got sort-of-accidentally planned, because otherwise I have no idea when I’d go back. And if I never went back, I don’t think I ever would have realized how much stronger I am now.
Because of Boston, I know I can bounce back from heartbreak. I can defend myself in front of a room of people who clearly despise me. I can make ends meet by taking on a full-time catering job while also being a full-time student. I can completely forget what I’m supposed to say during a presentation and somehow recover despite a full 30 seconds of clueless silence. I can, I can, I can.
It’s fitting that this Boston trip comes toward the end of my Stratejoy journey. Thinking about the fact that I’ve spent so much time and energy outwardly hating Boston yet coming around to be excited about visiting makes me realize that I may one day feel similarly about my quarterlife crisis. I’ll look back and think, “Sure, that period of joblessness and confidencelessness (take that, dictionary) got me down, but it never knocked me out.”
It took me a few weeks to realize the good that not drinking for a month did for me, and it took me two years to realize the good that all those lows I hit during my time in Boston did for me, Similarly, I know one day I’ll be able to reflect on my QLC and think about how it changed me for the better. And just like Boston is right up there on my list of significant places, I’ll think of this last year or so as one of the more formative periods in my life. Because our lives are shaped not just by the good, but by the bad. We need a few shitty experiences in order to grow, and we need the memories of those shitty experiences to see how we’ve grown.
So in a few days, I’ll head back to Boston. I’m not sure how I’ll react, honestly. Maybe I’ll get creeped out by how familiar everything is and how it feels like I never left. Maybe I’ll yell, “OH GOD I AM SO OLD” when standing in front of my old sorority house. Maybe I’ll walk around where I went to business school and feel like punching something. I really think it’ll be a positive experience, though. Because no matter what, Boston is a part of me. And that part of me, despite everything, made me better.
Photo: One of many awesome nights in Boston