A change of scenery is all you need to understand your love or discontent with an area.
I came to this realization about a month ago.
Following my graduation from college, without a secured job or some picturesque city to move to, I decided to move back home. Home for me is Northshore Massachusetts. It’s a beautiful area, no doubt, as you are just under an hour from Boston, on the border of New Hampshire, a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic Ocean, and about two hours away from the White Mountains in NH. The area is also rife with history, most of the cities and towns being settled sometime in the 1600s or early 1700s. However, as much history as the area has and how beautiful the surroundings might be, there is little substance in the area for someone in their early/mid-20s.
The area has little modernity to it: the cities and towns desperately hold onto their history and pride – for the industries and ports that once were bustling and producing work and character. To these original descendants of these towns, add the families moving in for the quaint culture, scenic views, and established school systems, whether public or private. The area provides an experience for those living there, one that is charming, comfortable, and most importantly, safe. For the sake of modernity and familial stability, the area has seen little change (so far as I have seen in my nearly two decades there).
Returning from a college town/city like Ithaca, NY, the Northshore feels void of much life. Ithaca is still a small, tight-knit community, but there is a lot of life to it. Between Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, professionals in the city, the city’s art scene, intellectualism, and progressive politics, there is more societal activity taking place than in the upper hinge of Massachusetts. Countless coffee shops, bookstores, art shows, live-music, open lectures, political activism, community-driven events, etc. are all within walking distance of downtown Ithaca. This isn’t to say that these same events don’t take place in Northeast MA, but you’re looking at a minimum of a 20 minute drive to get to any of these.
I understand that I am more or less criticizing every asset of my hometown, but upon returning from college it’s the primary reaction I had. There are still a great deal of facets of the area that I appreciate and love – spending time on the trails, the ocean, the ports, the harbors, the mountains up north, or talking with long-term friends, family, etc. – but I came back to the area with a newfound perspective/filter.
I grew up in this area, spending my first 18 years here. I returned a few times over the course of my four years in Ithaca, but I progressively spent more of my breaks in Ithaca – partaking in research projects, taking care of general academic work, spending quality time with college friends, or taking my time to appreciate the natural lands and the city itself. Finally, with my senior year, myself and some friends moved out from campus and down to the perimeter of downtown. We were now separated from the college and were more a part of the city – all of its events, cafes, bars, and general life within a quarter mile. Whether working or volunteering within stores around the city, or writing the majority of my thesis within the city’s various cafes, I became aware of a noticeable transition: that I felt less a MA native studying in Ithaca, but a member of the Ithaca community, a resident of the city.
Leaving upon graduation, and returning back to MA reinforced this mental transformation. I still knew that area of the world like the back of my hand – the shops, the streets, the trails, and the people – but I felt less a member of the community and more a stranger. If I’m being honest, much of that was of my own doing. There is life and culture to experience in the area, but I had already experienced so much of it in my younger years. I didn’t want to be a part of the community, nor did I want to be living in the area again. The encounters and memories I had were of the past. The Devin of now was not the same Devin as back then. I had outgrown the area.* It no longer felt like home to me.
After spending nearly a year back in MA I decided to take a visit to back to Ithaca. I met with former professors, professional friends, personal friends, and ran into former faces that I saw on a daily basis. I returned to the trails, gorges, cafes, and shops that I used to spend countless hours in/on. The constant interactions and run-ins with strangers from the area were appreciated, encountering the Ithacan culture once again. I felt comfortable upon my return. Simply put, I had returned home.
After my brief visit and discussing general life with a close friend/associate, I made the decision to move back to Ithaca. A week after my first visit, I made another trip back to Ithaca, inquiring on some apartments and finally signing on one. Within two weeks from that time, I packed my car as tightly as I could and officially moved back to Ithaca. Not once during this time did I question my decisions or contemplate whether I was being foolish. Every commitment I was making seemed right. I believe that they were.
I have been back in the area for almost a month now, working full-time and appreciating the finer details to the area. I left close friends and family behind, and I certainly miss them, but I am decidedly happier and more relaxed than I had been in most of my time returning to MA.
I’m unsure where life will take me from this point on, but I’m not too worried about that. I very well may end up in some other city in the years to come, perhaps outgrowing Ithaca or spending time out West like I have always wanted to. However, at this point in time, I am enjoying each moment as it appears while appreciating my time with friends and fellow Ithacans.
It’s nice to be home again.
*For clarification, in saying that I have outgrown the area, I am not saying that those that live there are somehow below me or lesser for not having left. A notion such as this would be to undermine my family and other acquaintances and friends that still live within the area. A sentiment such as this is one I do not support nor do I believe.