On New Jersey.
For most of my life, if you asked me where I was from I would painstakingly explain that I was born in Boston and moved a bunch before settling in New Jersey around middle school. This meandering response was my way of lessening my connection to the Garden State. My way of deflecting against whatever snide remark or stupid comment was coming next.
As a teenager, I swore up and down that I was going to leave New Jersey just as soon as I got the chance. And then I got the chance but I didn't leave. Instead, I went to Rutgers of all places. During college, I swore up and down that I was going to leave New Jersey just as soon as I got the chance. And then I got the chance but I didn't leave. So a few years after college, I swore once again that I was going to leave New Jersey just as soon as I got the chance. And this time when I got the chance I did leave. Though I only went as far as Brooklyn and only for a little while. At the end of grad school, I repeated the same refrain and swore up and down that I was going to leave New Jersey just as soon as I got the chance. And then I did but I didn't leave, I just hopped back over to Brooklyn for a bit.
During those years of indecision and longing, hoping the grass was greener on the other side, a friend asked me what it was that I was looking for from life. Pausing for a beat, I answered, "a house, a dude and a dog." And yet, knowing that this was what I was looking for, I continued to bounce around, thinking that life would lead me away from New Jersey. Away from The Sopranos references, talk of parkways and turnpikes, debates about pork roll vs. Taylor Ham and feeling of disdain from the rest of the country.
I set out to find somewhere new, racing to visit all 50 states. Following each adventure, I would insist that I was going to move to Richmond. Or Portland. Or maybe somewhere like Athens. Somewhere cheaper and warmer. Somewhere that wasn't New Jersey. At one point I even came thisclose to moving to Knoxville to attend the University of Tennessee.
But as all roads lead to Rome, here I am. In a hundred-year-old Craftsman-style cottage, only a mile from the beach, with with one dude and two dogs. In New Jersey.