My love affair with Boston was earned, not assumed.
From my earliest days, I knew I had bigger ambitions than my midwestern upbringing. Don’t get me wrong, I am fiercely proud of the midwest, and particularly my hometown of Saint Louis. But it didn’t offer enough. My high school lacked the diversity I wanted to see; it felt like I was trapped in a sea of blonde girls from well-to-do families. The first question we ask one another in St. Louis is ‘Where did you go to high school?’ That tiny piece of information offers a rough snapshot of neighborhood, religion, intelligence and income levels, and social status. The whole scene just wasn’t broad enough for my tastes. As early as I could, I looked east to broaden my horizons.
I moved to Boston on my 18th birthday, an symbolic day to begin a new chapter.
I had visited two times previously, once as a pre-teen to stay with a friend and her grandmother in Lexington and again on college visits. I fell madly in love with Boston somewhere on Bay State Rd. on an admissions tour one beautiful spring day and I have never looked back. It was clear that day that Boston would be my home. I’m certain, though I have no statistics to back this up, that same scene must be the force behind thousands of teenagers moving to Boston each year. Boston in the spring, as you know, is breathtaking.
It seemed the big city of Boston and a Boston University education would provide just the diversity and expansion of mind that is necessary to come into one’s own. Partly, that was right. Partly, it was wrong. I came to learn that you have to seek those experiences out; they don’t come to you. But, it was easy to fall in love with Comm Ave, the BU hockey team, Agganis Arena, T’s Pub and the Paradise. I quickly fell into several life-long friendships as I bounced around neighborhoods, starting at Warren Towers and ending in Coolidge Corner (and I’m happy to report I was able to live on Bay State Rd).
While I loved Boston during college, it wasn’t until post-graduation that I feel l truly chose to make this city my home. Upon graduation, my greater support network of friends scattered, moving to places like California, Colorado, New York, and Chicago. I stayed put, in large part because I had secured full-time employment at a kick-ass start up in Kendall Square. These first post-graduation days establishing myself were a bit bleak, in retrospect. Staying in Boston may have been the easier decision, but it wasn’t necessarily the brighter one.
After a relatively depressing year in Brookline, I made one of the most truly ‘adult’ decisions in my life. If I was going to continue to live half a continent away from my family and friends, it better be because I loved it here. It wasn’t enough to just coast by, and moving seemed a bit like giving up. Instead, I dove in headfirst. I started to say ‘yes’ a lot more often to soak up as much of Boston as it could give me. ‘Yes, I’ll join Social Boston Sports.’ ‘Yes, I’ll join a bowling and kickball league.’ ‘YES, I’ll move to the South End.’ ‘Yes, I’ll volunteer as a mentor to 6th grade girls in East Boston.’ Yes, yes, yes. And it made all the difference. I began to build strong friendships as I explored new possibilities and began forming my adult life.
It got easier to build a new network day-by-day, one ‘yes’ at a time. The more I said yes, the more opportunities arose. And that’s why I love Boston. There is something for everyone. It’s a place you can truly make your own. You can pursue nearly any path to happiness. There aren’t many places in the world where you can pick up sailing, running, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing, hiking, snowboarding, and skiing, even as an adult. You can do all those things here. You have the option to work in a traditional, big company in the 128 loop, or take a risk on a start-up. You can be a history buff or a sports buff (or both, or neither for that matter).
Boston is one of the finest melting pots I’ve found. Students, the wealthy, hipsters, townies all seem to cohabitate with relative ease. Boston invites you to take her on, offering you every possible opportunity to fall in love, blink, and still find yourself here 10 years later.
I love Boston because it helped me find myself and forced me to say ‘yes’ to some great experiences I may have missed by choosing a safer path. Boston lets many of us come into our own, as we were meant to, because we can take any path to truly finding our passions. While it may not be my forever home, it has absolutely shaped my coming-of-age and is the backdrop for nearly every great memory for the last ten years.