This heartfelt piece is written by our own bee, Ashley Houston. I want to thank this special member of our hive for her honesty, especially because she trusted her voice to speak from the heart and not from the script. Bravo! Read on for a moving tale of a new life in Boston, Massachusetts.
When I was asked to write a post about my experience moving to Boston that was in line with the Melibee “Things to do in [insert city]” series I thought, no problem. And, while after living here just shy of a year I could provide a pretty solid set of recommendations for visitors or new inhabitants of the Bean (or Beantown to most), that is not what I am most interested in sharing in this Boston-inspired post.
As a Midwest gal at heart, my Twitter handle is @MidwestAsh after all, the East Coast was about as foreign to me as studying abroad. While I’d heard great things about the nightlife along the beach in Southie and visits to the Green Monster, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. Augustana’s “I think I’ll go to Boston…I’ll think I’ll start a new life” song had done a pretty good job convincing me I was making a fantastic decision. Now, I consider myself to be a fairly strong and independent woman, not afraid to set out alone and put myself outside my comfort zone. I mean, you’d think my traveling to over 35 countries could prepare me for a simple eastward move. But, I had never visited New England and I didn’t know a soul there.
There were many parts of my adventure road tripping from Minnesota to Boston with a car full of my belongings that made me feel liberated. However, it wasn’t until I pulled my car into the parking lot of my new living space (a Japanese language institute outside of Boston) that the culture really hit me. No one came out to greet me, share welcoming words, or offer to show me around my new digs. Aside from my room not being “ready” and not having a place to stay for my first two weeks, I noticed a shift in culture. The “Minnesota Nice” was not alive in the birthplace of America.
From being sick my entire first three months there to being physically harassed on the T (Green line woes anyone else?), let’s just say the city wasn’t selling itself to me. I had only made a few new “friends” where I was living and working as an Resident Assistant and managed to befriend only one of my grad school classmates. Aside from that, I was alone. Completely on my own. And I felt it. For the first time in my life I was uncomfortable in a way I couldn’t describe. It may have been a mix of culture shock, frustration with transportation methods as a whole, or perhaps just having to be entirely accepting of my situation without any support, but I was not into this city one bit. I tried to play it off saying that I was still adjusting or that I’m sure I would like it soon, but I never felt comfortable. How had all these affirmations from friends back home been so wrong about what was supposed to be an amazing city?
It wasn’t until the Boston Marathon that everything changed. I was settling into my position with a new lululemon store and out on mile 17 of the marathon course to experience and support what I had resolved would be the most powerful race in the world. After having signed up for my first half marathon for the end of this summer, I was determined to let this be my inspiration and motivation to train and complete this life goal. Driving over to the race, I started to cry. I was passing runners putting their heart and sweat on the pavement; it was a beautiful thing to see. It warmed my heart to its core. A few short hours later I was crying for other reasons. It was as if someone had turned a day of hope, triumph, pride, and beauty into heartbreak, confusion, fear, and questioning. The days to follow were something I will never forget. I wasn’t at the finish line and I don’t like to attach myself to a story of “I knew this person who was there.” But, what I will remember is the way all of Boston and the surrounding communities came together, and the way my feelings changed about the strength and determination of this city. Everyone has their own experience of that day and the following week, a unique reaction, and even a different way of processing the emotions linked to it. For me, I became forever bonded to this city. Yes, I question why no one comes up with a better MBTA system with all the ‘wicked smaht’ intellects of MIT and Harvard riding it each day. Yes, I still get startled and angry at the incessant honking and poor driving skills of “Massholes.” Yes I’m still puzzled as to why there is nowhere without a parking meter (who has all these quarters to go around?). But, this is now my city.
I won’t be staying here much longer, but over time I have grown to love many aspects of this city that will stay with me as I start down a new path. I’ve made close friends from work, I have seen the depth of the history embedded in this city, and I have learned to be patient with myself and confident on my own in a whole new way. But most of all, I have become a living breathing part of what makes this city so special. The strength, will, and sheer diversity of its population, academic and other, are like none other I have experienced. For this I am thankful. They have shaped me and helped me develop courage, tenacity, and a strong sense of self. Lessons are not always learned the easy way, and Boston, you have been a tough nut to crack.
About the Author: Ashley Houston is a skilled juggler, managing her full-time graduate program in Intercultural Relations, and 3 part-time jobs. Aside from traveling the world, she loves yoga and is excited to start a new adventure in January 2014 out in Colorado with YogaTravelTree. You can follow her journey on Twitter: @MidwestAsh