Posted by Anthony.
I grew up in what I always imagined was a pretty typical suburban town outside of Boston. We had a nice house, a backyard, and, later on, a swimming pool. I could walk to Wilmington Plaza, which was a strip-mall anchored by a grocery store and a TJ Maxx. There was also a video rental store, a Radio Shack, and a toy store. It was exciting to get to walk to “the Plaza” because it meant getting a chance to walk through the patch of woods that separated my neighborhood from the back of it. It was a short walk, maybe 10 or 15 minutes, but in my imagination those woods offered so much more than a shortcut to buy a carton of milk for my mom.
My friends and I would play in those woods for hours, pretending to go on all sorts of adventures. As we got older and they grew out of pretending, I started to gravitate towards the other things that were within walking distance: the public library and the commuter rail train station that could take me into Boston. I grew up always wanting to be somewhere else.
Once I learned to read, I never stopped. I devoured books. Maybe that was part of the reason that life in Wilmington never stacked up for me. Things seemed more interesting in the pages of Ramona Quimby, Age 8 or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Unlike Peter and Fudge, I never got to keep a pet turtle. As I got older, I turned towards more exotic books like Dune or The Once and Future King. Being a God-Emperor of a galactic empire far, far in the future always sounded much more exciting than being a high school sophomore in a suburban town.
Which isn’t to say that my childhood and adolescence was bad. I had amazing friends and great teachers at school. I had parents who wanted me to succeed and prosper. And I always had those woods. Even after I got my driver’s license, I still found reasons to walk through the woods to get to the Plaza, rather than driving. Even though I would joke about my hometown being built on a swamp, there was something reassuring about the way those woods smelled, the squish of mud beneath my shoes in the spring, and the silence of them in winter. They were a refuge for me in the same way that my books were, even though I only realize that now, looking back 18 years later.
During my sophomore year of high school, I applied to Simon’s Rock College, which only accepts students after their 10th or 11th Grade year of high school. In the full throes of adolescence, I felt alienated and trapped and stifled. Rent had recently come out on Broadway and I was listening to the soundtrack a lot. I think it’s where I first learned the word “angst”. I was looking for a change, for a way out of a town where almost everything and everyone felt the same, except for me.
At one point, I had a conversation with one my teachers who had written a letter of recommendation for my application to Simon’s Rock. It felt almost as if it had been scripted. I was standing at the window in her classroom on the second floor of my high school, looking down at Adams Street. More than a teacher, Ms Aldrich had become a mentor. She continually challenged me to re-examine my ideas from all angles. She said to me, “You know you can’t run away from yourself.” I kept looking out the window and replied, “I know. But myself isn’t here. It’s somewhere else. Out there.”
I was accepted into Simon’s Rock, but I wasn’t able to go for financial reasons. So I spent two more years in Wilmington, graduated high school, and started the adventure of young adulthood by moving to Montreal to attend McGill University. After craving change and diversity for so long, I was thrilled to finally be somewhere new and different. I thrived at university in a way that I never had before. After five years, I was so comfortable in Montreal, that I consider staying in Canada after I graduated. At the time, though, I expected that I would take my BA in History and continue my studies somewhere back in the States. I had a good friend from high school who was living in Portland, Maine, so I decided to move there for the summer to figure out my next move.
That summer turned into two-and-a-half years during which I decided that I was living in the wrong Portland. I was ready for another adventure, so I moved across the country to Oregon. This Portland felt just right. I was happy for the rain (at least it wasn’t snow!) and I was happy for another new start. I moved for the climate and the bikes, for the coffee and the mountains. I moved to find my own place in the world, a place where I felt I could put down roots and stay. I moved because I wanted to find the place that would make me want to be there, the place that would make me stop wanting to be somewhere else. I was still trying to find that place “out there” where my self was. I’d found parts of my self in Montreal and in Maine, but I hadn’t yet been able to put everything together.
Portland, Oregon, is that place for me. Since moving here, I’ve stopped wanting to be somewhere else. Seven years later, the next big adventure is waiting. This time it isn’t moving across the country by myself to a place where I don’t know anyone. It’s starting a family with the man I love.