I love Madison. The truth is, though, that I cannot stay here. I’m a Bostonian at heart – a “Masshole,” if you will – and it will always be my home. So I’m going back there. I quit my job; my last day is two weeks from tomorrow. I plan to hit the road that Friday, then back in Boston a few days after that.
But, wait, hold up, you say. I thought you said you would never, could never, didn’t want to go back. Didn’t you once suggest that everything had been ruined and your life would never be the same there and that you simply couldn’t live there any longer?Maybe I said something like that, yes. But, then, almost in the same way that those rather gorgeous Swedish kids (and, later, the aca-perfect college girls) once sang about, I saw the sign. Or signs. Multiple signs, all at once.
Several weeks ago, I was encouraged to apply for a position at a biotech company here in Madison. Hesitantly, since I had never worked in an environment like that before, I did. And I spoke to the hiring manager and my friend, Jude, who works there. We had a marvelous discussion over a Midwestern tradition of fish fry and I learned more about what I would be doing. I truly felt very strongly about what they did after another conversation with Jude a couple of weeks later, where I even more clearly understood the big picture, and leaped forward toward the possibility.
My present position, while adequate for some, is not really ideal for me. I kept working there for the paycheck and my work friends and acquaintances. This new position might not have been ideal either, but the paycheck would have been much larger, and my best friend’s desk was roughly 100-200 feet away from the department where I would have been working.I made it through the initial resume checks and phone screens to an in-person interview, which I thought went incredibly well. A few days later, I discovered it didn’t. I was overqualified. Later, I discovered that the other people in the department somehow felt threatened by me, which was flabbergasting, to say the very least. It would not work out. I was not hired.
That was a sign. Not even getting calls back about other jobs for which I had applied, getting canned emails instead telling me that someone else had been chosen – those were other signs I chose to ignore.
Another sign: at my present employer, things are happening. Lots of shifting, lots of minor chaos, clandestine meetings and excessive whispering. While I would never divulge any of the details of who or where or what or why, it would suffice to say that what was happening made me incredibly anxious. Two huge shifts in two days, too much whispering.
That Friday night, another sign: a call from my mother. In a moment of weakness, or maybe it was clarity, I felt myself slide into every suggestion she made without issue or challenge. Had I ever considered living at home, working part time, and going to graduate school there? Well, of course. I definitely had.The following Monday, an inquiry to my alma mater about a graduate school program came back with promising news. I was a good candidate because of my recent work experience and life experiences. Tuition rates were low enough that Stafford Loans would cover most, if not all, of the expense. Possible entry next fall. Coursework that can be completed before matriculation. Signs. More signs. More signs.
Two days later, in a fit of curiosity, I emailed my landlord and he responded almost immediately. I could get out of my lease if I paid May’s rent. Signs, signs, everywhere a sign…
And, if that weren’t enough, a friend from back home texted me to say she missed me, reminding me that she was going back to school as well. I was casual, told her I was thinking about it, thinking about returning home to do the same thing. And she was quick to note that her work, just a few miles down the road from my parents’ house, was looking for people. Better work, comparable pay, free parking. Another neon billboard, sky fucking high, right in front of me.
I went back to work and shared all of this with a coworker. Quietly, of course. In a whisper, I said, “Maybe it’s time to admit defeat?”
She responded, “This is not defeat; this is opportunity.”
I will never forget that. Immediately, it snapped. Every synapse jolted me for a quick instant. She was right.
And one thing was certain, of incredible importance: that AA family I thought I had lost wasn’t so lost after all. I spoke to a couple of friends back home and the Meetings that saved my life were still going strong, plus a couple of people I knew and loved actually missed me. I knew I would be welcomed there if I returned; that’s just how it is with AA. Some Meetings would probably be off limits, but most would still be there for me. And I needed them. I didn’t need the people who hurt me – and no, I’m not discounting that I may have hurt them – but I had to face that they existed and I had to move forward. I needed to take care of myself. I never found the AA family here in Madison that I craved, that I had experienced in Boston. Some might argue that I could have, but I never did; after a small handful of Meetings, it just didn’t feel the same.
That was truth. And there is more truth, of course.
As all of this took place, my mind remained a whirlwind. Why do I keep running away? What does it solve when I do? Why can’t I simply settle down and find peace? And I knew: I had to stop running away. I had to go back, face what I feared, and carry on.
And more truth. I love my home. It’s fucked up, but I love it. You may think I’m crazy-fucked up, that I’ve truly lost my mind this time, but I haven’t. I’m just realizing the truth: I’m a little bit in love with my hometown.
Okay, so not a little bit. A lot.
I miss the ocean, and its smell, though sometimes noxious in summer, and the beaches and rocks, the views from so many different places. The causeway to Nahant, the back shores of Gloucester, the rugged gorgeous awesomeness of Cape Cod and Provincetown’s constant allure…
I miss the highways, the familiar exit signs and ramps and overpasses, the bridges, the tunnels, the traffic – YES, even the traffic. I may actually miss the Leverett Connector. I miss the KISS-108 and MIX-104.1 morning shows that I listened to while sitting in that morning traffic…
I miss Francesca’s Coffee Shop and Diesel Cafe and Boloco and Mike’s Pastry and Plum Tomatoes and D’Orsi’s (those last two are in my hometown, up on the North Shore). Oh, my black bean and tofu burritos from Boloco! The Congo bars at Francesca’s! I could gain weight just talking about it.
I miss the MBTA – those fucked up subway cars and buses and the smell of the stations and the jolts and the rushing of tunnels and buildings as they pass you. I know it’s two bucks a ride, $1.70 with a Charlie Card, but I may just ride around on the subway all day for one of the days shortly after I get back.
I miss the Prudential Tower and John Hancock Building and the rest of the skyline, looming in the distance as I take Interstate 93 or Route 1 into the city, all lit up at night, ominous and towering amidst the spring fog, steaming in the haze of a summer’s morning. Even the view from the tolls on the Tobin Bridge, looking down at Charlestown and the Waterfront beyond it.I miss the voices, the accent, the familiar sound of Townies arguing over the topic of the day and the crass humor and foul language that vigorously salts the area like it were movie popcorn. I have to live in a place where it’s okay to swear. I love to swear. Fuck. YEAH.
I miss walking in the streets at night and all those sounds, noises, lights. The vibe. The world swirling around me at times, and quiet like a church mouse at others. And the people. I want to walk around the South End and see gay couples holding hands or kissing on the sidewalk and just smile at them, even though it might be regarded as a bit creepy.
I love Madison and everything beautiful about it, not to mention the wonderful friendships I have here, but I love Boston, too. It’s my home. So I am going back there to conquer the life I should have conquered years ago, before I fell apart in love and vodka and depression.
I will no longer ignore the signs. I will only speak the truth. I cannot let anyone – including myself – or anything keep me away from what really matters to me: my family of origin, my AA family, the Meetings that saved my life, or that world that I really do love.
And I miss my Mom. I can’t wait to see her again. I think this is the longest I’ve ever gone without getting a hug from her.