42°16'53" N 83°44'54" W + 42°21'31" N 71°03'25" W: Hometown

even in the harshest of winter, I feel so warm / even when the marks climb up the wall, I still feel small

I now live barely a mile away from that old apartment, number 47, where I spent most of a summer in a room with nearly no furniture. It's within walking distance of my front door, on a road called Medford that curves itself back behind trees and has a clear-cut view of the night sky. Medford is the name of a town three miles north of Boston. It's one of those places that's grouped into the word "Boston", a city where friends have lived and in which I looked at apartments. When I got to Boston I had already, somehow, forgotten the name of the road. When I came back to Ann Arbor and happened to drive past it, trying to shake off the chills in my hands from the air, I stopped. "Huh." I recognized the name as belonging somewhere else; the name now means something else - something brand new, a bigger memory of a place on the east coast where I studied bookmaking and past-erasing.

I now live barely a mile away from that apartment's front door with the dim light, the door through which I ran, shrieking, to my car across the street. It was 1 AM. By the time I got my driver's side door open I was soaked, laughter pouring out of me. We hadn't seen a storm that bad since our last year of camp, when we ran across the open field and I tore off my shoes and Mikey picked me up to put me in the car. I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe. The next night, we lay on the hill outside the lodge and counted satellites and stars. The grass was still wet from the rain, Aaron's cigarette smoke flowing up and fading into nothing.

I don't know how many times I've written about this memory, younger summers, the door with the light and these rainstorms and the curved road and the satellites. My summer friends - Aaron, the poet, symbol of my younger life; and his brown-eyed cousin, my lifelong friend Mikey - are living new lives now. Aaron's somewhere in Ann Arbor and I can feel our paths crossing unknowingly from time to time, while Mikey is far, in Colorado, taking in the mountains. This is the first time writing about them is different, the first time all the names mean something else and I have half-lake, half-Atlantic blood. This is my first time coming back home.

this is my home, this is my home / where I go when I've got nowhere else to go

"I will say that it's very difficult to have any kind of intimate relationship, friendship or otherwise, with someone who has this disorder. Or, maybe in this case, someone who exhibits signs. I obviously can't diagnose someone who isn't here." My therapist, who I'd only met once before, handed my phone back and gazed. She waited. The room's air conditioning wasn't working and I kept taking my cardigan off, then replacing it, shifting every five minutes.

"That makes sense," I replied. "That makes a lot of sense. It all lines up." I paused. "You're actually not the first person to say that."

"Do you feel like you should've seen it coming?"

"I mean, probably." I furrowed my brow and shifted my eyes to stare at the far wall, a growing habit.

"Does that bother you?"

I kept staring at the wall. "Actually? No." Finally, I looked back over at her. She had a kind smile, although I could feel the differences between her and Nancy, my therapist in Boston, radiating around the room. "You know what? This is the first time I've thought about this in weeks. Should I feel guilty about that? That I don't think about it anymore?" Again, I shifted my eyes. "It used to consume me, but it's starting to feel like none of it even happened. And I'm a pretty nostalgic person. I feel like it should matter more."

"Nope. That's the goal."

"Like, I feel like it should matter more now that I'm home, right? Shouldn't it?"

She thought a moment. "Are you really home? What is that for you? Is it a location, a house?"

I was quiet.

Later, when I got back in my car and drove back to work with the windows down, I was already thinking about what was for dinner and when I could leave to see Kim's dogs. What did we talk about, again? Home?

this is my home, this is my home / where I go when I don't know where else to go

I now live 743 miles away from 84 Sutherland, where Boston meets the rest of Massachusetts, the building near the top of the hill. It's been nearly four years since I moved into that building, significantly less time since I moved out.

I now live hundreds of miles away from the bottom of that street, where I'd run in and out of that corner bar and duck around the rain, however rare it was. I missed the Michigan thunderstorms all the time. I live hundreds of miles away from the trains, the trees in the garden, the movement in DTX, the river, the afternoons on the hardwood floors, the late-night leaving-class laughter, the countless things I've written about many times before and my friends are sick of hearing about - the things I've tried to list and capture. I close my eyes at least once a day and put myself back there, waiting for a cab or walking down Causeway, and I focus on how carefully I rearranged my life.

Recently I dug up my old journals; turns out, unsurprisingly, I recorded a lot of mundane, cute, angsty stuff from my high school and college years. The writing is immature and the things I cared about seem trivial now, but I'm glad it's all preserved online. In November 2006 - ten years ago, when I was 17 - I wrote this, just after coming home from visiting my brother:

Six years later...

In a card Josh gave me earlier this summer, he wrote that his stoop at 6 Sutherland was the most important, significant place in Boston for him because it's where we met. He lived in Boston for over ten years, and this place, he said, was his favorite. We left that place behind five months ago.

I know everything about this place; it wears your face / even when my body blows away, my soul will stay

Lately, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the significance of places. I suppose this isn't new; locations and their human-appointed importance have always fascinated me. I feel a deep, often overwhelming attachment to physical places. But lately, it's been different.

I keep thinking about details. Moving to Boston took my worldview out of my head, shook it until it didn't resemble its former self, and put it back. Maybe it wasn't Boston, specifically; it was probably just leaving Michigan. I space out thinking about big cities and their suburbs across America, even across the world. Places I know nothing about that are as significant to others as my home is to me. I think about little coffee shops all around the world that someone owns, someone cares about, someone patronizes. A high school football team in some town in Iowa that everyone there worships. Palm trees in front yards in California. The sidewalks in New York that an insane number of people cross every day. I don't know why it blows my mind so much to think that there are communities just like mine all over the place. I visited Denton, Texas for a conference recently and I experienced a strange feeling of bewilderment when I found that the small city's downtown center was warm, charming - filled with music and amazing food and lovely people. Why did this surprise me?

Living in a large city, you tend to feel like it's the center of the universe. I should probably say something like "maybe it's just me", but I bet the feeling is common. Big cities are constantly moving, glowing, shouting, singing. Often their residents have a sense of elitism or a deep and profound pride. I was one of them. "We're better than everyone else. Everyone else is small. We're world-class and important - why would you want to be anywhere else?"

I fell hard for Boston, but the whole time I was there I was convinced that Ann Arbor/metro Detroit was my "real home". I'm back now, back where I was so certain I belonged, and somehow I'm experiencing a similar kind of bewilderment. Something feels off. It feels like maybe I'm not so sure anymore.

A while back I learned that a friend from the east coast, while traveling across the country, made a point of avoiding driving through - or heaven forbid, visiting - Detroit. It was innocent and in no way directed at me, but I'm not sure I've felt the same kind of offense since. Wounded, I stewed over how people who have never so much as been to Michigan are worried that Detroit is so dangerous that they can't even drive on the adjacent freeways. These people have no idea; I'll say it again, these people have no idea. Cultural, gifted with the loyal who stay, a stunning sprawl with swaying streetlights. Ask Josh, who now commutes from Ann Arbor to downtown Detroit all week long, parking across from Comerica and working a few floors up the heart-stoppingly gorgeous David Broderick Tower. He stares out at Woodward every day. Ask him, after living within 45 minutes of Boston his whole life, what he thinks about the idea of avoiding Detroit. He'll tell you.

I become so defensive of this place. But somehow I was surprised by Denton's warmth, and my first thought was "Well, it's no Ann Arbor." There it is: the pride, ugly and judgmental, showing up right on schedule. Scarier, though? Now, in my new life in my old home, I find myself aching over Boston. I miss living there, no matter how much I love where I am now. I'll sit on the Diag and marvel at this beautiful place, and somehow, still, I find some "fault". I'll notice myself critiquing the Detroit skyline when flying back in from a trip, somehow, still. I'll judge the liveliness of a main street at night, somehow, still. As if any of these comparisons are fair or justified. I'm ashamed and embarrassed of this thought, but it arrives: "Well, it's no Boston."

"Are you really home? What is that for you? Is it a location, a house?"

Four years ago, my home was here. Today, it's more. The word means something else - something brand new, a bigger memory.

this is my home, this is my home / where I go when I've got nowhere else to go

I now live twenty miles away from the house I grew up in, with the red shutters and red side door. Eighty-six miles from the camp where we ran through the rain. Fifteen miles from Mikey's old home on the dirt road, which has been sold and now belongs to someone else. Thirty or so miles from that suburban street I visited a few times, even though now I don't really think of it anymore. Nearly 710 miles from my nephew. 747 miles from my favorite coffee shop, despite the fact that I left it on sad terms. 165 miles from the first place that really changed my life, my alma mater, and Megan and Brittany's house on the beach. Twenty-five miles from Franz's old place where we managed to get black hair dye stained into the carpet. 809 miles from the lighthouse in Maine that was important before I even knew it. 539 miles from one friend, 244 from some others, 2,348 from two others.

It feels like I'm thinking about every place all the time, all the details, every mile, all the bits and pieces that make each of them my home. That's just it: they all are.

this is my home, this is my home / where I go when I don't know where else to go
do you feel safe?

For Those Who Stay, and Wherever You Go

During a conversation with Mac the other day, he helped me realize something that has been steadily, quietly growing inside my subconscious, but that I had yet to actually see within myself.

“How’d it go?” he asked.

“It went really well. I guess I’m glad it doesn’t have to be a ‘secret’ anymore.” I was biting my nails in between typing sentences. “But I don’t know. The statement ‘I resigned from the Press today’ makes me unexpectedly sad.”

“Think about how much you’ve accomplished in the last year, though. You went from practically hating Boston to where you are now.”

I stopped and thought about this. “Right. It’s kind of nuts, in retrospect. Every piece of it.”

“It really is. Think about the idea that you had to debate whether or not working in Ann Arbor was really what you wanted to do. Amanda from a year ago would be baffled by that.”

“Right?” Here’s where the wheels really started turning and I realized how right he was.

“I’m seriously so proud of how far you’ve come. It’s plainly evident.”

“Thank you. That means a lot to me.” I remember looking out the window for a second, stupid as that sounds. “Honestly I’m proud of me, too, especially considering everything I messed up and all the shit life has thrown in my face over the past year.”

“Exactly. Which has not been an insignificant amount.”

Mac is one of my oldest, closest friends. Him saying this to me - that he’s proud, that he recognizes my growth - was like taking a deep breath of clean, brand new air. And being able to recognize that it’s true, that I have learned so much about myself and grown - that I’ve come out alive - is like an even deeper breath. Something about 2015 has fueled change, in careers, in personal lives, and everything in between; I’ve noticed this not only about myself but also many of my friends. I’m finishing out the year with probably the biggest instance of change yet.

Last week, I resigned from the Press because I’ve accepted a job at the University of Michigan’s Publishing department. My new title is almost identical to the one I have now, and I’ll be taking everything I’ve learned from my time in Boston to the one location I've always aimed for, the one place I’ve always wanted to work and prove myself.

This isn’t an exaggeration. I have always wanted to be a Wolverine from day one, for as long as I can remember. The U’s hospital saved my life when I was born way too early. My father completed his bachelor’s and his master’s there, and I used to gaze at those degrees on the wall, fascinated by the intricate lettering and the university’s seal. My childhood memories are filled with maize and blue, football games on the old TV in the living room, and short glimpses into Ann Arbor, a tree-filled city that felt like it belonged somewhere else, somewhere larger. I don’t know why I’ve always held the U on such a high pedestal, why I aspired and longed to someday be a part of it. But the aspiration never stopped.

I didn’t do well enough in high school to be accepted as an undergraduate; I knew this, and I didn’t apply when the time came. Instead, I lived vicariously through my friends who did attend, lounging in their dorms and running across the Diag at night. I spent most summers between semesters at Hope tucked inside Ann Arbor, spending nearly all of my free time there and even temping at the U’s chemistry department for a few months. Even though I was an employee, had my own M-card and everything, I didn’t feel worthy or that I really belonged since it was wasn’t permanent. I wanted something more.

Over time I got to know Ann Arbor’s streets better than the streets in Plymouth, where I was raised, and I promised myself that one day I would stay there forever. Even if Michigan didn’t take me on as a student or an employee, it didn’t matter; someday I would be a part of the swell of the city, belonging, never needing to go home to somewhere else when the night was over. When I decided to apply to graduate school, I made pretty (naively) concrete plans to make this dream my reality. But when the U denied me, those plans disappeared.

This is where the trajectory of my life changed. Suddenly, Boston took me in with open arms, shining a light onto a new life I never could have imagined. I closed my eyes in late August of 2012, held my breath, and jumped in head-first. Between then and now, almost every little thing about my life has changed; it’s taken me until now to see these changes have been for the better.

Now, it’s come time to take that jump again.

***

Earlier this year, like Mac mentioned, I was having a hard time still living in Boston. I was questioning most of my decisions, wondering if I was in the right place or if I had somehow made a mistake - maybe more accurately, knowing I had made some mistakes and wondering about everything else. Over the course of the year, I said a lot of things I neither meant nor really understood, complained a lot, and acted selfishly as I was internally free-falling, trying to figure out what was going on inside my head. The summer wore on and slowly but surely, I got everything together. I’ve felt better about my life in the past five months than I have in a long time; I’ve felt comfortable in Boston (really, back to as happy as I was when I moved here), in my job, and I’ve made peace with those aforementioned mistakes. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve grown up in many ways. I’ve felt like I’m finally accustomed to and content within a slightly different life. But suddenly this new opportunity fell out of the sky, and I had to decide what to do - whether to stay with this newfound solid footing, or to leave and, essentially, start all over.

Now that the decision is made, I’m focusing not on the fear of the unknown but on every detail of where I am.

When my brother moved to Massachusetts many moons ago, my family started visiting Boston once every year or so. It became the only major city I spent a lot of time in outside Detroit and Michigan. I’ve been to Chicago and NYC a few times, but Boston was always our go-to. The most prominent memory I have of my first trip here - maybe when I was around 13, I can’t really remember - was the first time I stood at the site of the Boston Massacre. It’s just this hand-carved star in the middle of centuries-old cobblestones, sitting in front of the Old State House and surrounded by lanes of flying traffic. I was transfixed by this star, the simplest piece of stone, silently denoting this huge historical event right in the middle of a loud city. It became my favorite place in the whole of Boston, and I remember standing there in my early teens and thinking to myself, “I could come back here. I think I could live here someday.”

I’ll miss the star. I’ll miss the constellations on the ceiling of Quincy Market. I’ll miss the Christmas lights on the trees at Faneuil in December. I’ll miss tripping on the cobblestones surrounding that whole area, especially if we were going out to Anthem, especially if I’m wearing heels. I’ll miss standing in the steam of the Holocaust Memorial, always rendered motionless. I’ll miss Keytar Bear standing outside Bell in Hand. I’ll miss the stairs at Government Center, the innumerable times I sat there with friends for Boston Calling, for the Jimmy Fund Scooperbowl, for summer days across from Haymarket. I’ll miss the greenway by the North End; I’ll miss walking through those almost-ancient streets in the summer, in the snow, smelling the fresh bread and hurrying to Bova’s for rainbow cookies. I’ll miss the rain that seemingly never comes.

I’ll miss the subway, even though I’d like to deny it. I’ll miss standing in Boylston after class, counting the E’s and damning the C’s. I’ll miss the rush at Park Street, and part of me will even miss the blistering heat in the summer while standing on the platform, cursing the fans and willing the tracks to squeal. I’ll miss how adept I’ve become at weaving crowds trying to get to my train, how I know the perfect spot to stand on nearly every platform to get the correct door. I’ll miss the hisses under my feet. I’ll miss complaining about it. I’ll miss the late night rides from Davis. I’ll miss the walk to Lechmere every day. I’ll miss the length of the C line, the most beautiful ride the T can offer you, counting the brownstones in the summer and recognizing the stops through my periphery. I’ll miss the wrought iron at Copley. I’ll miss the view of the skyline when you leave Kendall and move towards MGH, especially how it glows at night, beckoning me to come back over the river, to come home. I’ll miss the Zakim’s light, the Pru’s height, the Citgo burning in the distance.

I’ll miss the lights of Fenway and how you can see from the freeway. I’ll miss standing in line outside the House of Blues, counting the annoying Sox fans. I’ll miss all the cab rides. I’ll miss the drowsy walks from Fenway Regal to the D line back to Reservoir, my favorite stop, ducking through the parked but still lit trains in the yard. I’ll miss the old D trips to Wellesley, to Riverside, to my brother’s car. I’ll miss the commuter rail rides to Worcester in the spring and especially the winter, watching the snow rush by us while we move through the woods like ghosts. I’ll miss killing time in the Common after class, eating lunch in the Public Garden, and marveling at the trees.

I’ll miss Harvard Square, the tobacconist across the street, and losing hours in Black Ink. I’ll miss MIT, the feeling I get when I’m here, the view of the river from the opposite side of the Esplanade. I’ll miss the top of the old New England where we’d sit outside for lunch in the summer. I’ll miss movies at the Hatch Shell, Eli Paperboy Reed at the Lawn, dancing at that dingy club in Back Bay, and watching the marathon runners rush through every April. I’ll miss Coolidge Corner, the Booksmith, the Publick House, the meatballs. I’ll miss the smell of cloves surrounding Emerson, the corner Starbucks, and the Tremont-Boylston intersection that stops on time, every time.

I’ll miss Cleveland Circle the most. My home, Sutherland, the old clock in the middle of traffic. I’ll miss the slope of my hill, and for every time I had a friend visit I’ll miss the memory of when I walked them up that hill. I’ll miss the creak of my hardwood floors, the hiss of the radiators when they actually work. I’ll miss the balcony to the back alley where Josh and I would sit for hours in our first summer, up way later than necessary, counting stars and flicking ash. I’ll miss the walks to the B line to see Stephany on one end, Renee on the other. I’ll miss stealing signs on the way back with Josh, his pocket knife squeaking while I laughed and stood watch.

I’ll miss how huge and small Boston feels all at once. How it sleeps at night unless you know where to go, how it wakes up so early. I’ll miss the ocean in the air, the smoke, the constant color. I’ll miss the city appearing all at once, grand and old, when your plane cuts through the cloud cover and brings you out over the water. I’ll miss every sound, every blade of grass, every memory. I’ll miss my Massachusetts license, my listed city of “Boston” giving me a strange pride from inside my wallet. This list will never stop growing, and I know that when I leave in February, I’m going to cry all the way past the city line.

Boston, my new and now my old home. I’ll miss you, I’ll miss you, I’ll miss you. I had no idea how you would change me. Thank you.

***

I get tired of thinking about it, but 2015 has been hard. I’ve got this mental list of various things that’ve happened - both under my control and not, both my own fault and not - that clouds my memory of the past 350-some days. There’s a slowly progressing entry in the hardcover Shinola journal, gifted to me by a colleague, that I now keep in my bag that reads “What to remember, what to remind yourself, where you’ve failed, where you’ve succeeded, what to learn, where to grow, what to change”.

Without my acceptance to Emerson - without my decision to move to Boston and embark on the three most invigorating, terrifying, and incredible years of my life, I, most likely, would have never made it into the U’s digital publishing group. I never could have predicted this in the beginning. Without my year of interning and year of employment at MIT, I would have never gotten the experience needed to bring to this new position. I’d probably still be home in Metro Detroit, trying to figure out my next move and wondering if I’d ever find a way into publishing.

Without Boston, I would be different. I wouldn’t be where I am in my career, and I wouldn’t be in a place to give talks to publishing grad students in their classes, to be interviewed by English undergrads, or to be this dumbfounded and amazed by my own life.

Without Boston, I wouldn’t be who I am today; I don’t think I would be the person I’m meant to be. This is why choosing this job was the hardest decision I’ve ever made and why it almost didn’t happen. I almost said no. I spent nearly two weeks making massive pros and cons lists, all of which ended up balancing out and only making the decision more difficult. I sat in bed for hours, trying to look for a sign, trying to quell the fear inside my gut. I had no idea I would be this afraid of leaving Boston. And Mac is right - if this opportunity had fallen into my lap a year ago, I would’ve taken it without question. But everything has changed.

Without Boston, I would be lost. But after this year, after everything that’s brought me to this place and this decision, I see now that I’m right on track.

I’ve never felt this changed, improved, or lucky. I’ve never valued the (countless) extraordinary people in my life more than I do now, and I’ve never worked so hard to make sure I treat them as well as they deserve - to really pay attention to what they say and to make sure I listen. It's working. Every single relationship in my life has improved, even if it didn't need to: with my family, my friends, and everyone else. They’ve grown stronger and fuller, and when I step back and realize that virtually no one is absent, my gratitude is overwhelming. I feel so lucky, so grateful to have this many amazing people consistently in my life.

I’ve never felt more confident in my career - not to mention so fortunate - despite my fear of everything possibly not working out. I’ve gained measurably more than I’ve lost this year, and not everyone can say that. Maybe the timing of this change isn’t perfect, but when is it ever?

It’s taken me until now to see that 2015 wasn’t the worst year of my life. It was the hardest, but not the worst. It may have actually been the best. It may have actually given me everything I needed - I just couldn’t see it until it was almost over.

I’m not ready to leave Boston, but the time has come. I’m finally a Wolverine. I’m finally going to take on Ann Arbor. I’m finally taking the next big step.

Here’s to 2015, and here's to Boston. Let’s see what the next three years brings for all of us. Wishing everyone a new year full of promise, kindness, and growth. May we all take our challenging years and learn from them as much as we can, coming out the other side better than ever.

Short Posts: My friend Cameron.

My friend Cameron has the most gorgeous long, black hair, and her smile is the widest beam I've found in Boston, shining a bright light on Harvard Avenue when we say goodnight at the T stop. My friend Cameron would make jokes to me during our summer on Boylston Street together, her desk diagonal from mine, and I've still got that funny Leo DiCaprio print out in my new cubicle. My friend Cameron knows when to say hello, when to check in, and when to ask for advice.

My friend Cameron knows what it's like to hurt, what it's like to go somewhere scary and make it out alive - more than once. My friend Cameron knows what it's like to forgive, both herself and those who have hurt her in the past.

More than anything else, my friend Cameron is one of the bravest writers I know in the digital sphere; she shares things about her life that so many of us are too afraid to discuss. This new piece is no different, and it is my pleasure to share her work here today.