The sidewalks of Boston don't sound like the rest of the world's. Primarily cement, partially dirt and grime and soot and whatever else, and in many cases, entirely New England cobblestone, these sidewalks cause your gait to straighten and echo toward wherever you're moving. Since moving to Boston in the sweltering August of two years ago, I've paid close attention to whatever is under my feet. I've walked here more than I've walked anywhere else in my life, and slowly, carefully, I started to figure out just where I am, exactly, and just how the sidewalks talk.
If someone had told me three or so years ago that I would be working for one of the largest publishers in the world right in the heart of downtown Boston, I probably would've laughed. If someone had told me that I would be, if only in the cradle of one summer, stepping over puddles in Copley, staring down the Westin as if it wronged me personally, and occasionally counting the cracks in the curb where Boylston meets Clarendon, I, again, probably would have laughed. If someone had told me that I would be surviving without a car and have learned the strange but all too real skill of identifying a train by it's brakes on the wet tracks in the tunnel behind me, I really would have laughed. But, ah, look where I am now.
When I graduated from my tumultuous three and a half years at Hope in 2010, I returned to Metro Detroit with a indescribably full heart and an innate understanding that I was going *home.* Home was an undeniable, unarguable, nonnegotiable fact. I knew and lauded southeast Michigan as my creator. I was its product, fiercely aware and refusing to leave. I was the warrior on the front lines, holding Detroit high above my head as my flag and my honor.
Home I was, and I allowed myself "a year or so" to go back to my part-time job and search for full-time work, somehow, in publishing. If you know anything about the graduating class of 2010/2011, and if you know anything about the evolving publishing industry, and if you know anything about Metro Detroit in general, you know that my chosen path was, in truth, an obstacle course. Many would succinctly define it as foolish. But with my home soil underneath my feet and beneath my fingertips, I was unafraid, and I told myself that sure, fine, if I couldn't make it work in that year or so, I would just go back to school.
You know where this is going.
The time went by and I applied to fewer and fewer jobs, as if there were many opportunities for which I was qualified to begin with. Then, some winter afternoon in what I can only remember as a bout of boredom, I decided to just go ahead and apply to graduate school. When you're in undergrad and you talk to any even remotely sharp advisor, the first lesson you learn in regard to graduate school application is breadth. Variety. They say that students should apply to a minimum of somewhere around eight to ten schools, to cast your net wide because these programs are, indeed, classically competitive.
So what did I do? Apply to only two schools, naturally.
There was nothing more that I wanted than to attend the University of Michigan. Upon reflection now I see that the image in my mind of UM is based on my familial history, my essentially living in Ann Arbor, and, you know, football. I had also worked for the graduate admissions office of the chemistry school as a temp for about a year, and even just having a UM ID made me feel important. Maize and blue, the pride of the state I loved most. I was convinced that I was meant to be there, but I never had the grades to make it. But grad school is different, right? So, I toiled over my entrance essay and attended every event at Michigan's School of Information that I possibly could, shaking hands, smiling, and professing my adoration. Their library science program was one of my two, and Emerson's publishing and writing program was the other.
I wont lie: when I applied to Emerson, I had done little to no research into the program. It was my plan B; I had learned about Emerson even existing from a small, purple and gold-emblazoned flyer on the cork-board outside my advisor's office door at Hope. I remember glancing at it and, upon seeing that a Master's in publishing is a thing that is apparently real, taking a closer look. I remembered the colors and I remembered the name, because how could an English student forget that? It stuck in the back of my mind as a vague idea of purple and of a city I hadn't visited in a year or two. The only city in the rest of the world, outside of Michigan, that I could see myself surviving in, at that time, because I was familiar with it. So I applied to Emerson, figuring that a safety net out of my whopping two choices couldn't be a bad thing. I doubted I would get accepted, in any case, and then I would stay in Ann Arbor happily ever after.
I had no idea.
I had no idea that my plan B would turn into the most life-altering choice I've ever made. I had no idea that I would pack up the majority of my things, shove them into my mother's mini van (only after a nervous breakdown), and drive head-first into Canada listening to Owl City's "Gold" on repeat because I didn't know how else to keep myself calm. I had no idea that I would soon be spending a strange night in a strange hotel one day before moving into an apartment with a roommate I had never met, staring at the ceiling from the pull-out couch as my parents snored to my left. I had no idea how that apartment on Sutherland would become my haven, my everything, the first real freedom I've possibly ever felt in my life.
I had no idea that Emerson would gift me with friends that I feel I've, truly, known my entire life, as if they were destined to sit next to me in Copyediting, as if they were destined to live down the street in our small neighborhood, as if they were destined to laugh just like I do. I had no idea that I would find these people, glowing, right in the palm of my hand, for better or for worse: the Ohioan, the girls with California in their hair, the ones who talk like the Atlantic, and the silver-eyed son of Maine.
I had no idea that Boston would take me and swallow me whole, molding me into something better, something improved, and something greater. And yet here I sit, just past where Boylston meets Clarendon, killing some time between projects at one of the largest publishers in the world.
On my resume you can now find a Master's degree and names like the MIT Press and Pearson. My publishing industry knowledge went from basic, at best, to practically expert in the span of two years, which, seriously, felt like a blink. I, the proudest of Michiganders, somehow dug myself out of the soil in Detroit and replanted myself inside Boston. To this day I have no idea how I actually did that. I look back on it with confusion and wonder.
Since graduating and securing a full-time job for the summer, I've been trying to figure out what I'm doing at the end of August, both the end of my employment and the end of my lease. No matter how much I've loved living here and attending school here, I've always looked at Boston as temporary, a means to an end, and sort of as a stop-gap before I, eventually, go back to my real home. More and more, I've been searching for jobs back in Michigan, slowly resolving that come August, I will probably go back to the place I've loved more than anything else on the planet. I'll get a new car, a new place to live, and be around all those who made my entire life - save for the past two years - what it is today. I might even take the Mainer with me, I don't know. I move in rolling waves of wanting to leave here immediately, gratefully looking back on my life in Boston as wonderful but over, and stopping to think, wait... why?
I have so much to consider. My roommate is moving out at the end of our lease to pursue a living situation that is better for her academic career, as heartbreaking as it is for me (as I selfishly want her to stay with me forever). If I stay, will I be able to find a job and a new roommate? Do I even want to try? Will I have to move away from Sutherland? If I stay, will I lose my mind, feeling trapped inside this constantly moving place without a way to truly get out? Will I lose touch with my family altogether, save for my brother? If I move back to Michigan, will I immediately and forever miss my life here, longing for what I was so ready to give up? Will I feel as though I gave up on the difficult (and significantly more expensive) option simply to go back to what I always knew as normal? Will I become bored in my old surroundings? What of the friendships I've so attentively nurtured here; will they disappear? Will my relationship with my brother go back to distance by way of miles? I fear Boston becoming a ghost, smoke behind my back.
I fear that I will forget what the sidewalks sound like, trading in my tired feet for the familiar, comfortable push of an accelerator and an engine. I fear that no matter how deeply I love the roads leading into Ann Arbor, I will slowly forget the cracks in the curb at Boylston and Clarendon, the memory of the subway hiss fading into nothing.
I don't know if I'm staying in Boston or if I'm returning to Michigan. I don't know which is the correct choice, or if either of them are correct at all. I, really, don't know what to do. I'll have to figure it out as I go along the next couple months.
I had no idea what Boston would give to me. I hoping that my current lack of foresight will be just as rewarding, and I'm hoping that above all, I can just calm down and trust.