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On transience

9 April 2011

Part of the reality of so-called “emerging adulthood” is that people in the basic range of 22-28 years old are rather unbound to specific geography. One can easily have four different addresses in four years, typically in different cities, if not states and regions and continents and countries. In the past four years, I have laid my head regularly in three different dorms in Chapel Hill, NC, a house outside of Asheville, NC, an apartment in Arles, France, a house in Boston, MA, and soon (insha’Allah) a house in New Haven, CT. And my number is rather low. Many other of my friends can boast double my residences in the same timeframe.

Transience is also the name of the game for Boston. With over 100 colleges and universities in the metropolitan area, Boston is a city comprised of students. In fact, 250,000 students attend school in Boston and Cambridge alone, roughly 35% of the total population of the two cities. Imagine 35% of your population having a shelf-life of four years or so. Boston, for many who live there, is a stepping stone, a temporary home, a place to pass through.

When I got to Boston, I fell in love. We have had our moments of disagreement and unhappy feelings (i.e. the months January, February, and March), but this city was the first place I had chosen to live, with other legitimate options also on the table. I decided I would live in Boston, and so Boston could be my city, at least for as long as I was here. At the end, we would see if Boston would be my city moving forward, but it would be mine until then.

But Boston is a city of transience, with a dual nature: difficult to claim and apt to be replaced. And today, that latter showed itself. Explaining why I couldn’t continue a text conversation as I was driving today, I typed, “Almost back to Boston,” and suddenly, a huge distance grew between myself and Boston. I was not going “back” to Boston, as if that was where I belonged. In fact, the word “Boston” written on the roadsigns seemed impossibly far away from my sense of place. Boston, in that moment, became somewhere I could go to but not back to. As I saw the Hancock and then the Pru rise about the tree line, what I felt was not a sense of going back, not a sense of comfort. Neither was it a sense of dread. But rather, an understanding that this is not my home, that Boston is not my place.

Exploring my new home for three years during the past couple of days, I began to place myself amongst the buildings, neighborhoods, businesses, and clusters of people I saw coming and going. “This will be my church,” “this will be my liquor store,” “this will be my quad,” etc. And Boston, fickle and transient, was replaced.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 9 April 2011 18:56

    Hi there, Patrick!

    I really enjoyed this! I think that we (parents) forget the transience of young adulthood..and how hard it can be. Good luck in New Haven…and know that you are always welcome here. (but we’re moving so have Caroline fill you in!)

    Much love…Anna

  2. 9 April 2011 19:38

    I think you were texting me! I’m famous now


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