“You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here...You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since—on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets...” ~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Isn’t this Dickens quote beautiful? Melodramatic, poetic, filled with emotion and imagery. I thought I’d begin my blog post with this quote even though (or perhaps, because) nothing I write will be able to compare in tone or technique.
I am back in Minnesota for Christmas break, and I’ve been here since December 22. I haven’t had a moment to write a blog post until now because I’ve been spending as much time as possible catching up with friends and family members. However, as I usually do on breaks from school, I came down with a cold, so I’m forcing myself to take it easy this afternoon and try to recuperate. My original plan was to keep myself super busy and try to trick my body into thinking I wasn’t on break and hence keep the cold at bay. It didn’t work, unfortunately. So I had my secretary and life planner (i.e., myself) clear my schedule. On the up side, that gives me time to write.
Since returning to Minnesota, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on how people, places, and things can become a part of myself.
I’ll begin with the “things” category, as it seems the silliest and least consequential of the three. Here’s one prominent example: About two weeks before flying back to Minnesota, on an otherwise uneventful Saturday evening, I lost one of the fake teeth on my retainer (my two lateral incisor teeth are fake and will eventually be more permanently implanted in my mouth but are currently only attached to a retainer). I had a really important job interview on the upcoming Tuesday, just three days after the tooth fell off, and I doubted that the retainer could be fixed in time.
Imagining myself going to the interview with a missing tooth conjured up feelings from my middle school days in which I was too self-conscious to show my teeth when I smiled due to the noticeable gaps in the front of my mouth. When I got my first pair of fake teeth in eighth grade, I felt like a whole new person. Suddenly I could flash a sparkling smile or laugh without putting my hand over my mouth.
A few days before the “tooth incident,” I told my mom on the phone, “I think I finally recovered from being a seventh-grade girl,” meaning that I thought I had gotten over all or most of the insecurities and awkwardness that I had assimilated into my self-image during middle school. Even though I now consider myself to be a confident person, losing that tooth made me realize that a small piece of plastic could be an important element in my identity. I was shocked to think that a personality trait like confidence could be so easily jeopardized by such a tiny object.
However, I convinced myself to get over my insecurity from missing a tooth tolerably well. I went to tutor in Emerson’s Writing Center without it, and I smiled my normal, toothy smile. And no one even seemed to notice! At least, no one commented or stared. Fortunately though, my parents mailed me an old retainer which arrived in time for my interview.
While my fake teeth are a part of myself in all locations, my car is a part of myself only in Minnesota. In Boston, I love taking public transportation and walking everywhere. It’s fun and relatively convenient, and it’s just my lifestyle there. In Minnesota, however, I feel that I simply cannot be myself or live my normal life without a car. So when my car broke down a couple days ago, I felt quite at a loss as to how I was going to experience all that I’d hoped to experience during my short stay back in my home state. Fortunately, the car was able to be fixed within 24 hours, so I didn’t have to find out how difficult life would have been here without it. But again, the loss of a mere thing had caused me to feel naked and unsure.
It feels almost shallow (though understandable) for things to partially define my identity. But places, on the other hand, seem like they ought to be an integral part of who I am. In fact, I started my two blogs (Albion Adventures and Bella Bostonian) when I visited or moved to a new location. Three cities now flow in my veins: Minneapolis, London, and Boston.
Returning to Minneapolis has been interesting. In some ways, everything seems the same. The Eden Prairie Mall, I-494, and Uptown are all exactly where they were when I left, and I’m able to drive to all these familiar places without really thinking. But in other ways, my home town looks different now that Boston has become a part of myself.
For one thing, I honestly used to be a little intimidated to go to new, fun places in the Cities. I always wanted to be the type of person who would just go “out on the town” and try out anything and everything, but I usually felt like it was a lot more effort than it was worth. After a semester in Boston, I literally crave experiencing these new places and trying new things. I’ve gone on Yelp.com several times since I’ve been home and tried out Cuzzy’s Bar and Grill and made a short visit to Club 331, neither of which I’d been to before. For New Year’s Eve, I’m planning to go to the Elixir Lounge for the first time, and I certainly hope that I’ll be able to experience many other great places in the coming weeks. The Bostonian side of me has made me more confident and adventurous, and I’m happy to see that these traits are staying with me even back in Minnesota.
And of course, it goes without saying that the people in my life are a part of myself. The best part about being back in Minnesota is seeing my friends and family face-to-face and catching up with people I haven’t spoken with in months (or even longer). I am so grateful for the world of cell phones and computers which has enabled me to stay in touch with these people even while living 1400 miles away. Nevertheless, there’s something very special about the times when we actually get to see each other in person and experience life together.
It’s also been amazing to me how quickly people in Boston have become a part of myself. Though I’ve only been there a few short months, I have been so blessed with a wonderful support network of friends.
Being back in Minnesota for 3 ½ weeks has made me realize that I still live in two worlds. Of course, my life really is in Boston now. But at the same time, it’s been so easy to pick up my old life in Minneapolis where it left off (at least in some ways; of course I don’t have a job or a place of my own here). While on the one hand that means that I inevitably miss out on things in each of my two worlds at times, on the other hand, I’m just so grateful to have the opportunity to experience these different things, places, and people. This is exactly what I’d hope to be doing in my young 20’s—making the most of every moment, every experience, every challenge, every opportunity.