If someone had told me I would miss getting stuck behind tractors on spring afternoons, I think high school me would have awkwardly laughed and shuffled away.
Yet there I was, standing on an overcrowded bus in Queens, NY. The smell of manure replaced with a similar, yet slightly less fertilizing scent. I found myself actually missing the tractors. Yeah, they were frustrating, but they reminded me not to speed through the backroads of Sussex County. They were a subtle, unknowing reminder that it’s okay to slow down every once in a while. Something that seemingly no one in New York City has a concept of.
This got me thinking back to the other things high school me would have scoffed at. Things people did not tell me about before I left.
No one told me that the seasons aren’t quite the same anywhere else. Leaves fall in other places but not onto endless winding roads of tangerine colored trees. The long awaited feeling of hiking the Appalachian trail for the first time since the snow melted just doesn't happen. You are actually going to miss the smell of sweat and fried everything at the state fair.
I was not aware that I would have to explain rural New Jersey so often. This is every conversation I’ve ever had about my hometown:
“Yeah, I’m from North Jersey”
“So do you go to the shore every day?”
“Actually my town is nowhere near the shore.”
“Oh but you’re stuck on the turnpike all the time, right?”
“No… I’m not really near that either…”
“Wait so what does your town have?”
Outsiders don’t seem to understand that there is more to New Jersey than meets the TV screen. It is the sunset over mountains. It is the fresh corn in August, apples in September. Sussex County is a beautiful place. No one told me how much I would miss it.
I was not told how much darker it is at night in North Jersey. The stars don't really shine the same anywhere else. Summer nights in my best friends backyard with a fire are some of the best memories that I was not told would be my favorite.
I realized no one really told me these things because I would not have believed them.
When I left Sussex County, I hated it for the exact reasons I now love it. No one needs to tell me that I was looking at it through angst-ridden lenses. I thought a fifteen minute drive to the grocery store was a travesty. Now I long for the days I could drive with my windows down in minimal traffic.
No one ever told me these things, so I am going to tell you. Next time you get stuck behind a tractor on 565, smile. Slow down and enjoy the Sussex County spring. There's no better place to be.