This past weekend (yup, we’re still on winter break at my college!), my family and I took a mini-vacation trip up to our new, second house in a quaint town in Maine. After saving up for a while, my family decided it would be nice to have a tiny cottage to retreat to when we wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. However, when I returned back to my “real” house in southeastern Connecticut last night, I realized I’d gotten so much more than a simple vacation.
Let me fill you in a little bit here, first. I’d gone to a teeny-tiny private high school on my college’s campus for the two years prior to attending my college. This marks my fourth year of college, which means this is my sixth year on the same campus! Not gonna lie, there were times when I was filing out transfer apps because I just could not take it anymore -- the same buildings, with the same people, with the same memories of past heartbreaks. Everywhere I would go, I felt like another painful memory would be triggered.
On this floor of the library, my best friend and I realized that we were growing apart instead of together -- and we are no longer friends. At the Starbucks in that town, my ex-boyfriend and I got in a terrible fight because he was yelling at me in public for wanting to go home because I had had a stomach ache (but he wanted to stay.) There’s the classroom where I almost threw up during an oral presentation my freshman year.
Everywhere I go seemed to have some sort of traumatizing, negative connotation and I wanted out -- and fast!
But, I stayed. Little by little, the bad memories seemed to dissolve because I focused on making better, happier, more positive memories instead. I went back to that floor of the library with a new friend. I went back to that same Starbucks that used to make my stomach hurt just thinking about it with a new guy. I walked into that putrid classroom when no one was around, and I smiled. Because I survived.
I made so much progress in leaving the past in the past, which made me happier about my present, but I still felt even more excited about the next chapter of my life. Grad school! A job! I have options! I had been feeling ready to get the heck away from this area of Connecticut, and go somewhere brand new -- somewhere where I could start fresh. By that, I mean, somewhere with new buildings and new trees and new faces and new everything. I would certainly never end current relationships (with my boyfriend or true friends) in my search for newness; what I mean by newness is more of just a sense of new surroundings so that everything would feel like an adventure!
However, something changed when I went up to Maine for these past few days where everything was, indeed, new. The outlet mall there was much, much different from the outlet mall that is right by my Connecticut home. People spoke with a slightly different accent. There was like, half a frickin’ foot of snow and yet all of the restaurants and shops were still entirely open! I even sheepishly removed my faux-fur hat with earflaps when I saw that the cashier in LL Bean was wearing shorts. The seafood barely had that quintessential “yup, I’m eating fish” smell that I always make some uncomfortable joke about at my favorite Lenny & Joe’s Fishtail Restaurant on the Connecticut shoreline. There were signs for “Moose Crossing” instead of “Deer Crossing.” Subtle changes, but that subtly made them paradoxically even more prominent. I was not expecting to feel any sense of change, and because it wasn’t some huge major change -- not a palm tree in sight in both Connecticut or Maine -- it made me almost afraid.
Culture shock in such a subtle way, such as visiting a different New England state when you already live in New England, can be far more powerful than blatant culture shock found in say, living in chilly Connecticut for the vast majority of your life, and then going to visit family down in hot and sunny Florida! I wanted to feel instantly comfortable and at ease with my surroundings, but a sinking feeling in my stomach told me otherwise. I actually missed my southeastern Connecticut lifestyle that I had spent so many years wanting to run away from.
I missed the mini nature preserve at the end of my Connecticut home’s private road. I oddly missed having to avoid certain places to see people I knew if I were donning my beloved baggy sweatpants/no makeup combo. I even missed having to drive to places to get to them (mainly so I can jam out to some JBiebz), rather than just being able to walk down the street to village-style civilization. Despite the lack of an incredible amount of difference, my heart could tell the distance.
As soon as we completed the three and a half hour journey back home to Connecticut, I settled into the couch with some food and contemplated my life choices. Why had I always been wanting to get away from this place? I have it really, really good here. Even though I have felt ready for a new adventure, who’s to say that I can’t have adventures in my own backyard, that I can’t play tourist in my own town and neighboring towns? For some reason, even though I have done some minor traveling here and there over the past several years, this quick trip to Maine really struck me -- perhaps because having an entire house there is a lot different from merely visiting, say, Boston for a weekend and staying in a hotel that you do not actually live in. Maybe I knew, deep down, that I would have to feel a little lost for a while in order to fully fall in love with all that I already have. I am at that place, now.