You were JUST what I needed.
“You’re moving where? Where is that?”, many friends and colleagues asked 6 months post graduation when I told them I had accepted a job in fundraising. I had 28 days left to spare before my student loan grace period ended.
“It’s a tiny island about 30 miles off of Cape Cod…in the Atlantic”, I would reply. “Near Boston?” I’d further clarify.
Born, raised, and college educated in sunny southern California, it was to be a BIG change to say the least. But like so many washashores before me, I fell in love with the grey lady the minute I stepped off that ferry. But unlike so many before me, I had never seen her at the height of her long, warm summers basking in all her glory. I had never seen her crystal-clear blue waters lapping at the hot sand on Dionis, or the stark, proud bluffs and tumbling rose vines along ‘Sconset. I had never had an ice-cream from the Juice Bar, or a margarita from Millie’s, or danced at the BOX. I had yet to see a Madaket sunset, bike out to brewery, or float in the shallows of Coatue. I had yet to see her daffodils, or her cranberries, or her christmas trees lining Main Street. I hadn’t made the bumpy trek out to the tippy top of Nantucket’s sandy arm to climb Great Point Lighthouse.
Yet, I fell in love with the island when all I first witnessed was a sleepy, grey small New England town in the midst of a cold November.
You see, I had never experienced one of Nantucket’s famous summers which draws so many people to the island year after year. I signed up to live with her after only seeing her November self–a stark contrast to her summers. And so I survived one of her most brutal winters before ever seeing the temperature reach 45 degrees.
And like most loves, it was a painful one. She kept me far from my family, far from any major metropolis that would allow me to buy cheap toilet paper in bulk, she made traveling difficult when the weather turned stormy, she made me hate the summers and love the winters, and then hate the winters and love the summers. Her highs were really high, and her lows were really low.
My love for Nantucket was difficult.
But in all difficult things, we learn.
She taught me how to be an adult. I moved there right after college 2 months after my 22nd birthday. And like ripping a band-aid off, she took the training wheels off my life–3,000 miles away from my immediate family I learned how to invest my money, I learned how to pay down debt, I learned how to sign up for my own health insurance, I learned how to eek every last drop out of vacation time to see family and the rest of the world, I learned how to let myself make decisions without the approval of my mom (okay–well does that ever really stop?), I let myself learn that it’s okay to not be liked by everyone, I learned how to make pie crust from scratch, I learned how to rebook yet another cancelled flight, I learned the varying types of snow, I learned how to make adult friendships and deep meaningful relationships, I officially learned how to layer my clothes, I learned what it means to be involved in a tight-knit community, and the hardest of all, I think I learned how to just be myself.
So, Nantucket–thank you. You were just what I needed as I started a second puberty on the cusp of adulthood. I’m still there, but you got me through the start. You taught me about the really hard things in life, and the really sweet things in life. I will always be able to say, “I used to live on Nantucket. No, no I lived there year-round!” I never left for the month of January, or February, or March…or any length of time greater than two weeks. I lived on a tiny island out to sea called the grey lady.
You are beautiful and grey, small town and cosmopolitan, challenging and simple, cruel and sweet. Like my own jumbled personality, you are a lady of contradictions. Which is probably why leaving you is so bitter-sweet. It feels as if I’m leaving my childhood home, full of so many memories of my first years as an adult. I will never forget you. Thank you–you were just what I needed.