This weekend marks the end of my fifth year in Boston, and it’s become something of a tradition since I began this blog to post some thoughts about where I’m at in my relationship with the city and the grown-up life I’m building for myself here (see previous installments one, two, three, and four).
Five years. Half a decade. While I’m under no illusions that such a period of time makes me a New Englander, it does mean that I’ve lived in Boston for enough years that the geography of the city is populated with personal memory and meaning. Hanna and I are making certain pathways and places our own. And at some point during this year, I realized that I’d stopped asking myself where we might move next in the national sense (San Francisco? Portland, Oregon? Chicago? Vermont?) and instead begun thinking about where our next household might be in terms of Boston neighborhoods. I walk through the city now and think to myself, “Could we live …?” “How far from the grocery store is …?” “Does the bus run …?”
More about that in the months to come, I imagine, since after six years (for Hanna, at least; four for me) in our current apartment we’ve pretty much decided to start looking for a new place in the new year. We’d like a place better set up for an old married couple (rather than two roommates) and kitties, and we’re finally in a stable enough situation financially that we have some flexibility when it comes to paying a little more for extra space or a garden in which our cats can cavort in safety.
But that’s all in the future. (And the 70+ moving vans I’ve counted in our neighborhood this morning are enough to make you want to stay put permanently!) This is a moment for reflecting back on how much change has passed through my life in the previous five years (aka two hundred and sixty weeks, aka one thousand eight hundred and twenty days).
My, it’s been a busy half-decade!
- House and home.
-  I started out my Boston adventure living in a tiny dorm room at Simmons College. While not inadequate (and I appreciated pre-assigned housing as someone moving from out of state), it was only the second experience I’d had living in a dormitory — the other being when I studied abroad in 2003-2004 at the University of Aberdeen. I had not anticipated how moving into a dorm and starting graduate school was going to make me feel immature and trapped, rather than ripe with possibility. It was not the best psychological twofer ever.
-  Since moving in with Hanna in May of 2008, I’ve been living on the border of Allston and Brookline here in the Boston metro area, roughly three miles from the MHS. We walk to work most mornings and often home again as well, through several of our favorite city neighborhoods. Over the past four years, we’ve shaped and re-shaped our apartment from being a space for two roommates into being a family home — not to mention eeking out space for about 800 books! As I wrote above, we’re slowly making the Boston area our habitat for at least the next five-to-ten years. Which is a much happier, healthier state of mind and place of being than I was right after the move.
- Relationships and romance.
-  As I’ve written about extensively in other posts, I came to Boston with a (romantic) relationship history of nil and no friends in the area, other than the few contacts I’d had with Simmons students in preparation for my move (Hanna being one of them!). It was the first major move away from my hometown, away from my established support network of family and friends. And during the first twelve months of my time in Boston I was majorly stressed — as in panic attacks, nausea, and extreme sadness over the geographic distance from loved ones. I wanted and needed, to leave West Michigan — but the transition was not an easy one.
-  Since then, obviously, Hanna has happened! In ways that have been fairly extensively documented here (are you all tired of wedding-planning posts yet?). So in five short years I went from being single to nearly-married, and from being non-directionally sexual to being in a lesbian relationship. Both of which have had fairly major effects on how I organize my self-understanding and relational life. In addition, Hanna and I are slowly-yet-steadily building a network of friends near and far: People we go to the movies with, have over for dinner, who kindly watch our cats and pick up the mail when we’re out of town for the weekend. People we blog with, email with, host while on visits from afar. This is a major part of what makes Boston start to feel like home.
- Learning and schooling.
-  As most of you know, I moved to Boston for graduate school — like so many other people who relocate here! For most of my five years here, I was enrolled at least part time in the Simmons library science and history program. It had its highlight and lowlights, as chronicled on this blog. I’m super-proud to have completed my Master of Arts in History through documenting the founding and early history of the Oregon Extension program, and my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science opened the door to my current work as a reference librarian, which really was my career objective when I started the program (inasmuch as I had one). So while I found the process psychologically and emotionally exhausting, and perhaps not as intellectually stimulating as I’d hoped, it did position me to move forward outside of the academy as a scholar.
-  Five years later, I’m no longer in school — and so pleased about that state of affairs. I’ve come to the conclusion over roughly eleven years in formal schooling (1998-2005, 2007-2011) that institutional education is not healthy for me, despite the fact I perform well therein and many of its resources are useful for my intellectual explorations. So I completed my Masters degrees back in January and May of 2011 and have no plans to return. Meanwhile, I am committed to being a working historian as well as a reference librarian: learning, for me, has never been bound by the schooling. So we’ll see where the next five, ten, fifteen years takes me!
- Work, work, work.
-  I moved out to Boston with the promise of financial aid and a part-time position at the Barnes & Noble store in Boston’s Prudential Center (an internal transfer from the store where I had been working in Michigan). It became clear almost immediately that the $9/hour they were paying me — while a raise from my hourly wage in Michigan — could not cover Boston expenses. So I began looking for other work, particularly pre-professional library work. I interviewed at a few places with no success before landing a position as a library assistant at this place called the Massachusetts Historical Society, which caught my eye in the job postings because I’d heard my friend Natalie talking about her research there. This October 12th will mark my fifth anniversary as a member of the MHS staff.
-  I had other jobs as a graduate student, of course (we all juggle multiple things to make ends meet): teaching assistant at Simmons, archives assistant at Northeastern, internships. It was good experience, but the MHS has always been my professional home. As I’ll be writing about more extensively soon, I’ve recently accepted a promotion from Assistant Reference Librarian to Reference Librarian, a position left open when a colleague departed for the wilds of Rhode Island. The folks I work with have been unfailingly supportive in my professional endeavors and I’m looking forward to a part of the team for years to come.
- Writing of many kinds.
-  I started this blog in the spring of 2007 to chronicle my graduate school and relocation experiences. As I remarked in an email to a friend recently, I’m a compulsive self-chronicler (an observation that will come as a surprise to no one reading this post). When I’m not blogging I’m journaling or emailing or jotting down notes for future projects. I think better with a pen or pencil in hand; this has been true pretty much since I learned how to write (though I was a bit of a late bloomer in that regard).
-  Nine hundred and ninety blog posts later, I’m still writing, writing, writing: blost posts, fan fiction, academic papers, post-academic papers, emails, journal entries — even documentary film scripts! Looking ahead to my sixth year as a Bostonian, I’ll be completing a free-lance documentary film project with my friend Heather, which involves charting a family’s genealogy in video form; I’ll be forging ahead with my research on Nellie Keefe; I’m musing about a collaborative project on sexual fluidity with a couple of friends; I have half a dozen fan fics (Supernatural, Downton Abbey, Upstairs, Downstairs) waiting for completion, and I’ve been enjoying my gig as an occasional blogger at In Our Words.
|grownups by xkcd|
I’m looking forward to sharing the next five years — at least! — with all of you right here at the feminist librarian. My internet home.