It’s become a tradition here at the feminist librarian for me to pause and take stock every year around Labor Day. It was on Labor Day weekend in 2007 that I first arrived in Boston, trunk packed with dorm room necessities, to begin a new chapter of my life as an East Coast urbanite.
2014 has been a tough year for us, so far. As Hanna said back at the beginning of August, “I’ve decided to break up with 2014. We’re through.” Things started last fall with a positive but tiring whirlwind trip to the West Coast, out of which Hanna barely had time to recover before coming down with a pernicious case of pneumonia which required multiple courses of antibiotics and several weeks of bed rest. Then we began the new year with a Midwest polar vortex, then returned to Michigan in March to sit with my family during my grandmother’s deathtime. Hanna sprained her ankle the day after we got back to Boston, and while she was still on crutches we got the call to view what is now our apartment. We moved in May, then got the call that my grandfather had cancer. I’ve just come through the busiest summer on record at the MHS library and at this point we’re both looking forward to what we hope will be the most peaceful, boring autumn Jamaica Plain has ever seen.
At the same time, it feels good — more than good — to be looking forward to fall (my favorite season!) in Jamaica Plain, which in turn is here in Boston. We’re so pleased to be living here, in fact, that when we take our vacation in September we decided to stay put.
We’ve done a hell of a lot of traveling this year and it’s good to be home.
Which brings me to the point of this year’s post: local intentions. I am by nature a conflicted, restless person — to the extent that an introverted homebody can ever be geographically restless. I always need to have an “out.” It’s about agency, and choice. I need to choose what I do, where I am, even within the constrictions of the inevitable. Thus, it’s been a perpetual struggle for me to truly commit to Boston. As with many other things in my life*, I qualify:
We’re here — for now.”
“We’ll stay — as long as we can afford to!”
“I’ve never really been a ‘big city’ person, but this is where our jobs are!
What does it mean to belong in, and to, a place? I lived in West Michigan for most of my first twenty-seven years and always felt like something of an outsider — only in hindsight seeing the ways I did, and continue to, lay claim to Midwestern identities.
I tended away, as many (perhaps particularly queer) children do, from the place of my birth.
Now, I am here in Boston, putting down roots, and moving across town this spring felt (as I have observed before)
I won’t lie. I’m always gonna be that person who attends a gathering with one eye on the nearest exit, trying to determine when the earliest moment might be when she can leave without offense. Even at gatherings where I’m enjoying myself. But I think that reflex is, in part, about reminding myself that I can walk away … and have instead chosen to stay.
As I (we) have chosen, many times over now, to stay in Boston.
So I’ve decided to enter this new year (the child of academics, September will always in part be a “new year”) with some intentions toward Boston rather than restless away-seeking.
On the nesting front, I plan to pursue quilting lessons at our neighborhood JP Knit ‘n Stitch, husband our new compost pile, work with Hanna to clear out the final vestiges of our move (yep, that is a pile of “odds and ends” boxes you see in the corner of the living room …), and find a comfortable chair for my “office” nook. Hanna and I are also planning to take a second pass at the Boston home-buying 101 classes offered by the city thanks to a HUD grant; we won’t (knock on wood) be looking to move/purchase within the next five years, but would like to start thinking about what we’d need to do to buy a home here — whether it’s possible and whether we want to.
I’m (trying to) back off on the second shift commitments to research and writing, while not entirely losing my “historian’s hat” life. I’ll be continuing to review for Library Journal on a regular basis, plan to selectively guest-blog, and maintain some role in both the Amiable Archivists’ Salon and Queer!NEA — the reboot of our NEA LGBTQ Issues Roundtable. But while I will of course continue to read and explore in my scholarly areas of interest, I have no longform research and writing planned for 2014-2015. Principally because Hanna, friend Natalie Dykstra, and I are working to launch an exciting new Boston Summer Seminar program with the Great Lakes Colleges Association! The GLCA is the consortium of colleges that Hope College participates in, and this opportunity is a way for me to bridge my professional life in Boston with my scholarly roots in the Midwest.
Having broken up with (academic year) 2014, let’s hope that 2015 doesn’t turn out to be the rebound relationship.
*One exception being my marriage, regarding which I have never felt the need to temporize.