The view of Boston took my breath away. “This is such a pretty city!” I thought to myself. The sky was a perfect, clear, June-blue. The Boston Harbor was to the left of me and the ocean and buildings farther on were sparkling, sunlight reflected in remarkable ways off water and glass. The Zakim bridge with its tall obelisk in the center was directly in front of me as I drove into the city.
Boston is a small city and considered number 3 in the “Most walkable cities in the United States.” Millions of visitors come to Boston every year from all over the world. Despite the reputation for awful weather and sometimes rude and apathetic residents, Boston is beloved. When the 2013 Boston Marathon was bombed over a year ago, resulting in many injuries and three deaths, support poured in from all over the world. ‘Boston Strong’ t-shirts found their way to roadside kiosks in record time and the spirit of loyalty was strong in this city.
Hosting world-renowned educational institutions, sports teams, a rich history and with that, many historical sites to visit,Boston is an amazing city.
Only it has taken me awhile to realize it.
The view I described above was from the Tobin Bridge leading the traveler into Boston. I was returning from an out-of-town work trip and it was with a small breath of surprise that I realized that I love this city.
It’s taken a long time. When your heart is shaped by a place a world away, it’s hard to reshape it. The mold is broken and a new mold has to be created. But before your heart can be shaped in the new mold, it has to soften. And for a long time my heart was hard.
I couldn’t love this city. Because if I did it meant that I no longer loved the places I had come from, the places that shaped me since birth. Or I didn’t love them enough. My loyalty would be suspect. If I admitted that this city and the city of Cambridge were entering my blood stream, were becoming a significant part of my story, and with that a part of my identity, my identity would face a crisis. I had crafted my “I”m not from here!” identity and spoke it loud and clear in a crisp, non New England accent. I feared that if I changed the narrative, then the places that shaped me would fade too far in the background, a mere memory in photo albums.
What I forgot is that the human capacity to love, to loyalty is incredible. It is not being disloyal to love two places at once. It’s healthy to know you can use the amazing skill sets of adaptability and cultural competency to feel at ease in bargaining in a crowded bazaar full of color and spice and at ease hopping on a city subway and heading to a downtown store.
If someone handed me tickets tomorrow that put me on my way to Istanbul or Cairo with an invitation to make my home there, I would be over the moon. But I would also miss many things about where I currently live, and who I love within that space. And that is a good thing. For as my heart has softened it has also expanded and includes not only people, places, and memories from miles away, but also those from the next town over, from down the block of my street. I now have recent history to look to and memories from 2 years ago instead of 10. And this recent history is as valuable as the past.
It comes back to the gift of living between worlds, a gift made more precious as you realize the places you are privileged to live, invited to love.
These are some of the themes I explore in the newly released book Between Worlds. Between Worlds, Essays on Culture and Belonging is a set of essays on living between. The book is divided into 7 sections and each section is illustrated by my talented daughter – Annie Gardner. Home, Identity, Belonging, Airports, Grief & Loss, Culture Clash, and Goodbyes set the stage for the individual essays within each section. Those who read my blog will see some familiar themes and stories emerge, but they will be in book form, with new material, tweaked and edited to fit with the themes. And think about a book? It is so satisfying to have pages that you can underline and mark, highlight and turn down corners. Ah that feel of a book in your hand! Later this week I will be doing a book giveaway, for now order your copy and I will send you the accompanying discussion guide that offers questions you can answer either as an individual or within a group setting.
The book happened because of you – because you read, commented, emailed, affirmed, and encouraged. So thank you for your part in the book that is now Between Worlds, Essays on Culture and Belonging!
So let me ask you this – how have you learned to love two places? Has it been a journey that has at times been marked by feelings of disloyalty or fear that if you learn to love the place you currently live you will lose a piece of your identity?
Stacy brings us rhubarb muffins today! Being someone who loves rhubarb I was so glad to get this recipe. Head over to Stacy’s blog to see Fresh Rhubarb Muffins.
The book is available on Amazon for pre-order and I would love to have you order it and hear your thoughts about living between worlds!