To New York State, with Love
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I do this odd little thing any time I’m standing anywhere significant, like the top of a mountain, a rocky shore line, a historical landmark, or the ditch my brothers, cousin, and I would splash through on rainy days when it was flooded and rushing with water. I picture myself on a map and imagine that I am this tiny, blue pin stabbed into a poster map hanging on some child’s wall, as she marks the places she has been, the places she wants to go, the places she’s from. And then I think about myself in relation to the rest of the country.
So last weekend, while I was sitting on a cliff in Cape Elizabeth, ME, staring out at the Atlantic Ocean and watching waves crash on top of rocks and break like the day my brothers and I swung a golf club in the house and shattered my mother’s lamp into a thousand tiny pieces of sea glass, I pictured myself on a map, walking on the crust of the earth. And then I thought about the miles to Alabama, the miles to Tennessee, the miles to Guatemala, to Paris, to Vermont and New Hampshire, to Washington DC, to Holland, to Arizona.
At the start of it all, I wanted to be just about anywhere but Le Moyne. I hated the first three months on campus. I slept my days away and spent hours on the phone with almost anyone from Alabama that would talk to me. I seriously considered transferring home. I longed for uncomfortably warm Alabama fall days and the smell of my house as my father dug Christmas decorations out of the attic—some combination of dust and faded pine, maybe a dash of cinnamon. But I came back. I kept coming back and every time I came back, Le Moyne felt more and more like where I was meant to be. And I am not going to waste a second, lying to you and telling you that I began to love New York State because of any effort on my part. I owe everything that this beautiful state has given me to the people that have planted themselves into my life like weeds in my garden.
I owe it all to my parents, who have never failed once to support me and every decision I’ve ever made. My parents who had to sit through countless tear-muddled phone calls with me. My parents who wired me money when I drove to Maine with less than ten dollars in my pocket. My parents who pushed me to come to Le Moyne from the get go, because they know me so much better than I know myself. And I’ll never be able to thank them enough for it.
I owe it all to my aunt, Dr. Holly Rine, who has been a familiar face since day one. My aunt who fed me when the dining hall was closed over breaks that I could not go home for. My aunt who was never afraid to tell me when I was being an idiot. My aunt who drove me fifteen hours to Alabama for Thanksgiving my freshman year, because somehow she knew I needed it. My aunt who always saw that I was so much smarter than I ever gave myself credit for. And I’ll never be able to thank her enough for it.
I owe it all to my friends’ families (most notably to the Raponis and the Hogans) who took me in over breaks and holidays when I could not make my way home. These families who took me out to dinners when they came to visit their own children. These families who made me feel like I was home when I was miles away from my own family on snowy Thanksgivings and temperate, sunny Easters. These families who loved me and fed me and sent me letters in the mail on holidays and random occasions. These families who never once let me feel like an orphan with no place to go. And I will never be able to thank them enough for it.
I owe it all to my office, Continuing Education, not just for paying me $$$, but for seeing the value in me as an employee. I owe it all to my professors, who pushed me and forced me to believe that I was actually smart and worth something. I owe it all to the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and the Summer of 2014, where I figured out how I want to spend the rest of my life. I owe it all to the Adirondacks, Greyhound buses, Rochester, Albany, New York City, and the ThruWay.
And lastly, but of course not least, I owe it all to my friends and my roommates who I love more than I could ever think to put into words. You know who you are. You know what you mean to me. And you know I’ll never be able to thank you enough for the late night talks, the cheap drinks, the spontaneous trips, the laughs, the support, the lazy mornings in bed. For the best four years of my life to date. And I’ll leave it at that.
And now, graduation is upon us and I move to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona come August. So I guess I want to end with this: as I traverse through deserts, bike to a new campus, hike up new mountains, lean against red rocks marbled like ice cream, and sludge through new snow, I’ll picture myself as a pin on a map in a little girl’s room, and I’ll count the miles to the pin she pushed into Syracuse, NY. The pin that gave me everything.
With much love, New York State. I’ll see ya later, fam.