Goodbye, Boston

Three years ago to the day we moved into our apartment on Trescott Street, my last in a long series. The first had been my dorm on Huntington Avenue, then Darling Street in Mission Hill, then Battery Street in the North End, then Forest Hills Avenue & Perkins Street in Jamaica Plain, then Strathmore Road in Washington Square, and then Buttonwood Street in Dorchester.

I moved to Boston in 2005, a month shy of my 18th birthday to attend Massachusetts College of Art and Design. I never meant to stay for twelve years, but life marched on so steadily and strangely that all of a sudden more than a decade had passed. I met my husband the first week of school, dated for a while, then became best friends and languished in indecision for quite some time before deciding to do the damn thing. We got engaged laying in bed on Buttonwood Street, and married on the coast of Maine almost ten years after first meeting.

In between, I lived with my sister, very dear friends, and alone in a tiny studio apartment where I had to move my bed a little bit so I could open & use the oven. I studied abroad for a semester, threw parties with my sister in our two apartments that brought together friends from several states, graduated college, got my first real job, mourned the death of my mother, dated a neighbor, struggled with the noise & traffic of the city.  I used my sister's license as my own for an entire summer before turning 21, I ran home in a thunderstorm on the Fourth of July after seeing people get struck by lightening, I drank green beer on St. Patrick's Day, I had a Christmas tree decorated in empty beer cans, I made Easter brunch, I cried with joy at the Pour House watching President Obama's first election results come in.  I sheltered in place during the Boston Marathon bombing manhunt, to later ride bikes down a virtually empty Boylston Avenue, to eventually watch the stand off over a pitcher of beer and pizza. We thought about leaving but jobs held us here, time kept going. I spent a lot of time being angry at people wearing backpacks on the T, walked through the Common in Springtime,  rode along Carson beach during sunset. I watched my closest friends get married, move away, have children. And we remained.

Last year we put the wheels in motion to jump ship. A slow moving leap, as we made sure the water was a little warmer before we plunged. And now our feet have just hit, and we're going in fast. After two years of driving 250 miles each way to our house in Maine, it won't just be our house in Maine -- it will be our home. A home that we share with generations of my family members going back to 1850. An honor that we have worked so hard to achieve.

I am open and shy of what is to come. I am leaving without any regrets, and an urgency to be away from the city. But it will always the place where I really grew up, and for that I am forever grateful. So long, see you soon.

Reflecting

The dawn of a new year inevitably makes you reflect on what you've done with your most recent trip around the sun. It's the most perfect measure of time, a true beginning and end. I try not to give much weight to resolutions and promises and "best of" moments as we count down the clock, but wow, this one really was a doozy. It's hard not to take a deep breath this time and think, "holy shit, we made it." At the start of this year I was motivated, hopeful, working a lot, planning a lot, optimistic we would have a house that could be lived in by August. Haha, oh my god. Well, these past twelve months have given me an extreme dose of patience testing, learning to say no, learning to say, "it's ok," learning to yell. I haven't been very good at these things before.

 

We willed the early winter to go by quickly, to let the ground thaw and temperatures to hover above freezing at night. We waited anxiously to hear good news on our home equity loan application. It was necessary for us to afford working on the house at the rate we wanted. In March I toasted myself with cheap champagne and danced around our apartment kitchen when I received the official email.

In late April, the day before his birthday, my husband was laid off from a great job, one we were staying in the city for. Rug out from under our feet. We cycled wildly through thoughts -- do we move now? Do we stay? If we stay is it for another year...two? We decided to stick to our plan of staying in Boston for one more year with Brooklin still on the horizon for June 2017. And we got to work.

From April to November we did not spend one weekend at our apartment. We went up and down Route 1 to I-95 to I-295 to I-95 to Route 3 to Route 15 to Route 175 late at night and before the sun rose. We sacrificed attending birthday parties and baby showers and spending lazy afternoons at the beach or weekends camping for plaster demolition, wallpaper stripping, lugging hundred year old wood from one spot to the other, sanding, painting, nailing, planning.

We had fun outside of the house too -- we rewarded long days of work with jumping off rope swings into ponds under pink sunset skies. We spent the Fourth of July unplugged on Swans Island, jumping into the frosty ocean from the rocks and swimming to shore, climbing out of the waves with seaweed in my hair. I traveled to northern California for work, went through the redwoods in a big van with an Algerian reggae band. I listened to them sing Bob Marley as we drove past miles and miles of twisting vineyards. We went to Philly and walked through the sweltering center of town with our old roommate, looking at the Liberty Bell through a window reflection because the line was too long. Spent a gray New York City day with a dear friend in a spa drinking wine and talking about everything imaginable - most importantly, remembering her dad and my mom. Traveled from Portland to see Leon Bridges to Provincetown to see Trixie Mattel in the same weekend with my sister. Met my oldest and best friend's first baby when he was four weeks old, already smiling. Walked through trails and marveled over moss and ocean all over the Blue Hill peninsula and Deer Isle. Sat in the kitchen of our house, huddled around a space heater, drinking bloody marys with newfound friends.

These cinematic memories are what got me through the rest of the year. I also got let go from a job, something I was trying part time and thought might be the solution to my career ennui (nope!). I didn't get another job, writing for a hugely reputable design blog, after making it through the first two rounds. I struggled with the stress of renovating a home that represents six generations of my family's history. I beat myself up for not knowing what to do with my life. I procrastinated. I drank a lot of wine, watched a lot of reality TV. I got angry with how long everything takes. I stood in our kitchen, stripped to the studs with no ceiling, and cried while saying, "I hate being in here." I watched my husband build an amazing new career for himself and felt lazy as I admired how intensely hard he works. I felt impotent seeing many close friends go through heart wrenching personal tragedies. I sat in a cubicle with no windows three days a week, battling apathy and boredom at my steady non-profit job. I sobbed with my co-workers on November 9th. I got red with anger and yelled (something I've done maybe three times, ever) while trying to communicate with my husband while planking a ceiling. I felt useless, unmoored, sad. I felt indecisive and frustrated.

It has been hard. It has been tiring. But I feel immense pride for what I have accomplished personally, and what I've accomplished alongside my husband. I feel thankful for the blank slate that will appear before me in a day and a half. I feel thankful for the strife that was peppered in between success this year.

2017 will be a big one. We will be leaving a city we have called home for the past eleven and a half years. We will be moving to a home that we have saved with our own two hands. We'll travel, we'll turn thirty, we'll surely hit huge road bumps. I'll be pushing myself -- to work even harder, to pay attention, to be an activist, to be a good friend, to be a good homeowner and neighbor, to say "no" even more, and to yell at least one or two more times. I'm ready.

What Am I Doing?

"...I am out with lanterns, looking for myself," wrote Emily Dickinson in a letter. I saw this quote over the summer and it felt like a warm hug, a confirmation that it's ok. For the past several years -- in life, in job interviews, in general -- if someone has asked me where I see myself in the next five years, or what my next steps are, I'd cry. I've been in arts nonprofit administration since graduating from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2009, and realized in late 2014 just how miserable I was. So, I've been taking a really windy path since then -- switching jobs, then quitting, going back to an old job part time, picking up other part time jobs and either leaving them or failing at them. It's been exhausting. My only beacon has been Brooklin Heirloom.

 

I decided last summer to focus on our house. We inherited this family home officially after my husband and I got married in May 2015, and I've always looked at it as not only a huge gift and responsibility -- but an opportunity. I thought, "I'm smart, I'm creative, I love this house, I have good taste, let's make something of this." So, I started an Instagram, this blog, and an Etsy shop with vintage home goods and thought, "here I go!"

The thing I love AND hate about the social media community I have found through Brooklin Heirloom is how many beautiful, creative, genius things everyone has going on. It both inspires and paralyzes me. My internal monologue is constantly running, "...how did they get there? I could do that... but why haven't I yet? What am I lacking? Ok, don't think that way -- I know I can get there. Ok, well do it. Stop being lazy.  Just take better photos. I feel like I'm working hard. What am I missing?"

On top of the community inspiring me think to about what's next, my husband has been pushing me too. He's a graphic designer and I'm his worst client. While working on the branding for my Etsy shop, he has forced me to verbalize what I want, what this is. And it's terrifying! I have been saying, "I don't know! Can't you just make me a simple business card!?" for months. And it's time to get my shit together.

It's been over a year since I started Brooklin Heirloom, and two years since I decided there is something bigger for me -- and if you ask me where I'll be in the next several years, you'll still make me cry, but I feel like the answer is on the tip of my tongue. I just have to keep pushing through the fog to get there.

What I do know: by June we'll hopefully be in Brooklin, Maine in our house. We'll stay for at least the summer, and then evaluate what's next when it starts to get cold. It'll be a welcome time-out from the costs and chaos of living in a city. But that doesn't solve the terrifying ambivalence I have towards defining a future career path. So, I've narrowed in on two things I love -- vintage houses & vintage home goods.

I recently got my real estate license with the hopes that I can gain some experience while still in Massachusetts, and then be able to start investing in little properties that need little face lifts. (And then maybe move up to medium ones...) I want to grow my vintage shop, with either a little pop-up in a retail space or mobile shop I can tote around with me. Perhaps start making some little vintage inspired things (pins, pennants, postcards) alongside my husband to mix in as well?

But I need to stay focused, eye on the prize, with confidence. I'm trying to turn a new leaf, letting go of self doubt, moving forward with conviction. And I'm hopeful. What keeps you going? What spark lead you to where you are? Did you name your inner demon "Brenda" like Queen Katya did? Tell me all your secrets! I'll focus on how it inspires me, and not how it makes me feel inferior, I promise.

Where Do We Start?

 Where do we start? There were so many things to make this project feel really overwhelming to me.

 

1. It's a mess. Due to several generations of hoarding tendencies, the house was chock full of stuff -- furniture, clothing, photos, books, even 50 year old jars of pickles.

2.It's feels like it's falling apart a bit. Because no one lived there for so long, the temperature was unregulated and there was a moisture problem. The plaster in some ceilings and walls were in serious disrepair and seeing big holes in the ceilings of two rooms made me feel like the whole thing was going to cave in. 

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3. It's emotional. I come from a long line of sentimental people (hence the hoarding thing...) and the fact that this house basically represents almost my entire maternal family's history makes it feel really heavy. My mom died in 2010 before she could realize her dreams for the house and I really want to make her (and the five generations before her) proud.

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4. We live in Boston. My husband and I have lived in Boston for ten years and have built careers here. The house is 255 miles away, so about 4.5 hours of driving on a good day, 6 hours during the summer with traffic. We're more committed than ever to get this project done, but the reality of distance is a big hurdle.

This spring after our wedding in May we jumped in head first and began the first step -- cleaning. After six truck loads of trash were removed from the basement and the house, the picture started to become a bit more clear and we set some goals to accomplish by the end of the summer: solve the moisture problem, clean and organize as much as possible, remove some walls and ceilings, and prime the house for full speed ahead in spring 2016.