I read once that home is not where you live, but where you’re understood.
I have two very different places that I comfortably call home, and where I’m fortunate enough to feel understood.
When I moved to Manhattan from Rockport, I was like all 22-year-olds who move from Small Town, USA, to the Big City: I was naïve and I was hungry. Hungry for something to happen, to carve out my spot in the world, to make The City mine. (I was also literally hungry because groceries are so expensive.)
But something else connected me with most other New York City transplants: I didn’t think I’d stay.
Like many before me, I saw the move as temporary — a trial. And there have been many moments — sometimes extended periods of time — in which I contemplated, and even went so far as to actively plan, my exit from the city that never sleeps. (Side note: the city actually does sleep, but only between the hours of 6 – 9 a.m., which is still alarming for a native New Englander who wakes early and has serious coffee intake requirements.)
But here I am, in my seventh year as a New Yorker, and I have managed to ride out the bouts of uncertainty and find myself one of the permanently-addicted victims of the constant chaos and mess that is this city.
People always ask me how I put up with the incessant hustle and speed of New York, and I always answer that I couldn’t if I didn’t have a safe harbor to come back to when I need a breath of salt air (which I still insist cures everything), a friendly face that has known me for over two decades, or when I’ve seen one too many public urinations. Manhattan has the speed, but my other island has the steady.
I am lucky — so lucky — to call Rockport my original home. I think of it fondly when I’m far, and return to it as often as I can. It gave me the quintessential upbringing and is one of those towns that felt like it truly belonged to us as high schoolers.
It smells like salt air, friendship, and Friday night games. Rockport raised me nearly as much as my parents did. It does take a village. And I’m lucky to have grown up in this one.
When I return to my little town now, I feel an immediate sense of calm. I’ve never been a patient person, and part of me was always jealous of my school friends who could go with the flow, and were able to stay, and survive, in Rockport.
My impatience made me leave, but the uniqueness of it makes me come back.
Rockport allows me to connect with that dormant flexible and easy-breezy part of myself. It doesn’t rush me, and in turn, I don’t ask it to speed up. The consistency of the place — right down to the characters that walk the streets and beaches have become part of the tapestry. It all provides me with a level of comfort and happiness that nothing else can. I like knowing it’s there for me, and that it always welcomes me back with open arms.
And that is what gave me the courage to leave it.
Despite Cape Ann’s tranquility, it’s a misconception to think of its steadiness and slow pace as a lack of activity. And it’s inaccurate to think of it as a lack of movement. There’s a quiet, but constant, undercurrent of creativity and ambition. It has instilled in me a love of art and of artists. And an adoration and respect for motivation, hard work, and authenticity.
It taught me that the best way to face waves is head on, and how to deal with the ebbs and flows that life will always tend to throw.
I’m always delighted to see the same galleries, shops, and restaurants survive, and I’m pleased when I see new breath add to the color of the community. So many people I’ve known for the entirety of my life have carved out their spot in the world there, and have hustled to do so. There have been updates and additions like there are in any place and it’s always a change when I see something new added to my constant, but even as my original home grows and changes and improves and expands, it never loses its heart. And I can only hope it has taught me not to lose mine.
Rockport makes the strong parts of me gentle and New York makes the vulnerable parts of me tougher. One couldn’t exist without the other, and I am so grateful to be intimate with both worlds and move between them fluidly.
New York has taught me who I am, but Rockport won’t let me forget where I came from.
Alexandra Saville, a Rockport native, is a public relations executive in New York.