I stood precariously perched on the stone ledge that juts out from the first, much-needed break in the Million Dollar Stairs. The mid-November wind whipped my hair across my eyes and stung my face, but I smiled as big as ever and motioned toward the hazy distance behind me.
It was the last stop of the last tour I would give this semester for Student Admissions, and I had the group of 15 or so eager students and parents appropriately positioned to look out across Lower Campus and toward the city. It is where they told me to end every tour, with a quick speech about how we are just 5 short miles outside of Boston, and that from here you can always see the top of the Prudential Center peeking out from behind the New England fall foliage.
Every week I spend countless hours and hundreds of words trying to convince people that I know what I am talking about when it comes to this city. I ignore the fact that most of my metropolitan adventures are guided by Snapchat filters and the promise of a sale on Newbury St. I lead them to believe that the 75 columns and articles I have written about Boston grant me some actual expertise when it comes to this place. I persuade them that just because I now live within walking distance of a T stop—and I am not afraid to talk about it—I am justified in claiming some exaggerated tie to this city that I still don’t know if I am allowed to call home.
After a year of letting this facade draw on, of assuring myself that I know what I am doing, that I am a happy, T-taking Bostonian without a care in the world, I am calling myself out.
I sat down to write this column—my last, the culmination of all of this expertise and knowledge that I am supposed to have—and I had nothing. I needed to convince myself that I was good at this, that the past year hadn’t been a convenient series of miracles that allowed me to earn my place on the masthead. I needed inspiration—so in the most cliched way, I took to the streets.
I am not a runner, no matter how much I may try to convince my mom and the Chestnut Hill LuLulemon employees that I might be. Regardless, I spend so much effort leading people to believe that my proximity to the city has had such a profoundly beneficial impact on my life, it seemed the most appropriate means for this journey.
I slipped on my shoes, tied up my hair in a scrunchie, and was off on some grandiose gesture to make up for the year of ambitious claims I had upheld until that morning.
As I sit here, typing in the library—with my legs still in pain three days after my dramatic attempt to pick up the pieces and find my place in this city—I’ll be the first to tell you that my tie to Boston isn’t as easy as I made it appear, but I should have known that a connection can’t be simply defined by Bean Boots and cannolis.
Somehow, Commonwealth Ave. is one perpetual hill that leaves you gasping for air not even 1 mile in. Once you come to Packard’s Corner and finally find level ground, the appearance of the ever-present Citgo sign tricks you into believing that you are much closer to the city than you actually are. Obstacles in the form of everything from cracked sidewalks to Patagonia-clad college students block every other stride. Cars constantly zoom by uncomfortably close, threatening your existence with every passing Massachusetts license plate.
It took me one year and 4 miles to realize that being close to Boston can be hard, lonely, and not nearly as straightforward as I had made it seem. It also took this artificial need for inspiration for me to realize that, as oversimplified as my claims may have been over the past year, I will always have a stake in this city.
For every heavy stride that Boston forced me through on my Saturday run, it also scattered little hints of clarity and connection along my path. The entirety of my run paralleled the B-Line, reminding me of cold treks home from the Beanpots won and lost, and countless columns of issues past. I ran past Otto and memories of vegan pizzas and good conversations. I nearly collided with a street sign at Kenmore as I gazed toward the Green Monster and longed for the familiarity of a few innings at Fenway. Thoughts of Wednesdays spent at MIT frats and in front of computer screens flashed through my mind as I stopped to take a breath before I reached Back Bay.
By the time the foot of the Prudential Center was in sight, I had a better vision of the places and people that make this city mine. Despite my oversimplification of my reliance on this city, my claims weren’t completely empty. Over the past few years, I might have actually developed some of the expertise I had been questioning that morning. I may not have the map of the T memorized, but I know that each stop will bring to mind a memory.
After 45 terrible minutes of running past street corners that I have done everything from shop to cry on, I saw that no matter how close or far I might be from Boston, it will always be integral to my experience here, for the good and the bad. Despite how distant I may let it seem, I will never be able to separate from this city.
This Tuesday I finished my last tour the way I was told to, with a wobbly step up on the ledge and a hand outstretched toward Boston. With weak legs, I told the questioning eyes that on better days the skyline would be in sight. It was a cloudy and miserable Tuesday afternoon and I recognized how removed they might feel. They would just have to trust me.
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Senior Staff