A year ago today, Caleb and I packed the last of our boxes, watched as movers emptied our Somerville apartment, dropped our keys in the landlady’s mail box, and followed the moving truck to our new apartment in Providence. We carried boxes up to our third floor “Victorian Treehouse” (our tree-line view inspired this nickname), debated the ideal placement of our bed, and mourned our beloved hand-me-down red couch as we realized that it wouldn’t fit through our narrow doorway. At the end of the day, exhausted, we ate Indian food at a now-favorite local whole-in-the-wall gem.
While my predominant thought at the moment is how glad I am that we’re spending the day in a coffee shop writing instead of bleeding money, sweat and tears in the moving process, I’m also feeling reflective as I consider the year that we have had in Providence. Anniversaries, like holidays, endings, and beginnings, are a good opportunity to look back on the past, feel appreciation for the present and look towards the future. And I think that this act of looking back, examining the lowlights and the highlights, can help me to soak in the beauty of the present and move forward with energy, joy, and grit.
Hard stuff about my first year in Providence
- I was homesick for Boston for much of the year, and if I am being completely honest, much as I have come to love Providence, there are things that I still miss so, so much about my old city. I miss the MBTA. I miss the vibrancy of my old Church. I just miss the specifics of Boston: the old brownstones of Commonwealth Ave and the lively activity of Harvard Square and the rarified air of the Boston Public Library and narrow little streets of Beacon Hill.
- It was crazy hard to make friends, and so I felt lonely for a lot of the year. I’ve made some friends and am building relationships, but I still don’t feel at my old-social-level.
- Working at a job that requires a significant commute and a significant amount of evening and weekend hours is less than ideal. It presented a stumbling block socially.
Highlights of my year in Providence
- There is good, good food in this city. We could go to a new restaurant every week and still have more to explore. There is great coffee shop culture, and a huge variety of food, and lots of places with amazing ambiance as well as eats.
- Being able to live in a place where we can afford a beautiful apartment is a gift. I love our sunny kitchen, and our spacious dining area, and our cozy living room. I love our gallery wall and my yellow desk and our little parking spot and our wood-paneled stair case.
- I’ve found special, life-giving communities in my new city. The two that come to mind are the Chaplaincy Center, though which I’ve gotten the opportunity to work in a variety of clinical settings and meed a wide range of people whose work and ways of being I admire, and the Providence Atheneum, that gorgeous little library that also serves as a magnet for smart, witty and creative people.
- Having a car (which we likely would never have in Boston) enabled Caleb and I to explore the New England area more, which brought us a lot of fun this year. Favorite trips included Portland, the Cape, Newport and Bristol.
- I love living in a walkable city. Even though Caleb and I have a car, we more or less only use it when taking trips, or when I commute to work. This feels like a priority for me in terms of places that I live.
- This city is clean and has beautiful architecture and landscaping. I really value being in an aesthetically pleasing environment.
Lessons that I’ve learned/Themes of the year
- There’s no way out but through: moving is hard, making friends is hard, starting from scratch in terms of networking is hard. It will always be hard before it becomes easy.
- Things take time: building a sense of community, making friends, and finding special places.
- Distance relationships with people I love are worth spending time and money on nurturing. Having a car made driving to visit my family and friends in PA possible, and so I found myself going often. The time and energy are worth it. The same goes for friendships in Boston. It’s worth spending money on a commuter rail ticket to meet a friend for coffee; it’s worth driving in to the city to meet with my old book club.
- “Going for it” with persistency is hard, but worth it. I have a hard time pushing myself to put myself out there. It feels scary and exhausting. But that’s the only way to meet new people, get integrated in a community and take on new roles.