Three and-a-half years ago, I came to you scared and alone.
I remember winding my white Honda Civic through the chaotic backroads of western Massachusetts, crying hysterically as reality sank in. That’s no offense to you, Connecticut, I knew nothing about you. My home state of New York borders you, yet I’d only come across only one Nutmegger in my life.
I cried because of the uncertainty of the future. I wondered if your citizens would embrace me as an outsider.
After a few minutes of this back-and-forth in my mind -- a practice that would come to define my time here -- I filled up with excitement for a new adventure. A next step. Or better yet, a first step at reinventing myself and entering the real world.
Looking back on it, this oscillation of emotions in the car ride perfectly encapsulates my experience with you.
The first 18 months, I struggled. I worked a lot, performing (mostly) meaningless tasks at a job I didn’t love. The schedule -- mostly nights, overnight and weekends, left me disgustingly tired, irritable, and unable to form any semblance of a social life. Nearly around-the-clock, I formulated possible escapes from this self-inflicted hell, sketching out on restaurant napkins my plans for a new career path in a new place. Maybe bustling New York City would accept me more. Or trendy Denver. Or maybe I just belonged at home. Anywhere but you, Connecticut.
But it wasn’t you, Connecticut, it was me.
You were perfect. Whenever I felt lost, you opened your arms for me to fall into.
To Peter and Joan at the Rebel Dog Tavern, thank you for welcoming me to the area. I still carry the growler you so generously gave me that first night, the one you filled with cold brew after I’d complained of my lack of sleep. And thanks for telling me all about the annual Plainville Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Never attending remains one of my biggest regrets.
Thank you Connecticut, for giving me a long list of things to do. Your small towns with all the same damn prefixes and suffixes (I”m looking at you -- Plainville, Southington, Plantsville and Newington, Collinsville) allowed me to temporarily lose myself in your unique New England charm. Your parks and sidewalks gave me the comfortable places I needed for my beloved walking, or for setting up my hammock to read, write, think and relax in. And your coffee shops, particularly Rebel Dog, Common Grounds and J. Rene’s, offered the solace of a “third space” when I needed a break from the world. Your mountains, particularly in Meriden and Hamden, gave me the peace and silence I craved. And for as long as I live, I don’t think I’ll ever ride my bike on anything as incredible as the Farmington Canal Trail.
But I’ve had enough.
I’ve walked all your towns. I’ve climbed your mountains and then eaten your famous New Haven pizza, I’ve shopped at your malls and gambled at your casinos and spent countless hours at your breweries.
Oh, that's right. The breweries.
I never did reach my goal of making it to all 84 (damn coronavirus), but I’ll accept 50. Shoutout to Brewery Legitimus, Five Churches, Little Red Barn Brewing and so many more for peacefully allowing me another safe space for alone time, or for gatherings with the friends that eventually came to make my Connecticut experience special.
On that note, thank you, Connecticut. Thank you for allowing me to cultivate relationships with some truly amazing people. I believe the best relationships in life are the ones that teach you something, something that makes you a better person. Jake, Conner, Tessa, Amanda, Kelsey, Jackson and Scott -- I’ll miss you all, but I know we’ll continue crossing paths.
Four apartments and 11 different roommates later, our relationship has run its course, Connecticut.
When friends criticized you for offering “nothing to do,” I defended you.
When co-workers dragged their shovels into the building complaining of the cold, I defended you.
When strangers walked by without saying hello, I defended you.
You were my first love. And I’ll remain forever grateful for that.
As we part ways, I just ask that you do one thing for me:
Please promise me you’ll find someone else, another young man who finds himself alone and wondering whether he’s made a massive mistake. Take him in. Nurture him. Fill up a growler of cold brew for him. Show him the perfect two trees for a hammock.
He’ll need you, like I needed you.
Thank you Connecticut, for everything. I’ll always love you.
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