By Kelsey Cromie
I grew up in New Jersey, an hour outside of New York City. I come from a huge family, where many of my 24 cousins live within 30 minutes of my parents’ house, and my grandparents live two miles down the road. There was always someone around when I was growing up, always a reason for a family party.
Going away to college wasn’t easy, especially knowing I’d be moving seven hours away from this support system.
I didn’t consider distance from home in my college search, finding the right fit in the school farthest away. I had not thought about what this big move would mean, but as reality set in that summer, I began to wonder if I had made the right decision.
I hadn’t really been to New England before I went to college, so four years in rural Maine at Colby College was certainly a change. But I soon found out that living so far from “civilization” gave me many opportunities to explore — the world around me, Maine, the great outdoors and myself. I could see more stars on a cloudy night in Maine than I ever could on a clear night at home. I loved every minute of it.
“After the initial excitement wore off, I realized I didn’t know anyone to walk to these places with. I felt untethered. And soon I found myself running away.”
Coming home on breaks, my days were filled with family, and returning back to school I was greeted by friends. I always had someone to come home to, no matter which home that was.
After graduation, I looked for jobs in college admission offices up and down the East Coast and once again had no preferences on location. I thought I’d easily find new routines, new places to explore and new hideaways the same way I had in college, no matter where I ended up.
I expected to have friends to come home to after a few weeks of living wherever I moved. I felt so grounded and so at home in Maine and in New Jersey, I thought it would be easy to find that same comfort in my next new home.
I landed in Providence, Rhode Island, working at a school across the border in Massachusetts, and was instantly charmed by city life. I could walk to the grocery store, to restaurants and to go out. But after the initial excitement wore off, I realized I didn’t know anyone to walk to these places with. I felt untethered. And soon I found myself running away.
Each weekend I left, traveling anywhere to make sure I didn’t feel alone. I frequently visited friends around New England, especially back in Maine, and my family in New Jersey. I was exploring other parts of New England, forgetting I hadn’t taken the time to get to know my new city. Every Sunday night I came back to an empty and lonely apartment. The fear of being alone with absolutely no plans was terrifying. It ate at my resolve.
I took this photo towards the end of a large stretch of travel for work this fall. Working in admission for schools, the fall is spent on the road, meeting with prospective students at their schools and at college fairs.
Over the course of those eight weeks, I was in my apartment for less than a week total and lived out of hotel rooms the other seven weeks. It took “untethered” to a whole new level.
I returned to Maine during my work travel and savored the chance to find places like this along the side of the road. In Maine’s familiar landscape, I began to feel grounded, even in my constant state of travel.
On this particular day, the rain from the night before had broken and the road was clear, and I was early for my next visit. I passed this lake along the side of the highway and had to stop. I breathed in the fresh autumn air, and was refreshed and at peace. The leaves crunched under my feet, and the breeze blew across my face as I tried to take it all in. Despite the travel and new hotels every few days, I finally felt more stable in that moment than I had during the previous year.
I had moved into a new apartment closer to work late in the summer and was beginning to meet neighbors who became friends. They had moved in shortly after I did, and we were all in a similar state of transition. Each brief stay at home, I met another new neighbor and grew a little more connected to Massachusetts. I found that living outside of the city, with fewer people around, actually gave me more of a chance to actually get to know them. I started to have weekend plans that didn’t involve running away. For the first time since graduation, I felt like there were people and things waiting for me when I returned from each trip.
Rather than longing for more time in Maine or New Jersey or any other place that felt comfortable and familiar, I began to appreciate the progress I found myself making.
Sure, I didn’t know exactly who I would spend the following weekend with, but I no longer felt the need to bolt. I would sample that new recipe I really wanted to try and visit the bookstore close to my apartment I was dying to check out.
I started to make my own plans, without relying on always having someone there to join me. If I had someone to explore with, that was icing on the cake. I still wasn’t always sure who I would spend my time with, but when I finally stopped “running,” I realized a sense of loneliness no longer sent shivers of terror down my spine.
I’m enjoying making this corner of New England home right now, but I know that when the time comes to set out again, I’ll be a little more prepared to plant new roots.
Kelsey Cromie is an admission counselor in Massachusetts. She loves books and country music, traveling and coming home.