Today’s post is a bit reminiscent of the type of posts that were once the norm here in BGIM land. Nothing heavy but a need for me to give voice to my words and say them aloud.
Over the years as this blog has attracted new readers, inevitably someone will ask “How did you end up in Maine and if you don’t like it, why don’t you leave?” A well meaning and complicated question that frankly is hard to answer in one short sentence but one that is valid and lately weighing heavily on my mind as I grapple with the reality that the longer I live here, the more it affects me.
I moved to Maine 12 years ago because of my son, the former husband and I had joint custody and long story short, we needed to reside in the same state. The ex stood firm on his decision to not return to Chicago so I decided to move here instead. When the decision was made to move to Maine, I never envisioned myself staying a while, I figured at best, once my son hit the magical age of 18, that I would be gone with the wind. But as we all learn, life is all about change and with change comes situations that you can never be prepared for, so instead you make course corrections as life happens.
In my case, two years after arriving my mom died after a brief 8 month battle with cancer and her untimely demise set off a chain of emotions and reactions that pretty much made a long term stay in Maine a reality. Around the time that we should have been planning our escape from Maine, we had a small child and the US economy imploded and when the major breadwinner is a full time freelancer, it means packing up and moving isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
From that point on, I decided to turn the rancid lemons life dealt me into something good and I have to say that many good things came from that decision. For 5 years, I worked in the community doing work that had a huge impact and continues to make a difference despite the fact that I am no longer doing it. Eyes were opened and people are actively working to address issues that had previously been ignored and despite the fact that my work ended on a less than positive note for me personally, I will forever feel good knowing that in some small way I made a difference.
Yet after years of playing a dangerous game of chicken with my emotions and authentic self, I can also say that living here is hurting me. I talk a great deal about race and while being a Black woman in a predominantly white space is hard, this goes deeper than race. It’s about the fact that the culture in the little town where I live is not a culture where I as a person even absent of the racial difference can find my community or tribe. I don’t do small talk well, I don’t fit the mold of the typical person here and really it is okay. I am no longer mad about it, I just know that I need to get the hell out of dodge.
Lately in the media there has been a lot of talk about the need for community, yet absent from many of these discussions is that for far too many of us, the tribe is not just hanging on a tree waiting to be picked off. Community connects on a base level and if you can’t make that connection, chances are you will never be a member of the tribe. I spend most of my time feeling uncomfortable, I have been uncomfortable so long that I have made peace with it. Yet the price of being in a perpetual state of discomfort is high and that perpetual discomfort doesn’t just affect me, it affects my entire family.
We all need community, no one is an island, not even the strongest among us. No matter what we think, we need more than 1-2 people who get us because life happens and as I have seen in my own family, when your life partner is your only community and something happens to them, it’s catastrophic. My parents were married 31 years and when my mom died, my dad lost his support system and let me just say that watching someone navigate the world without their support system has been eye opening and also challenging.
Lately I have been struck by the fact that if something were to happen to my own life partner, I would essentially be just like my dad and that scares me. It’s already scary enough because even with my partner’s support there are days when I feel lonely. Lonely and trapped in a place where I don’t feel safe even going for a walk alone after the summer of hell a few years ago when I was being stalked by a local man. Also to walk alone in this town is to open myself up to harassment, nothing disturbs a peaceful walk like a carload of men yelling out “nigger”.
So, why don’t we just leave? Well, if you have never made an interstate move, you may be unaware that packing up and leaving involves this thing we call money and lots of it. Despite the fact that I work in Boston, I still work in the non-profit sector and since my job involves making sure the entire organization is financially sound, let me just say that packing up and moving there is just not going to happen anytime soon. Another uncomfortable reality that I am learning to accept. I admit its been a hard one to accept but life is filled with uncomfortable truths, but my peace of mind is on the line and I can finally admit that publicly. I am a city girl in a small town and the two just don’t mix well, never mind that I am a Black girl! Lucky for me though, Maine’s largest city is not too far away and despite the insanity of knowing I would be adding onto my already long commute, the idea of moving to Portland is starting to look like an attractive option in the short run. At the very least, my kid won’t be the only non white kid in her class and I can eat a meal out after 8 pm!
Whether or not there is a community for me in Portland remains to be seen but it’s a start and it’s step one on the task list of Project Leave Maine.