That question is posed to me on a fairly regular basis by folks asking how it is that a Black woman from Chicago came to live in a place like Maine. To be honest, I get tired of answering the question and decided to blog about my feelings on the matter. For starters, of course I miss it…hello! I was born and raised there, in many ways I will always be connected to it but at the same time it represents my past.
My original decision to come to Maine was made for me, the fact that joint custody of a child does not work well when your child is racking up as many frequent flier miles as a salesman was the deciding factor. My ex at that time was unwilling to move back to the midwest and it put me the position of needing to move closer to him. Originally we were planning on moving to Boston but I realized that even Boston was too far plus it was too damn expensive. So we figured after having spent a few days in Maine’s largest city that we would live in Portland, little did I know when we actually moved here that I would get a job in a town south of Portland that included a discounted apartment. That in a nutshell is how I can to not only live in Maine but in a small town though technically my town is a city but with a population of barely 16,000 I still call it a town.
Now when the plans were made to move here, we figured we would be here until the boy turned 18 and then we would blow this popstand. Well the boy turns 18 in a few weeks and at this point I have no plans of moving anywhere this year unless the job offer of the century turns up.
I admit the first few years here were rough, I used to joke I was like a mobster who had been put in the witness protection program and relocated to someplace far away where no one would find them. It really did feel that way at times. The first year I was so lonely, I scared myself at times. Packing up your life and relocating 1100 miles away to a place where the only folks you know are your husband, ex-husband and in-laws and son is a hard thing. I walked away from a lot to make this move happen. Professionally I gave up a lot, at the same time I announced I was leaving Chicago, my boss at my previous job in Chicago announced she was moving on and I was approached by the board of directors about applying for her position. That shelter now just completed a multi-million dollar renovation and is one of the leading agencies on homelessness in Chicago. Their current director was my former co-worker who was just under me, it’s a position that had I landed it would have been a true feather in my professional cap. As it is they are still using policies and programs that I laid the foundation for before leaving and had I stayed I can assure you I would be earning a lovely salary.
I won’t lie, in the tough moments here, I think about that. I think about how since moving here my career has taken some twists and turns and not always good ones. Instead though I focus on what I have gained, the personal growth that has happened within me would have been harder to come by if I still lived in Chicago.
I miss the hustle and bustle, I miss living in a place that never sleeps. I do miss knowing fabulous waffles and burritos are available at 3 am if I so desire. I miss my close friends and even what is left of my family that still lives in Chicago. Yet I have come to enjoy the solitude of living in a true 4 season place, I love following the natural rhythms that occur here…that ole man Winter requires that we slow down and take stock of our lives. I love that if I run outside to grab a coffee and am wearing sweats,I won’t feel bad…hell, no one will notice.
I love the sense of community that happens when you live in a small town. I love that I see the librarian and her family at the art walk. I love knowing that if on a rare bus ride to the city if I should happen to not have my bus fare that the bus driver knows me and will still let me ride…good luck trying that one on CTA!
Racially, yes its lonely at times more so since my best sista friend decided to leave the area but this is where I rely on the internet and phone to keep me connected to my sistern. I admit it would be great to have a Black hair shop nearby without having to travel so far but hey we do at least have one decent shop in Southern Maine now. Progress is happening.
I don’t miss the political correctness that permeated life in Chicago where on the surface there was far more diversity but truthfully things were pretty damn segregated. Folks come together for work but by and large folks live in areas where everyone looks like them. Granted that was not the case for the Spousal Unit and I and I do miss our old neighborhood. A place where a walk down the street, meant passing Mexican, Swedish and Lebanese eateries as well as a host of other diverse places. Where culture and entertainment did not involve seeking it out as we do in Maine but literally just stumbling into it. I miss being able to hop the bus or el to downtown Chicago and wandering the museums on free day. I miss eating Mexican seafood stew at 24 hour taquerias. Don’t even get me started on the thrifting…so much choice.
Yet I am in a different place where there are good things as well and while I have no idea how long we will be here since every time I run the numbers taking into consideration increased salaries, we would lose a certain peaceful quality we now have were we to move back to Chicago or any large city. So for now I call Maine home and while its natural to miss what we are used to, no longer does that longing feel my every moment.