Despite my best efforts, I’m not a morning person. I once convinced myself that I was a morning person – working a job in which I rose between 5:00-6:00am to begin teaching at 7:30am. No thank you.

Today I enjoy mornings on the deck; the dog sprawled out alongside me guarding me and her turf. At times, like today, I write while sitting at the outdoor glass dining table. Sometimes it’s a good book or online article. On weekends, I call my parents. Always, there’s coffee.

I wonder, what my morning will look like two weeks from now. I will have been in my Knoxville apartment for almost 48 hours. I will be waking alone; my brother and spouse off gallivanting while my parents arise in a hotel room nearby. I will have to walk the dog downstairs to pee. My coffee will likely be from a Keurig instead of my creaky coffee pot. Will I wander downstairs with a cup? Sit on the bottom stairs while my dog rolls in the grass and guards? Or will l her to pee quickly and return to the safety of my upstairs porch. Still outside, but confined?

Here,  I feel free. To be in my pajamas. To sit with my coffee. To go into work mid-morning when my brain is woken up. Will I feel this free in Knoxville?

Boston Tattoo

Yesterday, I marked my time in Boston with picture on my body. Yes, a tattoo. For three years now, I’ve traveled to see Jen at Anchor Steam Tattoo Gallery in Newport, RI. My pieces are personal, colorful, and beautiful. The first was about my relationship between G-d and self, the second about resiliency, and the third about feeling home.

Many dawns and dusks I have crossed the Zakim, or alongside the Zakim, into the city of Boston. Seeing the skyline- the muddled architecture against the Charles – I’ve always smiled and felt warmth. When alone, I’ve allowed my smile to broaden into a grin and a scream, “I live here. I love you Boston.” I kid you not. I’ve screamed my joy for Boston to Boston, my car, and my self.

I arrived in Boston, 22 years old and insecure. I built myself slowly over my first two years of graduate school – excelling in my work, ending and beginning relationships, learning to live inside my body with running and healthier eating. I still had vices – I drank like a fish on weekends, enjoyed much chocolate, and swore like a sailor. I also experienced moments of insecurity about my body, my looks, my life goals. But, through it all I grew.

In my first two years I learned to be out. I came out as a survivor of dating violence. I spoke my story loudly and used my experiences to inform others. I came out as a dyke. I spoke my identity loudly and learned that I could still be a feminine, lipstick-wearing, skirt-loving woman AND be recognized within the LGBT Boston community. I became an advocate for LGBT rights and domestic/dating violence prevention. I spend hours at the state house as an activist on my own time – lobbying for and celebrating gay marriage and then realizing there were more important causes – gender orientation recognition, hate crimes protections, restoring diminished funding for homeless shelters and outreach programs. My politics grew and my identity stretched from dyke to queer femme to encompass my changing social-political-self.

I found public health and the roots of my professional calling. At first, my work was using evidence-based practice to inform dating violence prevention program development and evaluation. That was my paid work for many years – six working as paid staff plus my two years prior as an intern. My mentor and supervisor, Laura, taught me to be a manager. I learned the value of building and assessing your work, mentoring those you supervise, and using your voice in effective debate. My work transitioned and Boston, seat of all bounties, gave me the opportunity to teach at the undergraduate-level. While that work was difficult, frustrating, and time-consuming, it was exhilarating, challenging, fun, and fulfilling. I needed to teach. Through the next few years, and a return to my alma mater to work developing courses and curriculum, I gathered the chutzpah to apply for PhD programs. And thus, here I am.

Throughout my years, I explored Boston (and beyond): During my first summer, I spent hours wandering from Harvard Square to the Esplanade, up Newbury Street and Commonwealth Avenue until I reached Cleveland Circle (near Boston College). Later, with my pup Bryce, I wandered our urban waters and woodlands: the Blue Hills, the Fells, Noanet woodlands, Nantasket Beach, Jamaica Plain Pond, Millennium Park, Wollaston Beach, Stony Brook Reservation, and Carson Beach. I’ve seen shows at the MFA, Isabella Student Gardner, MOMA, and ICA, listened to lectures at Radcliffe, rocked out at the House of Blues, Great Scott, the Sinclair, Wally’s Cafe, TD Bank, Government Center, Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, the Orpheum, Sanders Theater, and First Parish Church in Harvard Square. I’ve wandered the Freedom Trail too many times to count, watched the July 4th fireworks, kayaked along the Charles, and sampled fare from the North End through to Waltham. I know where to go for coffee and where the public restrooms are downtown. I know how to direct folks by foot, car and subway (I’m still useless with buses) using local landmarks. I have good friends across all parts of the city and suburbs; we connect, know each other, and are invested. I know my life here.

Two weeks from now, my routine will change. I will not know the roads, the public places, nor how to direct people. I don’t know where to park on campus or where the restrooms are. I am unsure of the social rules, and expect that being out will be a new challenge. I’m not sure where my dog will pee, or what she will guard in the morning. But, I do know that there will be she and I, coffee and quiet, and that I will carry Boston home with my self each day.


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