It’s taken a few days to assemble the words, but while on a run today, wearing the way-too-worn-out shoes I wore during last year’s marathon, thoughts started to string together.
I moved to Boston in 1999, at twenty-one, and with enough naiveté to go somewhere I’d only been once before – to find an apartment – without a job. When people asked me why my friend and I moved here, picked Boston, I still don’t really know. We were throwing out names of cities one day in May. I can still see the light and smell the air in those moments. The electricity of those first seconds, realizing, as we both declared, “I’ll do it. I will move,” that our lives were going to change. That it would happen; that it was already written.
We threw out Chicago. Raleigh. New York. Boston. Something clicked when we said Boston. We kept rolling it around, saying the city’s name to try it out on our tongues, hear it float in the air. It was decided in minutes. We went out that night and started telling people we were moving in September. To see how it sounded.
Have you ever been there?
I don’t know. But it’s happening!
And so that September, we packed up and drove cross-country. Moved into a laughably small apartment in Davis square, on the 3rd floor of a house, that smelled like old Chinese food and no ventilation. My room was actually a sunroom or a converted porch. I could only fit a twin-sized bed and a teeny bedside table in it. Windows on three sides surrounded by big, floppy, green trees. No dishwasher. No laundry machine. We had maybe $500 between us, an inflatable couch, one computer with shitty dial-up, no cable and no jobs.
It was awesome.
It was so hot and humid that fall compared to the dry air and lower temps of Colorado that we would slide down the walls of T stations, sweat everywhere, frustrated and exhausted from getting lost, again. Everything was so much harder than I’d been used to and for a lot longer than I’d imagined. Lugging laundry for blocks. Not being able to write a check for food on our first day there. The hard edges of strangers who were “all set.” Only one person in the entire city that knew me.
But yet I fell in love every day. I fell in love with the struggle and the newness and when I got a job near North Station (back when it was above ground and smelled like piss and vomit), as I rode the T over the bridge to MGH, I was dumbfounded. Awe struck and dumb with adoration so much my throat swelled and my eyes welled up nearly every time. Thank you. I am so lucky. Thank you. I am so lucky. I’d repeat it over and over, almost afraid that someone could take it, this experience, away from me.
Over the next thirteen years, in this city, I:
- Witnessed 9/11.
- Attended my first Boston Marathon and thought: this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I vowed to run one day.
- Ran it in 2002, 2008 and 2012.
- Lived in Cambridge. The North End. Southie.
- Went to my first Sox game. And Bruins game. And Celtics game.
- Watched the Sox break hearts.
- Sat next to Green Day (ha!) with my best friend at a bar while watching the Sox win the World Series.
- Went to grad school in Wellesley.
- Met my husband.
- Had my daughter.
- Fell in love with the ocean.
- Moved away for six months and came back with the urgency of a child returning to her mother. Within the first hour, I handed off my baby, ran to the ocean, dove in and swam until I was blue and numb.
- Ran thousands of miles around the city and matched my heartbeat to its own.
- Learned to love yoga at Baptiste in Cambridge and then really love it at South Boston Yoga.
- Made a chosen family of friends.
- Drank. Ate. Loved. Cried. Won. Lost. Grew up.
And so, so much more.
But of all the moments that fill up 13 years and really through all 35 of my life, the marathons are among my most sacred and proud. For myself, but also for this city. It’s a day to be proud. Incredibly, unabashedly, nearly shmoopy proud. I posted to Facebook from the Sox game on Monday that it is the “best day to be in Boston” and it’s true. Enough has been said about this, and by people much more eloquent than I.
Suffice to say when we heard what had happened, my mind flashed to last year, where my husband, daughter, best friend, co-workers and others were there at the finishing stretch to cheer me on. My mind raced to all I knew who were running. True helplessness and panic. It was personal. Someone is fucking with OUR CITY.
It’s been a long, terrifying and exhausting few days and nights for everyone. I am grateful for the people who ran to the victims the way I am grateful for the ocean. As Anne Lammott says, the kind of gratitude that is boundless.
And I am making space in my heart for the victims. Constantly reminding myself to breathe for them. Breathe in their pain and breathe out peace, light, warmth. Breath in, breath out. Everyone can do this. If you are feeling helpless, you can do this. We need to breathe anyway.
I have loved watching everyone come together. You can taste the pride in the air. And the sadness. The fight. I was in the city Tuesday morning and although it was quiet, people were walking with purpose. I have never loved this city so much.
(And I will be running the shit out of the marathon next year.)
Love is Louder.
And Boston is Strong.