• Paige Thimmesch

From Home to Home: How Boston Has Redefined My Identity

By Paige Thimmesch // Dec. 8, 2019

As much as I parade my interest in Boston metropolitan living around as some sort of personality trait, I was glad to be back in my quiet suburban home during the short Thanksgiving break. Having my college dorm window face a karaoke bar, an Irish pub, and a strip club—where young drunk people yelling Lady Gaga’s “The Shallows” at 3am on a Thursday is a common occurrence—I finally understood the definition of “deafening silence” while attempting to drift into sleep in my Northern Virginia bedroom. I needed the sounds of the city to rock me to sleep like a parent to their baby, revealing my infant-like dependence on a city I have only been living in for a short three months. But like a growing child, I depended on the city of Boston for more than comfort: my progressive identity is growing in confidence while away at college. While at home in the comfortable suburbs of Sterling, Virginia, my thoughts were deafened by the silence, the absence of perspective.

Before college, I was known in my hometown for my liberal views and extensive local political campaign work. It was my identity, following the news and having a liberal take on it. It was unique for my school to have someone so involved in political thought, but I didn’t have enough self-awareness to identify myself as distinct.

At Emerson, however, that has changed. Not only have I found others who are deeply invested in the news like I am, but I have found others who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of the controversial. I didn’t have the same confidence to be controversial in high school as I do now; I feared social retaliation. But no longer is there just one “type” of person: everyone’s mix of backgrounds—be it race, nationality, sexuality, gender identification—is full of contradictions to the prototypical image of their identity’s stereotypes. It’s not uncommon to hear someone preaching anti-capitalist sentiments or debating the intersectionality of feminism (okay, maybe this “someone” is me, but I’m not just ranting to a brick wall!). A woman in one of my classes said people tell her it seems like she only has three personality traits: “I’m Cuban, I’m bisexual, and I’m allergic to everything,” but she says it makes her happy to hear her identity boiled down to three quick facts. She says you know who she is right then and there; there are no surprises with her perspectives. I couldn’t help but smile and agree. I, too, have done this, put labels on myself in order to best represent my identity in a snapshot. Terms like “bisexual,” “progressive,” and “socialist” are at the forefront of the identity I’ve refined in college, finally being able to place concepts to labels without judgement.

But when I went back to Sterling my confidence melted away; the deafening silence numbed my thoughts until I found myself unable to comprehend the complexities of the world. It’s so easy to fall back into the routine of daily life, to forget that there is a world outside of routine that begs to be questioned. When I find myself slipping away into the ease of suburban culture, where uniqueness gets traded for conformity similar to the cookie-cutter houses that line the street, I remind myself of Boston. The friends I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had, the things I’ve learned; I’m rooted in a new community that I’m proud to call home.

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