It has been three years since we parted ways, albeit the break-up hasn’t been cold turkey. There have been periods of reunion when we got to spend time together in the summers, but my residential foothold has been clearly stamped thousands of miles away for what sometimes feels like an eternity. Before I go any further I suppose I should make one thing clear — this was mostly your fault.
For 33 years before I moved, I was told what it meant to be from Maine. It was something of a childhood indoctrination, really. We were told how Mainers have a work ethic second-to-none. But that isn’t hyperbole. We are some of the hardest working people that I know. As an adult, my friends “from away” would ask me what it was like to live there and what it meant to be from Maine. I would tell them that it is a glorious place that sometimes cannot be described. At times of the year, it is quite honestly heaven on earth. I would also tell them that Mainers are strong people, rooted in a way of life that can be hard and unforgiving. I would tell them these things as if it were a badge of honor.
Why do we take such pride in glorifying the struggles it takes to get by in life? And when did being “from away” become such a bad thing?
Many of my most respected colleagues weren’t born there, and it always felt like you made them acutely aware of that whenever possible. I would dare say that this obsession you have with the purity of your bloodline is starting to border on arrogance. It is really hard to attract people to live with you while making them never truly feel welcomed.
In recent years, I found our relationship growing tense, strained. I kept wondering when our salaries were going to rise to meet the cost of living. I was angry that the jobs available to us were always met with this unbreakable ceiling. As a result, we started to feel stuck, restless. Despite all this, leaving you was one of hardest things I have done.
I will be honest, the place I am in now, it has its ups and downs. The funny thing is, you two are a lot alike. My new home also has a conservative government with pockets of progressiveness; a hard-working, don’t-mess-with-us attitude; and miles and miles of beautiful countryside. And the sunsets are gorgeous. (Don’t worry, you still win in the sunrise department.) What my new home lacks in actual seasons, it makes up for with moderate temperatures, forgetting completely about the hell that is July and August, and a generally easy-going life. There isn’t any of that shock-to-the-system that you brought us for six months out of the year. And, honestly, I don’t miss shoveling snow.
Yes, the traffic is horrendous here, and I don’t think I’ll ever truly fit in with the suburban PTA crowd at my daughter’s school. I take back anything bad I ever said about Interstate 295 or the never-ending construction on routes 1 and 3. By the way, are you done with that yet? I never thought I could love another place like I love you, but I am. This new home is growing on me, and I see my children loving it, too, which makes it all the more difficult. You understand that, right? I know they are resilient and could bounce back if required, and I am — for now — thankful that my youngest is too young to understand; we have time with her.
This is supposed to be a love letter, so I will say this: I miss you, we miss you. We miss the way life should be. We miss the community of our former downtown business colleagues. We miss the pace of life. We miss our families. I miss what real New England grass feels like between my toes, not this awful St. Augustine nonsense that feels like sandpaper on my feet. I miss your cool summer nights and being able to sleep with the windows open, curtains blowing in the breeze. I miss apple blossoms. I miss the smell of the salty sea air. I miss all the things that made me fall in love with you as a little girl. Perhaps we will find a way — someday — to be together again.
Anne Schmidt moved from Bangor in 2014, and she is still transitioning. She lives in Houston with her husband and two young daughters. She is a professional photographer and a former educator. She has always been a hopeless romantic.