Anyone who has been following this blog probably knows that I am a recent graduate and that in December I was concluding the nerve wracking process of applying to graduate school for a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. After months of waiting and harassing admissions officials, letters started coming in–rejection, rejection, rejection. When I had one school left to hear from I sat at my computer and constantly refreshed the application portal, waiting for my decision to magically appear. Instead, I got a phone call. I couldn’t answer it because I was at the office but when I saw there was a voice-mail I I couldn’t listen to it quickly enough. The first words were (finally) “Congratulations on your acceptance.” This program happened to be my top choice, not only because of the program itself and its many unique aspects, but also because of the location. Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. I had been waiting to announce this news until after I visited Boston and was 300% sure that it was where I wanted to be. I knew I would blog about it and my trip to Boston, but I kept putting it off, not sure exactly how to frame my thoughts.
Emerson is actually located on Boylston Street in downtown Boston, a street name which is now frighteningly recognizable to people who have never been to Boston and know next to nothing about it. It was on Boylston Street that yesterday, the celebrations at the finish line of the Boston Marathon were turned into a scene of chaos and casualty. I didn’t know anything about the bombing, initially, until a friend who knew I had committed to Emerson College texted me.
“Did you hear about Boston??”
Of course I turned to the internet and there at the top were fresh news sources of the blast–some less than 30 minutes old. I watched the live footage of the newscast with the sound off. I read the live blogging of the investigation. Names of places jumped out at me: Copley Square, the Prudential Center, Boylston Street. All these were places I walked around ten days ago. If you’ve ever seen a movie and been able to point out “I’ve been there, I’ve been there,” it is usually with a sense of satisfaction and nostalgia. When I was walking around Boston, I know I saw many places featured in movies and felt that same jolt. As I watched the news, it was with an entirely different feeling of “Oh my gosh, I was just there.”
My trip to Boston was the deciding factor in whether or not I would actually move over 1,800 miles to spend three years in school in a city where there are actually seasons and winter is the real thing. I fell in love. I had heard it described as a “the most European city in America,” and it was true. Old buildings stood cheek by jowl with shining glass and metal structures, around every corner was an old Gothic looking church and the cobblestone streets were picturesque to the extreme, even when I was tripping over them. On our last day, we saw a Greek festival, went to church in one of the older churches in the city and I enjoyed my last bowl of New England clam chowder. My tour of the school and discussion with the students and advisers had confirmed my decision in the MFA Program and my whirlwind trek across the city–looking at apartments, navigating the T, searching for restaurants–showed me that Boston was where I wanted to be, without the shadow of a doubt. I knew I would be cold and would probably get lost. That living in a city like this where I know no one and don’t have a car would be scary and challenging, but as Boston dropped away below the airplane, I already felt homesick. Not for my home in Texas, but for my new and future home in Boston.
As I watched the news throughout the day with horror and with grief, I wondered if anyone I had met, however briefly on my weekend in Boston, was running the Marathon. I wondered if one of the buildings I saw in the background was my future school. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I hate running. I’ll do it, but I’ve never felt the runner’s high and the farthest I have ever run is a minuscule number of miles. While I was in Boston, advertisements for the Marathon were plastered on the walls of the T stations, the sides of buildings, the sides of buses. Our guide on the tour we took on our last day talked about it and I began to think that it would be pretty amazing if at some point during my residency in Boston, I could be a part of it. A crazy part considered running in it, although most of my brain knew that wasn’t likely to happen. I had heard of the Boston Marathon, but I never realized what a big thing it was, that it is a holiday for the city. A holiday that will never be looked upon in the same way.
When things like this happen, I think for many people the first reaction is fear. I’m not saying I’m brave, or that I don’t worry about things, but yesterday’s events did not make me afraid to move to Boston. I spoke in my last post about grief, and it is unfortunate that the theme of sorrow is so appropriate yet again. We should grieve for the lost and the injured in Boston, even if we don’t know anyone there, even if we have never been to Boston. This is a time to come together, and not just because we are Americans, but because we are human beings. So Boston and all it’s residents–not just those directly affected by yesterday’s attack–will be in my thoughts and prayers not only because I will soon call it home, but because it was a horrific and tragic event. It is our duty to those injured and deceased to live our daily lives, but it should be with them constantly in our thoughts. So many people on the news and on social media have mentioned the hope in this seemingly hopeless situation–from the stories of citizens running back towards the blast to help to the story of the marathon runners who, though finished with the race, continued to run to the hospital to donate blood. While it is tempting to see only the evil that prompted this attack, to see only the destruction and the death that is present in this fallen world, it is important to remember that there is light in the darkness, there is hope even in the blackness.
As Dumbledore once said:
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”
May not only those in Boston but all of us remember that the darkness is not complete, the blackness is not impenetrable, and the night does not last forever.