I have a love-hate relationship with where I am from. I was born and raised in a town that is seven minutes from the ocean, nestled between two rivers and surrounded by several county parks. For New Jersey, that’s pretty good. I never had a serious issue with Red Bank until I went away to college and was exposed to the slow-paced life of Northern New York where the nights were starry and a whole day could pass without the sound of a car horn. I came to resent the “small town” (12,000 people in two square miles according to the last census) because when people asked where I was from and I said “The Jersey Shore,” they scoffed as if they knew the place, as if its reputation as the armpit of the state was all they needed to know.
But Red Bank is more than that. It is a refuge for immigrants, it is a convenient suburb for New York City commuters, it is a young town for young love, a place where you can live on a street with only white neighbors or only African Americans or Hispanics. On any given weekend-night the streets of Red Bank are lined with Lamborghinis and Ferraris while their owners enjoy a fancy dinner or overpriced cocktails at places like Gotham and Char. At the same time, just across the railroad tracks, there might be ten people in a single family home eating take-out that they went to pick up by bike. The more I try to put words to my town, the more impossible it seems. How do I explain to my out-of-state friends the beauty of walking on a deserted beach (after Labor Day of course) and seeing the New York City skyline in the distance? Or the feeling of excitement that comes with an extra clear night when the stars are more visible than usual? It is times like these when I am reminded of just how easy it is to take the things I see everyday for granted…and how unique they might be to someone else.