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This Thanksgiving weekend contains the day I move away from Providence — the southern tip of the Greater Boston Area, as reckoned by its commuter-rail map — and I head south. This brings to an end 19 contiguous years of residency around Boston, and 28 years in New England if we count my preceding time in Maine. Maybe I’ll return some day; Boston, city of my birth, exerts a strong pull, a call I have already answered once. But starting next week and for the foreseeable future thereafter, I shall begin a new life as a New Yorker.
I entered Boston in 2000 as a neophyte, a kid with a couple years of self-taught programming experience and a youthful thirst to keep learning new technologies, eager to begin my new job at a world-renowned publishing house of quirky technical books. I leave it feeling full, ready to wrap up my two decades as a software engineer for hire, and refocus my professional attention on something else. I still love technology, but in a more mellow and measured way; I know which stable and open technologies sustain my long-term creative needs the best, and I no longer feel driven to seek out and sample every spicy new flavor as it appears.
I didn’t only write code, of course. During this Bostonian span I have served, in at least a semi-pro regard, as a technical-book author, a radio-play actor, a startup founder, a TV producer, a monologist, a game designer, a teacher, a podcaster, an arts-festival organizer, a disability advocate, and a nonprofit leader. As a software-maker, I built all the projects that I link to from my homepage, and for my supper I co-created a ferry company’s reservation system and helped maintain an international publisher’s ebook business. My best work has come only in the last five years, during my life in Rhode Island, away from the city proper. I have attained an undeniable mastery of craft, and one that I plan to continue drawing upon even as I attempt to cast my talent and experience in new directions.
None of this would have happened without the amazing community of friends that I found in Boston from almost the moment of my arrival, the closest of whom are my true chosen family. I came to Boston as a super-fan of Looney Labs’s oddball and (at the time) obscure tabletop games, and I wasted no time to ask on a mailing list, in the autumn of 2000, if any other fans lived nearby. Some folks I met this way remain my closest friends, and nearly all the friends I have made since — including the friend I ended up marrying — came through the network than began with that email. From these friendships, too, came all the social and professional organizations I would subsequently play a role in. If I have accomplished anything interesting, then I credit my Boston friends for making it possible.
This community includes friends from my past life in Maine who humbled me by following my trail to become Bostonians themselves — though often briefly, en route to even greater things elsewhere in the country. I imagine that I borrow some of that residual travel-energy as I bob my way a little further down the coast this weekend. To my great fortune, I already know people waiting for me in New York, including quite a few former neighbors from Boston. Even as I feel sad that my life in New England comes to a close, for now, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the friends and family who in a very real sense I’m not moving any further away from, not one inch.
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