You’ve moved to a new place and you’re completely lost. You’re glued to a map on your phone trying to find your destination, and you’ve never felt smaller.
After you settle into a new city, you know where you’re going based on the concrete landmarks that were installed years before your arrival. When enough time passes, you can read back the metro system like your own phone number. You can recommend restaurants to tourists and feel like a true local.
Then life spills over this perfect and informative map of the city you’ve learned, and you find yourself navigating around town, passing by the landmark experiences you have faced and remembering them either fondly or with a pang in your stomach.
“Meet me at the Thinking Cup on Newbury Street” falls out of your mouth when you can’t help but remind yourself it’s the coffee shop where you found out you were failing a class. Instead of hopping on the green line at Hynes Convention Center, you’re walking towards the train you caught at 6 a.m. after having spent the entire night with someone you love, your stomach still kicking.
It’s not just a stop sign, it’s where your backpack ripped and a bad day got even worse. It’s not a bridge, it’s what you drove by when you got the call that Uncle John died. And it’s not a dock, it’s where you kissed her for the first time. Your life in this town is now a never-ending loop of crystallizing and paralyzing experiences: your mistakes, faults, victories, and quirks are forever inked onto this city of you.
Slowly but surely you create your own little maps to help guide you in the right direction, both physically and metaphorically. This town is yours, and where you once felt out of place, you now feel omnipresent—almost like the memories you’ve left behind will stay there forever, and even though nobody will know, you’ve left your mark, and the city has marked you.
Text by Caroline Long
Illustrations by Katrina Chaput