Following my graduation from the Jersey Shore beach paradise that is Monmouth University, I did the most reasonable thing and I could think of rented a house a block from the beach for the winter with no job prospects in sight. What could possibly go wrong?
As I signed my name in blood in that overly-air-conditioned Century 21 office three months before graduation, I knew, as a hopelessly logical human being, that what I was doing was stupid. I was panic-struck I wouldn’t be able to afford my rent, I was petrified that it was much more difficult than I had imagined to find a job, and I knew that employment down by the shore was few and far between. However, that panic was outweighed by an even greater fear – that of returning to the mountains with my parents. I hoped it would all just work out.
I couldn’t even bear the thought of leaving my one true love, the shore. I couldn’t imagine not hearing the waves as I slept or taking an afternoon walk down Ocean Avenue or staying with all my beachrat friends in one-square-mile seaside towns. I literally didn’t know if I could fathom the loss of the paradise that I had grown accustomed to for the last four years.
So I signed, and nine long months proceeded to drag by, similar as to how I dragged my tattered suitcase on the floor back-and-forth and back-to-forth from my dream-like beach home to my new-found place of employment… two hours north.
Even though I had fun (on the weekends) – I enjoyed long crisp runs on the Long Branch boardwalk, supplied a boarding house for my backpacked friends, and wandered to my favorite seaside bars and restaurants only miles from my house – the whole debacle was a nightmare. I totaled my car, put 9,000 miles on my new car in six months, spent money people spend to live near their jobs only I lived two hours from my job, and pretty much gave up my life for a constant view of the ocean. It was not worth it. It did not all work out.
I grew resentful of the place that I loved. I angrily drove down Ocean in my 9,000 miles-older car, glaring at the winterized and empty version of the place that used to be mine. I probably spent most of my time in my room, drinking wine alone and packing my things for the next journey north, which came every four days at which point I would camp out at my mother’s home for three days (an hour and a half away from my work also) before returning back to the shore.
But, thankfully, all bad things must come to an end. The lease ended, I got a new job, and… I moved back to the mountains. With my parents.
This transition seemed equally daunting. Move home? Back to the middle of nowhere? With my… mom? Oh god. Why life.
However, the summer started up quickly and my friends rallied me to their places in Seaside, Point Pleasant and Long Branch. Most weekends, I run around my room, eagerly throwing my belongings into a patched backpack before getting in my car and eating my dinner on my lap so I can make it to my friends’ homes before they go out for the night. I sleep on dingy basement couches, I eat Jersey bagels from my driver’s side, I shower at the beach, and… I’m so happy.
Things will probably change once the summer hoopla wears down and I miss my beach (and my old reliable beach house) once again, but for now, I think a lot of the shore appeal for me is the nomadic pull of it all.
Part of the fun is wondering on Friday afternoons, How am I going to get there? and Where am I going to sleep? I kind of like trying to find a secluded spot to change clothes in my car or sketchily sneak into bathrooms. I like not knowing when my time in paradise is going to end and who I am going to end up seeing from my favorite spot on North Beach. If paradise becomes the everyday, is it still paradise? If it becomes your home, can you resist not taking it for granted, not counting its flaws? Can you get sick of the most stunning window view you could ever think up?
I really don’t know.
But what I do know is that the shore was made for scavengers with backpacks in their cars and dirt on their faces… which is why that’s where you’ll find me every weekend, every time.