If you live in the Boston area and you’re not from around here, you receive frequent reminders of your non-belonging. You can only grow into this place so far, and then you hit the limit. I’m fine with that. Being an interesting place to live as an outsider of long residence is part of what makes Boston not like other places. I’m already from somewhere else — Chicago, a bigger and rougher city, but much more welcoming to people from elsewhere — and it feels to me as if the brisk stiff-arm of Boston localism sets me up at just the right distance. You’re close enough to appreciate the city’s idiosyncracies, yet far enough to sustain a little healthy observational detachment.
But if you live anywhere long enough, the way of life there, the lay of the land itself, will sink into you. In matters of place-and-selfhood, as in so many other things, who you are creeps up on you. For a long time, you vaguely assume that there’s a you who you’re going to be when you grow up, and then you realize that you have been grown up for a while and this is it; this is you, pretty much for keeps.