August 12, 2009

You From New Jersey?

The state of New Jersey has recently been called the most corrupt state in America. Being that I grew up in Jersey, I can tell you that I am not surprised.

Someone once said that New Jersey was an armpit state because it is in the middle of New York City and Philadelphia. The entire state is overshadowed by two big cities. It is pretty much ignored and when you are ignored, you try to get away with stuff.

All the major cities in New Jersey have high rates of crime. The town that was the home of Walt Whitman is now the most dangerous city in America. Everyone for the most part lives in a suburb of some sort. Actually, the whole state is one huge suburb.

For the record, most of my young life I could not wait until I could leave Jersey and live somewhere else. Each time my family would head up to New York City, I dreaded the trip back home to our small town.

There is a point on the Jersey Turnpike, where you see the island of Manhattan and it simply takes your breath away. The energy and aura of the city is unlike anything I have ever known and I have traveled the world.

From the minute you step into Manhattan, you cannot help but feel that anything in life is possible. Every inch of the city just seems to be an indication that if you work hard enough, you can do anything that you set your mind to.

The song New York, New York says it all: if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. Every time I go up to NYC, that song seems to be in the background. Wealth and the rewards of hard work are everywhere in Manhattan. With a reputation like that, it is kind of hard for New Jersey to compete with the awesomeness of New York City.

However, in our defense, we are the home of Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. Bruce still lives here as do some of the members of Bon Jovi. When I was a kid, I often wondered why they moved back here. With all that money and fame, you would think they would have moved somewhere else.

I once heard an interview with Jon Bon Jovi where he said the following: I spent the first twenty years of my life, trying to get out of this place and spent the next ten, trying to get back here. I thought the man had lost his mind. That was until I found myself back in Jersey and actually enjoying it.

I was living in Chicago and having so much fun. I love Chicago. It is the perfect mix of the West and East Coast. People are so friendly. Winter in Chicago is horrible but the beauty of the city just makes up for it.

My mother was diagnosed with Stage IV terminal cancer and we had to go back home so that I could take care of her. We had no idea how long she had and I wanted to be with my mom as she fought cancer.

We quit our jobs, packed our car and headed back home. The great thing about the Midwest is that people actually say good morning or good afternoon to you.

The minute we got to the East Coast, I remember telling someone good morning and I was greeted by a grunt. I looked at my husband and told him that we were officially back East.

I was not thrilled to be back in Jersey but I made the best out of it. Actually, I started to notice that the town I grew up in was not that bad. It was not Honolulu or Chicago, far from it, but it was not the ghetto either.

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote a book called Wherever You Go, There You Are. The title says it all. No matter where you live, you take yourself wherever you go. So if you are a miserable, depressed human being, no amount of sunshine is going to make you all smiles and joys. It may give you a great tan but it is not going to take away your pain.

Yes, some places may be better than others. There are no doubts about that. I would move to Honolulu in a second if the time was right. However, I know full well that my location does not determine how I feel or who I am.

The concept of utopia is a noble one and the idealist in me envisions a time when the world will be a much more peaceful and happier place. Until then, my only responsibility is what I put out into the world. I can be a happy person in Jersey or I can be a miserable person. The choice is mine.

You can either see the blessings of what you have or just dwell on what you don’t have. What you focus upon, becomes your experience and location has nothing to do with it. You take your baggage wherever you go.

So often in life we think all of our problems are a reflection of external forces. I used to think that if I only lived somewhere better, my life would be better. It does not work that way. All of our problems are internal affairs. How we perceive and handle events that happen to us affect how we see the world around us.

You can either lament that life handed you a bag full of lemons or you can take the lemons and turn them into something amazing. The choice is yours. Life is all about how you choose to experience it. So what are you going to choose?

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