Until the age of 18, I had never lived anywhere outside of Kings Park. It was my home, and although I often found myself complaining that there was "nothing to do," I always loved the area. The occasional trip into New York City gave me a small perspective on what life was like outside of our borders, and I knew that suburban life was definitely more my style.
Leaving for college, I knew I wanted to stay close to the hometown I had grown to love, but I also wanted my independence. I landed at Adelphi University in Garden City (and if this post were about Adelphi, I could sing its praises for many many pages, but that's for another time). This was only Nassau County, I figured, so how different could things really be? I quickly found out just HOW different, and it was like being in another world.
I have since graduated from Adelphi, and I currently reside and work in Nassau County. But since that first day that I stepped onto campus, and this area became my norm, I have faced something I never expected.
Guam. The Boonies. Bumble (sometimes followed by an expletive). These are all words I started to hear. Words that I would have never thought of using to describe my home- Suffolk County. "Out East," which even Kings Park is considered to be by these Nassau-ites. From day one, it was made clear to me that people from this area not only didn't take my hometown seriously, but they couldn't even find it on a map. "Out east?!" I'd often say; "We are nowhere close to being out east!"
Fast forward four years, three thesis papers, and one college degree later and I have entered the working world. Surely, I thought, for a company that deals with both counties-the people will be more informed. And yet I have found once again that Suffolk County is the butt of jokes. And what's worse; the joke has morphed into Long Island generally! People who come to work from the city use "Long Islander" as a term meant to insult. Meetings in the city, dealing with serious issues, typically have at least one mention of "backwards Long Island." And everyday I hear about why Suffolk and it's towns are bumble. Too far. Not worth it.
This is the world I live in. Sure, Nassau provided me opportunities for an education and a job. And I will admit, there is much more to do here (although I still complain from time to time). And yes, the proximity to NYC and major airports has been convenient. Yet, when I find the time to return to my parent's house in Kings Park, just passing that sign on the Northern State Parkway that says "Suffolk County" gives me a sigh of relief. I start to get antsy and look at the clock. Just a few more pop songs on the radio, and I will be driving down Indian Head Road.
Maybe everyone is right. Maybe Suffolk is boring, and spread out, and backwards. Maybe I am backwards. But I refuse to see it like that. Kings Park is my home. The fact that there are open spaces eases my nerves. It's not like driving anywhere in Nassau takes less time. Sure, it may be closer together, but just try getting anywhere on Hempstead Turnpike at 5 pm. You won't. So I'll take the expanses of Suffolk anytime. That's where I can breathe, and think, and feel at peace. But for now, I'll keep up defending my home to everyone I meet here. And daydream about the next time I will be passing that sign that tells me I am almost back where I belong. So call me a "Long Islander." I will tell you proudly that I am.