It’s New Jersey Day and Nicole asked the team to write “love letters” to New Jersey. To be honest, I had a really hard time figuring out where to start. In a week I’ll turn 32 and have spent most of my life living here in the Garden State. Since October 2021, I have committed all of my creative efforts towards building Greetings From the Garden State as an homage to my home and the place that made me who I am today.
There is plenty that I love about New Jersey, which I will get into shortly, but I have this one vivid memory in my life that stands out in which it hit me, “this is my home and I love it.” I grew up playing baseball and after high school went away to college in Pennsylvania (just typing that makes me cringe now) to get my degree and play ball. It was a great school and I made friends from around the country but I always felt like there was something off, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
For a variety of reasons, in the Spring of 2011 I transferred to The College of New Jersey in Ewing, just outside of Trenton. I remember meeting my roommates, going to my first practice with the new team, and participating in some “extracurricular activities” at a house party someone was throwing. THESE were my people. THIS is what I was missing. Nothing against people from other states because one thing I love about NJ is its diversity, but here there was a population that had an attitude and a personality. It’s a cultural hotbed with people from so many different backgrounds blending beautifully together to create a community that willingly crams themselves into the most densely populated state in the country.
I remember a friend from the old school had reached out to me the next day to see how things were going and I told him out great everything was and started describing some of my experiences and immediately he just responded with “Jersey trash” to which I responded with a seemingly standard Jersey response of “f*ck you.” It was during this span of only maybe a few days that I said to myself, I am so proud to be from New Jersey.
What I personally love about New Jersey is the people. With one of the most diverse populations of any state in the country, I have been exposed to different cultures my entire life. You can drive 5-10 minutes in just about any direction in almost any place in the state and be in a totally different world. Isn’t that beautiful? I had mentioned earlier in this letter that New Jersey has made me who I am today and I truly believe that. For my entire life my interactions with the world have been with people that are like me in that we live in the same community but are different because they may see the world in a totally different way.
Listen, I am not going to sit here and say that New Jersey is the perfect state. There are certainly some blemishes, but isn’t that what true love is all about? Sure you can focus on the things that make what you love great but you should never overlook the flaws. You have to embrace them because they are part of the package. There are some people who will always say they “need to get out of Jersey” and some of them follow through on that thought, it’s not a place for everyone. But there are plenty more people who, like me, find themselves away from home for an extended period of time and just get homesick.
New Jersey has taken its fair share of cheap shots and caused some self-inflicted wounds. But New Jersey also has grit, it has guts. There is an inherent toughness, swagger and pride to living here. Once you learn to embrace the imperfections as part of the beauty of this place, that’s when things start to click and you learn what being from New Jersey is all about.
Just let me get a taylor ham, egg and cheese, sit on the beach down the shore, or go for a hike up at Mt. Tammany, or go to a show at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, or head down to the Iron Bound in Newark, or grab a beer at Glenbrook or Ghost Hawk, or head to a Somerset Patriots game (should I keep going?) and I will be a happy man.
New Jersey, I love you.