The Block Island Times

#TwentySomething: Farewell Block Island

By Stephanie Turaj | Feb 21, 2014

“May 15, 2012

I hate growing up. But in my heart, I know I must do this. As lonely as it will get, as hard... I’m determined....

This town has a lot of old people, but I think they seem nice. Nervous because tomorrow I have to write my first story.”

Ever since I was 8 years old, I have kept a diary. It’s probably the most real sign that I am a writer, because the best way I know how to express myself is by writing. Over the years, it’s been therapeutic, my way of coping with whatever I’m going through. There’s been some pretty embarrassing stuff scribbled in those notebooks, but also many amazing experiences. Maybe someday I’ll write a book.

A few weeks ago, I found out I was leaving Block Island. I’ve accepted a job offer at another newspaper, The South County Independent. I’m not going far — I’m headed just over the water to South Kingstown. But it’s a new chapter in my life, one that came to me in a time when I really needed it.

Block Island has been an amazing experience, but challenging. I moved here in early May, 2012, so it’s been just under two years.

I was 21 at the time, and moving to the island was one of the bravest life decisions I’ve ever made. I had been living with my parents in Connecticut for a year after graduating college, working a job in sales that I didn’t quite enjoy, all the while looking for a job at a newspaper because that had been my dream since high school.

So yes, finding this position at The Block Island Times was a dream job for me. And I’m so incredibly and honestly grateful for the opportunities it has given me —the people I’ve met and interviewed, the stories I’ve written, the lessons I’ve learned and the way my writing has evolved over time. I also won’t forget all the people who entered my life both professionally and personally (because really, on this “island of misfit toys,” as I’ve heard it affectionately called, how can anyone forget such characters?).

I send a special thanks to my publishers, Fraser and Betty, who saw enough talent in me to hire me; the editors I’ve had, Pippa, Pete and Lars; and the rest of the Times staff, because I love our friendly little office and have enjoyed working with you all.

That being said, I was scared.

I’d never lived on my own before, paying all my own bills and supporting myself (not to mention cooking — I was and still am a God-awful cook). I was leaving behind my comfort zone of my hometown, where my family and a network of my closest friends, all of whom act as my support system, live. And I was in a serious, more than two-year relationship at the time, which was, honestly, my biggest fear of losing, and even though our relationship lasted about a year longer, it was the hardest thing to leave.

Plus, I knew no one out here, and being a fairly shy person has always made it difficult for me to make friends easily. I also had no clue what living here would be like. I remember being warned about the winters. I laughed it off — after all, I went to college in Newport, another seasonal community; it must be similar, right?

Yea, well, two winters later ... I think I may be going slowly insane and I wish I was kidding. And I think most people who’ve spent a winter here get that.

However, I don’t want to make it sound like I didn’t enjoy my time on island. I could write a whole other column about mudslides, sunsets, fishing, dancing, swimming, partying, eating at almost every restaurant out here, exploring random nature trails, lazing on the beach. Even in the dead of winter, there were relaxing nights of watching movies, sometimes alone and sometimes not, playing video games and board games, dinner parties and nights out at Soda. All of that and more, I am going to miss.

This community is beautiful in many ways. I have become accustomed to waving at people while driving in my car, going into the grocery store and saying “Hi, how are ya?” to about everyone I see. I don’t worry about locking my car doors, and when someone stops to offer me a ride while I’m walking, I’m not usually creeped out (some exceptions). And I am no longer surprised when a big shaggy dog wanders into a bar and behind the counter and no one even bats an eye.

But I also have found this is not an easy place to live, especially in my early 20s. I came here for this job, and from day one, that was my focus: to be the absolute best I could be as a reporter for The Block Island Times, because that’s why I’m here, to begin the first step of my career. But socially, for people in their 20s out here — and there’s not that many in the winter — drinking seems to be a pastime of choice. And while I did do my fair share of partying, I also didn’t come out here to go crazy. My work performance, not to mention my professional reputation, couldn’t afford to suffer.

I do believe the conversation about having something else to do out here besides a bar is a really important one to pursue. Just sitting in a café, going to the movies, working out at a gym ... there are so many interesting people in this community, so why aren’t there more interesting things to do in the winter?

My first winter was actually slightly easier than this one, as I had, as I mentioned, a boyfriend on the mainland, so it was an easy escape. I spent my first year here focused on my job and clinging to my mainland friends and relationship. Once we broke up, I kind of had a realization that just maybe I should make a few friends on the island. Summertime was pretty intense and by the end of it I was ready for some quiet, and suddenly winter set in and I wasn’t so sure about the quiet anymore.

And then, just as The Block Island Times came to me at a point in my life when I was ready to try out a new adventure, the opportunity at the Independent fell into my lap at just the right moment. While it will be sad to leave the island, I’m ready for a new job that will continue to challenge me professionally, and a location where I can actually drive down the street to get Chinese food.

After I accepted the job in South Kingstown, I took the time to find the three notebooks I’ve written in over the last two years, and read them, word for word, to reflect on my experiences living on Block Island.

I laughed a lot while reading. And then I cried. And laughed again.

“I have never been this homesick before.” “What an awesome life! I went fishing last night.” “We’re thinking of breaking up. I’m so sad. I can’t stop crying.” “So I have a pretty cool life. I’ve been going out a lot, but I’m having fun.” “Grammy is dying. I said I love her and goodbye on the phone while on the ferry.” “My apartment building was struck by lightning and my new mattress was ruined and I’m sleeping at Margie’s until who knows when.” “I was so energetic yesterday. I biked to the North Light, went to the beach, swam in Fresh Pond, and went to a picnic.” “Sunday night we went out to reggae night and we were out until late. Wednesday night we went dancing at WGW.” “Lots to do at work this week.” “I got to interview Christopher Walken on the phone yesterday, so that was pretty cool.” “I took the job at the Independent. I need sleep but my mind is racing.”

So thank you, Block Island. I’ve gone through heartbreak and loss. Challenges, loneliness, uncertainty. But with that, I’ve grown up. I’ve also had so much fun, and have had so many life-changing experiences (I took my first plane ride, ever. I met and interviewed the governor. I’ve written more than 300 articles for the paper. I bought my first car.) I have no regrets. I couldn’t imagine myself beginning my writing career in a better place.

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