WRITER, ARTIST, Wildlife rehabilitator


Getting into that Mainer mindset

Or should I say, "Mainah"?

For me, life after grad school as a full-time freelance science writer has been all about filling my time with meaningful work, activities and the presence of people (and animals) I love. It's true: The most important thing I learned from slogging through six straight semesters of journalism school is that intensive academic/professional pursuits and social isolation typically go hand in hand, and that's really not an enjoyable or healthy state of being.

So, I vowed, after receiving my diploma this December, I will make more time for actually living life. And that's involved a lot of traveling in those six months: Flying more than 6,000 miles; driving more than 2,500 miles; biking more than 1,000 miles; and even zooming around for about 10 miles on an ATV. Oh, and last weekend I was on a boat for a few hours too.

One of the highlights of my summer was a trip to Maine over the last weekend of July. I had accrued $160 in airline credit and was itching to take another trip. Lucky for me I have friends living in some pretty awesome places. And since it had been way too long since I last saw my friend Kelsey, whom I met in journalism school, I bought a roundtrip ticket to Portland, Maine, where she lives and works as a writer.

Before sharing some of the pics from my trip, let me warn you: My friend Kelsey is meticulous. She planned our weekend so I would see the places in Maine that are most special to her; something I deeply appreciated. I would be living - for a long weekend - as a "real" Mainer. As a person born and raised in suburban Long Island, New York, that idea was deeply appealing to me.

Ok, now for photos:


As Kelsey and I caught up on the latest happenings in each of our lives - "How is that professor?" "How is your family doing?" "How is your new job?" - we also discussed writing and nature, two things we both care about deeply. We talked as we scaled a mountain (Kelsey, being a Mainer, called this "hiking"), exploring her family's off-the-grid hunting campgrounds (while she explained how her family seeks solace in the woods) and while appreciating the incredible scenic vistas at the top of Acadia National Park's Cadillac Mountain. While we talked, I realized something, I was actually slowing down enough to enjoy my surroundings - natural and human - something I had only really been able to do fully after I finished up my graduate studies. 

Mainers are different from New Yorkers. They pause for painfully long stretches at stop signs motioning for you, yes you, to go ahead and cross the intersection before you jog across the street. They say, "What can I get you?" in a restaurant and really mean it genuinely that they'll get you whatever you want. They actually listen to how you respond after asking, "How are you?"

These are things I encounter less frequently back home in urban and suburban New York. A lot less. 

I've realized, by comparing life during and after grad school, we should all be a little more like Mainers. We should learn to go with the flow, make do with what we're given, appreciate what we have, and be kinder to everyone, everyday. Let's all slow down enough to enjoy what life is really all about: nature, passion, friends, family, art, food, adventure. We gotta get into that Mainer mindset.

Erica Cirino