Thoughts from Places: Jersey City

Tufts has become a de facto home for more than a thousand fresh faces over the past few months. Despite the occasional, instantaneous zeal to remain a renegade while on campus, every so often it is time to pay a visit to family. This break was the perfect opportunity to take an eight-hour journey (which should have taken four and a half hours) home.

Jersey City had been my home for the 16 years leading up to my trek to the Medford campus. For over a decade, I have wandered across the waterfront, where, just across the Hudson, gleaming Manhattan skyscrapers rested. It’s a silently kept belief that our most attractive asset as a city is our relative distance to the center of the world, whether you consider that to be Wall Street or Times Square.

Some refer to JC as the sixth borough of New York, and although the title has been met with both agitation and disapproval, in many ways it is. The sharpness of drivers willing to run red lights to end up four feet closer to the next bumper, the unavoidable presence of virtually unused Citi Bike racks and indignation over proper pizza-making techniques all lend to this conceptualization. In fact, there are points of entry into Manhattan from Downtown Jersey City that are significantly faster than transporting from Long Island or Queens. But Jersey City is not New York.

One of those two cities is known for never sleeping, while the other has shops that begin to close at around 8 p.m. One boasts $50 million celebrity penthouses, and the other has an average property value of about 0.06 percent of that figure. One hosts most of the news stations, late night hosts and televised events on this coast, and the other simply watches. Jersey City is home to most of my friends, family and memories, and it remains the birthplace of my dreams, education and drive. It is not the socioeconomic tycoon that New York is, but it has beauty in its early nights, traffic-free streets and, above all, its tacit humility.

From the waterfront, the most beautiful thing about the skyline is not how grand it stands, or how far it stretches. It is, instead, how incomplete it is. Despite being recognizable in almost any nation, New York views itself as eternally incomplete. Every few months another crane is erected, another skyscraper is pieced together until it pokes the clouds and the seemingly unchanged spectacle glows just a trace brighter against the night sky.

There’s a cliché internalization of this metaphor, and as we approach the mushy, feel-good month of December, this column can surely express yet another one of these sentiments. There will always be room for improvement. Others may not notice, or if they do, they might not point it out. But in the coming weeks there is plenty to be thankful for, and a chief component of that is the ability to procure the changes you want to see in yourself.