NJ's Diaspora

Jesse Fried • Jun 14, 2017

Scattered throughout the major cities of America, the capitals of Europe, the metropoli of Asia, and really anywhere you can think of, you will find the proud or less-than-proud sons and daughters of New Jersey. Whatever may bring them to these far-flung places - ambition, love, money, etc. - it seems that NJ more than many other places of origin requires its progeny to travel in life.

A suburban upbringing tends to come with the expectation of a life on a somewhat larger scale - spending some time experience life in a major city, attempting to become well-travelled, etc. Among NJ's flourishing upper middle class, many people fail to see themselves as particularly tied to the area they grew up.

More generally, NJ is a restless place, defined by immigration, lives in motion, and people pursuing things, with less of a settled, tradition-laden lifestyle slowly building wealth over generations.

One must also admit that the desire for escape lies behind some of the diaspora stories. A classic example is the sizeable community of suburbanites trying their hands at the simple life in hippie areas of neighboring Upstate NY. Here we return to the Junot Díaz quote about the "longing for elsewheres." I have experienced this feeling in a major way, returning to my parents home in Millburn, walking the suburban streets at night and thinking to myself, "I have to get out of here." This kind of moment, a few weeks after college graduation, motivated me to call up a friend and arrange to move to California.

I admit, with mixed emotions, that I do not currently reside within the boundaries of my native state, although I am only a few miles away. Sadly, New Jersey was not providing for me. The times I've spent in the state during adulthood have been spiritually rich, grounding experiences but very poor in meeting my practical social needs. Few of my friends growing up stayed in NJ, many sighting more opportunity on the Hudson's eastern shore. The cultural opportunities and transit options of Hudson County were not sufficiently appealing for me to make the social sacrifice.