I relocated from New York’s Hudson Valley to Madison, Wisconsin.

I love New York. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. It’s awesome being a train ride away from America’s greatest metropolis, nestled in the picturesque mountains of the Hudson. It’s fantastic being surrounded by revolutionary history, being able to stand on the ground where Washington led his grizzled troops to their final stations of the war, seeing the very links from the chains those soldiers pulled across the river at West Point, and then having a fucking fantastic lox bagel with black coffee, all on the same Sunday.

I don’t know if most of you are aware of this, but New Yorkers tend to think that they’re at the center of the universe and everyone cares about them, all the time. Do other people know this about we New Yorkers? Is everyone looking at me, the New Yorker, right now while he talks about how New York it is to New York about New York?

This “center of the universe” view we stereotypically have. It’s often portrayed as cockiness and arrogance, but in reality it’s mostly fear. A huge amount of New Yorkers (not all, but a vocal majority) beat their chests to greatness because they can’t bear the idea that their towns aren’t so special anymore. That the railroad, the Erie Canal, the great steamboats and sloops aren’t coming back to repave the sidewalks with magnificent cuts of bluestone and the streets with muddy red Roseton bricks. That there won’t be another age of Victorian opulence or captains of industry just begging to live in Newburgh or Poughkeepsie again. That you can’t wish away the damage of urban renewal. That the world economy our ancestors helped to create has passed us by, and those once jewels of the Hudson have to scrape along just like every other American town now.

When I was growing up, we didn’t leave a 20 mile radius from home except to visit family and take rare vacations. Those vacations were always within the state. People who lived 30 miles away were scary and different.

Every year, there are more and more layoffs at the plant where my father works: the last major employer left in the region. He’s stressed and scared, but he sticks it out. He’s a New Yorker. New Yorkers push through. New Yorkers suffer the hard times, bear the miserable winters. He’s not a quitter like his west coast brothers were. Someday, it’ll all be better. Someday we’ll bounce back.

I needed to break away from that apologetic mindset. I needed to see what else this country has to offer, before I was too scared to leave myself. Scared to leave those comfortable rolling catskill mountains, which funnel lazily into the river that flows two ways, pouring towards the greatest city in the universe.

But I had to leave. So at the very least, I could have the pleasure of coming back, and appreciating those glowing coals which make New York so special to begin with. And I can see it all for what it really is, without fear.