Personal Essay

The old island’s worth

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 6:30pm

When I was a boy, I knew of not many things outside the ocean-lined bluffs that skirt Block Island’s shore. A secluded little oasis just 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island is where I was fortunate enough to call home. It is a place as historically rich as the seasonal homeowners, who come from all around, and who live in some of the most beautiful homes in New England — with views to match. The island was first settled by natives, and then colonized in 1661, and since has become a summertime paradise for many. But as locals struggle to make ends meet in the wintertime, it can quickly become a fleeting paradise once Columbus Day nears.

I had six kids in my class at the Block Island School growing up. It was with these kids I built sibling-like bonds that I cherish to this day. As my early years progressed, it was with nearly the entire island community that I had the pleasure to cultivate very similar bonds, that, very well, shaped me into who I am today. As I grew, it was if I saw the island, too, grow. Before my very own eyes, the island grew around me, and after 18 years of inhabitance, one with the island I became. Until about the third grade was all I had of a normal home life. My parents untimely split was easily overshadowed, however, by an embracive school system, that with the knowledge of what was going on at home, wrapped me and made me feel like school was my escape. I was so fortunate for this type of experience. With more years gaining under my belt, and time healing the wounds, as it tends to do, I became enthralled with the history and the culture of my hometown. 

I learned of the old ways. The way the men and women used to work the land and the sea. These elders of mine worked harder than anyone, because that was their survival. These stories and virtues, passed to me by the carefully cultivated relationships from the island, showed me more about life than any brick and mortar establishment could in 100 years. I am sure of it.

As I continue to grow, I see that kind of traditional work on the island I love, fading. The farmers and the fishermen are nearly all gone, and I wonder if the new inhabitants of the island have any idea of what kind of wealth — the dirt they are standing on — holds for me. Not for what it is now, but for when it held its real value. The real value that resides with my hometown is the culture that has been passed for generations: hard work and not a thing unearned. It is these traits I most passionately carry with me in my day-to-day life.

To the men and women who continue to pour hours of labor and passion into the island community, the true pulse of the island, I applaud you and I look up to you all. I am continually inspired by efforts put forth to keep the working class alive and well on Block Island. My hope is to one day offer my passion for the island fully back to the community.

For now, at age 22, I am excited to take on a new chapter in my life, a second shot at college courses. I am certain, with a newfound determination, a drive for academics, and faith in my upbringing, I doubt there is anything that could hold me back.