It feels like yesterday that I was sitting in my driveway with my grandma, Camille, alongside my brother watching the traffic go by on 69th Street. Queens was my birthplace, and it will always hold a special place in my heart, but even at such a young age, I knew I wanted something different.
I longed for the life on TV shows where the kids on the block knew each other and played in the street after school. That was one crux of living on the main road along. Instead of counting the clouds, I counted the number of weekly car accidents.
As I grew and my dreams started to take shape, I set my eyes on what I thought was the ultimate prize, Long Island.
The years flew by faster than I could have ever imagined and in the snap of a finger, I graduated from Queens College. I was set and ready to attend St. John’s University, when I finally realized the answer was in front of me the entire time. Without putting any more thought into it, I applied for the communications master’s program at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury. I was hoping for a change of scenery that wasn’t too far from home. What I got was so much more than that.
It was at that point that I started spending most of my time on Long Island. I didn’t dorm, but I spent almost all my days working on campus as a teacher’s assistant or visiting the cafes of different Barnes and Nobles across Long Island. Between my breaks at school, I would continually write the manuscript to my first book.
I slowly fell in love with the scenery, the parking spaces, and the sense of community that Long Island offered. This impacted me so much that I even wrote Long Island into my first novel, published in late 2019. I had plans to start my moving with a friend in spring 2020, but COVID-19 thwarted my plans.
I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and looking back on it now, it did. The housing prices became reasonable as the pandemic progressed and two of my friends from college purchased a home in West Babylon this past January. With a bit of elbow grease, they made their newly purchased home into a fine lodging. I was asked to live with them and jumped at the chance. They bought their first home at 24 and I moved out of my house for the first time at 25. Who would have thought?
Long Island finally gave me the sense of community I’ve been longing for. My culture means everything to me and I’m proud to say that I’ve met plenty of Italian Americans. My neighbors are happy to see me and always genuinely wave hello. I live in front of a peacefully quiet road where everyone parks in their driveway. Should I ever need extra space, there’s a plethora of parking on the street. You could only imagine how hard it was to park a ’78 Cadillac at 9 p.m. in Queens.