There's no place like home, right?
With Dorothy as a middle name after the grandma I never met, it's hard to resist a "Wizard of Oz" reference.
Home for me is Massapequa, but I've left Long Island twice -- the first time for college in the Bronx and then to move to Manhattan. Many in my generation are leaving our hometowns to live in the boroughs our families fled. Then there are others trying out new states entirely and some never leaving their parents' homes.CartoonMatt Davies' latest cartoon: Bill and Donald's bindersCommentSubmit your letterReader essaysGet published in Newsday
What does this say about us? About Long Island?
I'm part of a generation that Long Island's economists and developers are trying to figure out. Good luck -- pinning definitive demographic trends on millennials is no easy task.
I was trying to escape Long Island before it was even my home. When I was 2, I woke up screaming in the middle of the night at my aunt and uncle's Massapequa house and forced my uncle to drive me back to Howard Beach, where my parents and I lived.
We moved to Massapequa a few years after, and I experienced that there really is no childhood like one on Long Island -- sandy summer days at Tobay Beach, sticky ice cream nights at Krisch's in Massapequa, fall apple picking at Lewin Farms in Wading River, holiday trips to the Milleridge Inn Village, spring bike rides up to Bethpage State Park, hours cheering, "Red, white, fight!" on football and soccer fields.
But there's also no place like Long Island in a far less flattering sense. A few months ago, I hit a quarter-life crisis. An Upper West Side apartment and a Long Island job offer, and with it the question: Should I come back?
A few concerns crossed my mind:
The myopic mentality. Long Island is riddled with potholes, an annoying accent and mind-boggling nepotism. It's where my ignorant guidance counselor said the good college I chose might as well have a drug dealer as a mascot. It's a place of constant sameness, where I lived years before college without a single encounter with a black person, where everyone I grew up with had the same skin color, religion and tax bracket.
The struggling economy. It's where I saw it take months and even years for qualified new journalists, teachers, nurses and engineers to find jobs here -- some never doing so. It's a place that has hurt workers of all ages and where business innovation is limited (Seamless? Uber? Missing!).
The scarce housing. It's a place that severely lacks housing options for my age group that don't involve living with our parents or paying more than we can realistically afford. It's where many homeowners illegally rent basements to make ends meet, while simultaneously opposing rental complexes in many neighborhoods.
The missing pieces. It's a place that's missing so much that I love about living in New York City -- the vibrant millennial culture of running clubs, young-adult church groups and intramural sports for 20-somethings that we don't have on Long Island.
Is this a place I wanted to come back to? . . . It is.
Because before that screaming episode when I was 2, it was the place where I first felt total awe as my family and I drove around the dollhouse cottages at LIU Post.
It's the place where Instagram can't capture the full beauty of its beach sunsets. It's where I watched my parish's outreach volunteers help our neediest put their lives back together. It's where I get to reminisce with my lifelong friends while watching our favorite bands at Jones Beach. And it's the place where my family is every Sunday for lovingly loud Italian dinners, the family I never wanted to be away from even when I left.
Long Island is home, and being Dorothy's namesake, I should've known she was always right -- there's really no place like it.
Amanda Fiscina is a web producer for Newsday Opinion, and today she makes her debut as a columnist offering a millennial voice on the realities of living on Long Island. She will contrast public policy issues she learns about working with the editorial board with real-life experiences. Follow her on Twitter at @adfiscina.