It dawned on me when I was sitting in my international relations class for the very first time. At first, it was just a detail: “I’m from South New Jersey.”
Normal enough, right?
But then it happened again: “I’m from Central New Jersey—yes, it really exists.”
That got a round of lighthearted laughter.
Again: “I’m from Central New Jersey—no it’s not Narnia, it’s a real place.”
A few smiles.
I watched in amazement.
“I’m from Maryland.”
“North New Jersey.”
Now it was my turn. What was I going to say? Would I abide to this silent rule of clarifying where in New Jersey I hailed from, or would I show the class that I was a believer in a unified New Jersey? Would I rise above and let my fellow classmates know that I considered New Jersey to be a single unit, the proud state of Pork Roll and Bruce Springsteen?
“I’m from Central New Jersey,” I found myself saying.
And thus, my fate was sealed. Not only my fate, but the concept of a divided New Jersey was once again affirmed in the minds of my fellow Gettysburgians.
Yet the idea seemed so silly. What had driven my fellow New Jerseyians to feel as though they had to include the detail of where they were from in the land of Bon Jovi? No one else from any other state had felt the need. No one said: “I’m from Maryland—southern Maryland.” No, they just said: “I’m from Maryland.” The end. Short and sweet.
And yet even though we New Jerseyians decided to separate ourselves from each other, we come together to defend our state from those who bestow upon us negative comments about our home.
“New Jersey, aren’t you guys the armpit of America?”
And we feel so compelled to explain ourselves: “Well, yes, there are some parts of New Jersey that aren’t so nice, but there are some nice parts. I promise you there are.”
For one small moment we are New Jerseyians, no distinction about where in our beloved Garden State we reside. And then the moment shatters as if it was all just a silly illusion. We go around in class and introduce ourselves, share our class year, and include where we’re from:
“I’m from Central New Jersey. It’s a real place.” – A Central New Jerseyian
The author of this article would like to remain anonymous.