What Exit?


So, as the joke goes: “Oh, you’re from Jersey? What exit?”

It, of course, refers to the exit off the Garden State Parkway, which, mock if you will, but  I must say it is quite a lovely drive. Yes, the parkway is a toll road and all, but with EZ Pass it’s a breeze. there are no lights, and it’s mostly tree-lined so it looks pretty (unlike the Turnpike which is a whole other ball of industrial wax). And most importantly, it gets you “down the shore” (’cause that’s how we roll here in Jersey)  in the summertime! Woo hoo.

I don’t mind, really. Being from Jersey, that is. Yes, I suppose we are considered sort of second class citizens to New Yorkers. I would explainto my California friends that New Yorkers look at folks from Jersey like LA folks look at people from “The Valley.” But I’m okay with that.

I’ve never been a New Yorker wannabe. Yes, New York has its own brand of awesomeness for sure, but I’m just not a city girl. I would half brag I was from Soprano territory when explaining where in Jersey I was from (exit 151 if you must know) but truth be told, I consider myself a Sussex County girl as that’s where I spent the bulk of my formative years. It’s a more rural and less congested and very pretty part of the state. It’s in the northwest corner of Jersey. “You can spit into Pennsylvania” is how my dad would explain it.

There’s no cachet. And there’s no exit.

I once found a blog with a “You Know You’re From Sussex County When…”, post that cracked me up. Included on this list is “you’ve futilely tried to explain that the Parkway goes nowhere near your house, and you don’t designate your town with an exit.”

Nevertheless, I’ve always been proud to be a Jersey girl. The coolest thing about Jersey, besides The Boss, is that you can refer to it as just that– Jersey. Try that with the other “New” states. Doesn’t work. You can’t take a ride to Hampshire for the weekend to watch the leaves turn. You can’t be in a York state of mind. And Mexico? Well, you get the idea.

No, of course I didn’t come up with that all on my own. I read it in one of those email fowards that’s probably been sent to and from every person in Jersey that enumerates all the great things about Jersey and the cool people who have come from here. Strangely, though, I was not on that list. But I digress.

I will always have a fondness in my heart for Sussex County, and if I could talk  my husband into it, we would be living there. Sadly, though (or maybe not), we must go where the work is, so I am learning a whole new part of Jersey: Bergen County.  I got very nervous about living here because I am not familiar with it at all, but my husband reminded me that I moved across the country and learned to find my way around a whole new state, so what’s the problem?  For the sake of his commute, I acquiesced and we found ourselves a cute little place in a town called Fair Lawn. It has these walking paths all around and a great park and a community pool at the end of the street we live on. Of course the highways and parking here are congested and complete craziness, but I’m getting used to it. To make up for it, I have back what I miss most about our Studio City townhouse in CA– we’re in WALKING DISTANCE to things. There’s a Panera and a 24-hour CVS just up the street.

It took us a good month and a half to really get moved in, but it finally feels like home. For the first time in a long time, I am not living among boxes and clutter. We still consider this temporary and our goal is to buy a “permanent” home by the time Charlie goes off to Kindergarten (which is a loooong time from now and won’t be here in the blink of an eye, right??), but for now, I’m pretty content.

The hardest part is living so far away from my mother. I hated leaving her, but it was time. Naturally, I worry about her just about every. single. day. (But don’t tell her that. She doesn’t like it when I worry. Even though I got that damn worry gene from her! ) We live about an hour and forty minutes from her, which kinda sucks, but I guess it’s better than a five hour plane ride. *Sigh.

The other hard part is trying not to owe Home Goods and Target my first born (thankfully, that would be the dog). Holy crap is moving expensive! Forget the U-Haul and even any new furniture you have to buy (we needed a new couch). It’s the little things– bath mats and trash cans and toilet scrubbers and window treatments and all the we-need-something-for-this-spot, and the you-know-what-would-go-great-here? type crap that is giving my credit card a workout when it totally does not need one because I am still unemployed!

Anyway, aside from the heart palpitations when the Visa bill arrives, I’m feeling pretty good about life right now. Yes, I still need a job, but am working toward getting more clear on what I want and I’m in a better place to do that.  And I still look forward to the day when we can buy a new place that we will be in for the next 20 years, but I am choosing right now to focus on the whole enjoying the journey thing which I’m getting a little better at (I think).

So there you have it. I guess this was a rambly post. Mostly a roundabout way of saying, “Yep, I’m from Jersey. Exit 160 thankyouverymuch.”

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Kelly Stevens
Categories : journeys in life


  1. Lisa Kelly says:

    Well finally a post! :)
    A good one at that. You did spell Jersey wrong once so I know your editor self will want to fix that.


    Kelly Reply:

    Thanks, Lisa. Fixed it :-)


  2. Helene says:

    I worked in WAYNE for years and if I remember correctly, Fair Lawn was not that far away. I still have a SUPER-GREAT friend from way back when that I visit whenever I go “east” and she lives in Oakland. I guess I will be adding the Stevens family to my list of MUST-SEES if I EVER get back there :)

    Something about Bergen County always struck me as wonderful. Although I could never afford the TAXES there (hence the reason they are rated pretty much at the TOP of the scale in education) I did always love it!

    Jersey Girls always left me with the idea that they were “cooler” than New York girls but maybe it’s just because I came from such a rinky dinky town in New York!!! I also remember meeting the Jersey Girls in bars on the border because we used to be able to drink at 18 and our bars were far more inviting as a result!

    So enjoy exit 160, I know it’s a great exit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    Kelly Reply:

    Yes, Helenie! New Jersey has the second highest property taxes in the nation! And Bergen County is probably the most expensive county in the state (rivals Essex, which is where I’d really like to buy. But Bergen County also has the blue laws so no mall shopping on Sundays!


  3. Irene Landon says:

    It is very lovely where you live Kelly. So family oriented. It is too bad that Jersey is so expensive because I’ve always been proud to call myself “A Jersey Girl” (hence my shirt). And I agree, Sussex County,is one of New Jersey’s best kept secrets. I had my doubts when we moved up there in ’77 because dad wanted to but I’ve never regretted it (except for the first year when I had to get used to its “ruralness”.) I’m so glad you have such fond memories! And Quit Worrying About ME!!!!


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