The Findings of Holly Finigan
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“How did you end up here?”
We’ve all heard this question time and time again living on Nantucket. And there are countless fascinating answers. We all came to Nantucket for different reasons. Many of us were born here. Some came because a friend of a friend told them about this island. Others fell onto the Rock because of a landscaping or waitressing job opportunity. Some “washashores” arrived for a girl’s weekend and stayed for two years. Others thought about postponing the city life and extended their stay at Surfside way past when their dreams faded of becoming a broker on Wall Street or owning a boutique on Fifth Avenue.
A very wise friend once told me, islands are finding yourself, or losing yourself. Here is how I found myself on Nantucket. I was born in Concord, Mass., and have two sisters, and parents who divorced before I knew what that word meant. I grew up in Hanover, N.H., which is where my grandparents retired as my single mother wanted to be closer to them. I wore a back brace for seven years from scoliosis. I was a nerdy and gangly teenager, and that is actually putting it nicely. I played the piano while all the cooler kids played soccer. I had braces in high school. And yes, I had a back brace and braces on my teeth for ninth and 10th grade. I wrote in countless journals and always took 10 books out of the Howe library, which was the limit per person, per week.
I had a beer for the first time when I was 16, and I thought it tasted like rotten ginger ale. I applied to all Southern colleges in hopes of reinventing myself someplace far, far away from Hanover. I got wait-listed everywhere except my safety state school. I dragged my heels and transfer papers to Durham, N.H. where I studied journalism at UNH. They failed to mention in Newswriting 101 that journalism means career bartending in the “Real World.” I began working as a bar-back at an Irish pub. I excelled at selling Guinness and smiling at everyone. I wrote for the UNH newspaper and had my own column. I joined a sorority and met my “big sister” who was a (gasp!) Nantucket native. I loved every moment at UNH and reluctantly graduated in May of 2005.
Then, there was the summer that changed everything.
My first summer after college, my sorority big sister invited me to live with her family out at Cisco. I moved to Nantucket the weekend before Memorial Day and got stuck in Hyannis for the first two days trying to get over to the island due to high winds and a nor’easter. (Shocking, right?) I arrived on Nantucket just in time for Figawi weekend. I worked my tail off at Schooner’s Restaurant for three months. I fell in love with the island, but to prove that I was “above” waiting tables with my college degree, I moved to Boston, trying to do the whole health-insurance-salary-”Real-World” thing. I hated it and arrived back on Nantucket the following May with a permanent grin.
I spent the last five seasons bartending at fine-dining establishments like the Brant Point Grille, Lo La 41, and Corazon del Mar. I took the winters as an opportunity to see the world, traveling through the Caribbean, New Zealand, Hawaii, Argentina and Uruguay.
As for this off-season? Well, that’s the real story.
This winter, I might just take that Cape Air flight to Hyannis for a movie. Maybe I’ll walk the full seven miles at Sanford Farm. Or perhaps I’ll finally just check out the Whaling Museum.
I’m staying for my first real Nantucket winter. The good, (Stroll) the bad, (4 p.m. sunsets) and the ugly (March, right?)
And although I may not be anyone’s travel muse this coming off-season, I am more in love with Nantucket than ever. So why leave for greener pastures when my whole self has been found along the shores of Madaket?
And so begin the Findings of Holly Finigan.