The Joy of the Hamptons

Written By: Alex Cohen

It is hard to overstate the importance of the Hamptons as a motif in the story of my life thus far. When I was little my family’s house in East Hampton was my happy place, after that my grandfather’s house in Amagansett was my happy place, after that for a while I had no happy place, and now, well, I am trying to pick up my happy place and take it with me. It feels odd to talk about our house in East Hampton with such admiration, but to color the past with my opinions of present would be to do a disservice to it. As a five-year-old I put my brains to work deducing that Santa wasn’t real, and then conducting experiments, staying up through the night with my older brother Michael, to prove it. I loved our house in the Hamptons. I was so much happier there than anywhere else, and even though my parents fought, I thought it was normal. I thought that my parents fought like all parents fight. Little did I know that what was going on behind closed doors would change my life forever.

I have to credit my parents for my intelligence. My mom and my dad are both exceptionally smart. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me at the time, my dad’s occasional fits of rage belied much deeper problems, and in 2008 my parents divorced. With the divorce, my parents traded my happy place for lawyers, therapists, and school counselors. And our lives turned into a war zone. I did not know it, but my father, suffering from his own abuse as a child, was determined to terrorize and destroy my mother to punish her for leaving him. I was afraid that my dad would murder us, and so we moved into my grandmother’s house and slept on futons for 6 months. I started putting on weight and stopped trying in school. During several years of visits with my dad, he would try to extract information from my brother and I. My grades were slipping, and every time I tried to pick myself up, it seemed my father was there to drag me right back down. I was court-ordered to see my father every week, often for days at a time. Among all of this, my only respite was when my mom, my brother, and I would take a week each year if we were lucky to go to my grandfather’s house in Amagansett. Those days kept me sane.

In High School, it seemed like everyone was against me. I was bullied by other students, teachers, and my dad. It seemed that I had nowhere to turn, and during my sophomore year, the darkest year of my life thus far, I struggled to get out of bed each morning and find meaning in a life where most days seemed to only bring me more pain. It seemed that everywhere I turned there were people trying to convince me that the only way to get ahead in the world was by stepping on the backs of others. Yet, every day, I came to school and fought through the pain on my own, but in the darkness, there was some light because that year I made the decision to transfer into the class of the most feared English teacher at my high school: Dr. Rowes. She taught grammar in her classes, made her students address her as Dr. rather than Ms., and made every student say thank you when she called on them.

Dr. Rowes was amazed by my ability to analyze literature. All of the years that I had spent being antagonized by my father had not been in vain. I understood from a young age that nobody was going to come along and save me from my circumstances, so I decided that I would earn back everything that I had lost throughout the course of my parents’ divorce. Only this time it would be better. I would earn everything back on my own terms. I would make sure that I would never become an abuser like my father, or let myself be abused like my mother. One day maybe I would even have my own summer home in the Hamptons that nobody could sell without my permission. In order to accomplish that vision I learned to think for myself and adapt to whatever challenges life threw my way. It was that ability to think outside of the box that Dr. Rowes took notice of.
Despite my lackluster high school GPA, I scored well on the SAT, and with Dr. Rowes’ help, I was admitted to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where I am about to start my second year. The colleges are great, and the finger lakes remind me a little bit of the Hamptons. Since being admitted to Hobart I have had the necessary distance from my family and from the past to turn a corner. I am currently pursuing a math and economics double major and using my ability to think outside of the box to try and give more people the opportunity to experience the kind of happiness that I did as a kid in the Hamptons. Last semester I earned a 4.0 GPA as well as a spot on the Dean’s List, a membership to the colleges’ finance society, and an invitation to help other students with their writing through the colleges’ writing colleagues program.

The memories of the great times I had in the Hamptons as a child are what motivate me to build a better life for myself, my future progeny, and other people who have dealt with hardships similar to mine. The good times I had as a kid: canoeing to louse point, digging giant holes on Indian Wells Beach that my brother and I could fit into, Catching minnows and krill at fresh pond with nets and buckets, collecting snails in those buckets only to discover later that they had all crawled up the sides and out the top, picking apples in the backyard, and learning math from my father at the side of my parents’ bed one afternoon. Those experiences represent the best moments of my childhood, and they all happened in and around the Hamptons. As a child, the Hamptons were the place that I could go to relax, have fun, and be free from all of the worries of city life. One day I hope to have those experiences again and bring other people with me so that they too can experience the joy of the Hamptons.