Sunday, August 21, 2011

it's only just hitting me that i don't live in new york anymore.

i felt at home in new york in a way that i've never felt anywhere else. i would fly back to the city after being away and the second i slipped into a cab, sunk low in my seat and watched the buildings roll by -- first brownstones then skyscrapers -- i would take a deep breath, suck it all in, and then exhale for the first time since i left. i felt anonymous among the crowds and lost in the labyrinth of its many neighborhoods. it was no place for self importance or absorption. i was no one and that humbling feeling empowered me to become whatever i wanted. and so, with nothing to focus on but surviving and thriving, i found a home for myself in the city's streets, parks, libraries, classrooms, bars, movie theaters, museums and subways. i felt at all times like a visitor in those places (because no one owns that city) but always at home. i understand why now.

new york offers people like me, who felt they had so outgrown whatever place they were coming from that they could not bear to stay another day, a constant challenge. it's a challenge to find an apartment, learn to navigate, buy groceries, work long hours and make friends, yes, but the real challenge is in making that time between morning coffee and evening collapse worth something. i don't think it's possible to live there and not hate it just as much as you fall deeply in love with it, and i don't think it's possible to not be changed by it. new york fit so well because my life there was only mine. i created it and every day i carved it out and discovered a new part of myself in it, until i was completely found. while i was busy trying to get by, having breakdowns, never sleeping, having the time of my life, falling in love or just chopping vegetables in my kitchen, i wasn't dwelling on myself (probably for the first time in my life) but i was going through the greatest growth i have yet to experience. by the time i left i had found a portable, constant home inside of myself and a landscape that would allow me to live there.

despite how terrible everything was at times, i had inner calm and outer focus by the end of it.

when i see chelsea on tv i say, "that's my neighborhood!" even though my time there was short and feels like a lifetime ago now. chelsea will always be mine because i walked its piers and breathed for the first time in my life. that first night in my apartment on 24th i walked to whole foods to stock up and felt absolutely elated, happier and more peaceful that i had ever felt in my life, full of more potential than i ever imagined possible. i enrolled my son in p.s. 11 and walked him down 8th ave. every morning. after he left i fought every single day to pull on my boots and trudge through the snow, to come home and watch the olympics alone, to go through a long distance breakup and to work long, hard hours while facing disillusionment. i cried, i broke down and i lived on rice for a month. i earned chelsea.

in brooklyn i actually was home. swinny and sam gave me a family. prospect park gave me sunshine and green grass and danielle and baby k. the roof of my building and the walls of #apt2b hold more meaning for me than words can do justice. those days, those bonds are a part of who i am now, and it feels very strange to be separated from them. there are other things, like the cathartic trips to new jersey when i could barely get out bed, strolling through moma's galleries after hours and the red line between crown heights and washington heights, that make me feel as though i lived out several lifetimes while i was there. of course i didn't. i didn't even do anything spectacular and then, of course, i had to leave.

now i'm in dallas, where i am nearly overtaken by negative feelings every time i drive into the city. i'm stressed out by the traffic, the heat, the lack of jobs and by having to watch people with inflated egos take advantage of each other. i've become reclusive, sticking to days with b and nights on the couch with taso. as long as i'm home with them, i'm very happy... but i'm uncomfortable. i suppose this is where i take all of those wonderful things i learned in new york and apply them in a less ideal environment. i can do that. i am doing that. it's just that...

sometimes i miss new york so much it hurts deep in my gut. i long for the steam rising out of the underground, the slow elevator rides, the unavoidable and constant contact with the world around me and the daily challenge to keep going, take one more day of it, succeed or go home. wherever that is.

No comments:

Post a Comment