Five Year New York-iversary
When I (finally) moved to New York five years ago, I wrote, "I guess I'm really getting old because at least once a day I think: where did the time go? I'm sure in the blink of an eye I'll be thinking the same thing about my first five years as a New Yorker, but for now I'm trying to enjoy my first five days."
I did enjoy those first five days—I slept on my friend's couch until I found a sublet, went to Long Island for the first time, watched the Macy's fireworks from New Jersey (where I took the photo above, still one of my favorites) and discovered the home goods wonderland of Fishs Eddy. At the time, so many things in my life had changed quite rapidly—but also torturously slow, because sudden changes have their ways of stretching time. I found myself without a job, without a home, without a plan and for what felt like the first time in my life, I was rootless.
I've been immersing myself in Angels in America lately and nothing has proven to be more true in my life than the thought that, "In this world, there’s a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead." Change is painful but essential. As Kushner writes, "the world only spins forward," and we can dig in our heels like a cat on a leash or shed our skins and move onward.
I shed many skins over the course of my move, some of which I had no idea I had until I felt them peel away. I've spoken often about my love for New York on this blog but I don't ever want to delude myself about its power. New York is a magical place, at times, sure—but the changes I made originated inside of myself.
“Harper: In your experience of the world. How do people change?
Mormon Mother: Well it has something to do with God so it's not very nice.
God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It's up to you to do the stitching.
Harper: And then up you get. And walk around.
Mormon Mother: Just mangled guts pretending.
Harper: That's how people change.”
- Angels in America, Perestroika
For an incalculable amount of time after I moved to New York, I felt like I was "just mangled guts pretending." I was homesick for a home I knew wasn't healthy for me and I missed people that I knew didn't miss me. I was dealing with a medical bombshell that I still haven't fully processed, five years later. But there was painful progress—I got that apartment and that job and had awkward first encounters with people that eventually blossomed into meaningful friendships and relationships. Then I got another apartment and another job, and then another apartment and another job—and each time I stitched myself back together, something is lost but something is gained, and time marches on.
Try as I might to imagine the future, I had no idea what my life would be like after five years in New York when I wrote that post within the first five days. Recent events have made me feel deeply sad for this country but I firmly believe that we cannot move backwards. We are in control only of ourselves and how we treat others and we have to do better. But change won't be easy and it won't be painless.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of 'remembering when you wanted what you currently have' and trying to be grateful for this life that I've made for myself—a life that I had romanticized for so long that I was blindsided by the pain inherent in its acquisition. Even now, I sometimes still find myself longing for what I've left behind, and it's a strange feeling to miss something that I so longed to be rid of. But, I know that I'm a better, stronger, kinder person not in spite of my past, but because of it—and I can only dream of what's ahead.