When I moved to New York, I said I would never leave. I was entranced by the people, the places, and the things being done. It’s a city where you can avoid boredom, where you can spend a whole day people watching, where you can live spontaneously. I believed the old adage, if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. I imagined myself as one of the old New York women I saw on the street, wizened and with a touch (or appropriate heaping) of cynicism.
Now, I don’t think my claim of never leaving is necessarily true. At the very least, I no longer say “never.” Whether this is due to a certain disillusionment around this city, or symptomatic of a new kind of mindset I’m trying to adopt, I’m not totally sure. But I’m inclined to think it’s the latter.
So often, things in life don’t go as planned. As someone that has historically been a planner, this has not always been an enjoyable fact of life. I think in the last year, leading up in particular to the past few months, I have rebelled against that in the completely appropiate (read: illogical) way of planning more on things that can’t really be planned, and then inevitably incurring added stress and anxiety. I developed the talent of taking the simplest of things, such as dinner, and making them representative of something so much larger when that thing could, simply, just be dinner. Somewhere along the way, I realized the thoughts I was thinking to try and make myself feel better were in fact making me feel worse. So I tried to adjust. I knew I wouldn’t be able to completely change my natural inclination towards some points of certainty, but that I could very much shift my perspective to a more productive, less stress-inducing one.
I was texting with a friend this weekend about a situation I’ve found myself in (~ cryptic ~), and I said: “Ok! I have had my daily thoughts on this. I know I can keep going on forever but I’m really working on compartmentalizing (in a healthy way) and not letting something I can’t control take over my thoughts.” Her response: “Exactly. What ya gonna do. Nothing right this second.”And she was, as she usually is, right. This is not to say forward thinking is bad; just that, there is so much out of our control, and it is hardly productive to spend too much energy on those things. Whether I will always live in New York is, broadly, one of those things.
Yesterday, I walked home with my friend Eva who had recently expressed annoyance with New York. “I’m leaving,” she told me. We were on 2nd street, headed East, and we passed one of the many community gardens in the East Village. There was a crowd inside, so we paused, curious, at the entrance, and listened to the jazz players and respectful hush among this gathering of strangers. When we left, Eva made a noise and I couldn’t help but smile knowingly. “Ok, maybe I’m not leaving just yet,” she said.
This month marks my fourth year in this city. Rather than imposing an absolute, I’m trying to live as if I am both leaving and not leaving. And addressing my shifting thoughts around New York has helped me as I address how much else in my life is shifting; a lot is up in the air, so little is certain, and most things I can’t predict. I might leave New York in the next few years; I might never leave. But for now, I am here.