Given the fact that we just celebrated the 4th of July, a holiday focused on the birth of our country, its independence, and our patriotism, I have been observing the fact that there are a few things we Americans are all about. We love junk food, football, and day drinking. We like thinking we are the best at anything, and even more so, love finding ways to become the best while investing the least amount of effort possible. We love saving those less fortunate than us, using our size and power to protect them. We love cotton candy and cotton, especially if we can eat the former while dressed head to toe in the latter. We love fireworks, hotdogs, and bonfires. All of these things are great, and likely each deserving of their own blog post, but for today I want to focus on this. We, as Americans, love milestones and their celebrations.
So, as such, today it feels appropriate to celebrate the milestone that it has been one year since I began a big scary journey. Actually, realistically, it wasn’t big or scary. I sold my house, moved my life into storage, and moved myself into New York City. I traded a three bedroom, 2000 sq. foot house with a porch, and deck, and a fenced in yard for a studio apartment not much bigger than the unit I was renting back “home” for all of my belongings. I emptied all of the memories out of my first house on Eldorado Street. I said goodbye to my friends who felt like family. I left a job that I loved full of people I respected. I filled my grocery cart one last time at Wegmans. I bought comfortable shoes and I piled a few bins of clothes into my car with my mom for the drive to New York City.
I remember crossing the George Washington Bridge, the city skyline visible to the south as we drove over the Hudson. I remember Washington Heights, and driving down Riverside to the 80’s, admiring the quaint streets and quaint families that inhabited them. I remember being excited by the noise, the hustle, and the infinite options of unknown.
I remember mourning what I was leaving behind, all while hoping, trusting, expecting for it to be replaced with things equally good, maybe even something more, something better.
I am a dreamer, a big thinker, a make-believer. But no game of dress-ups in my childhood, or daydreaming in my adolescence had prepared me to imagine what I would find here this year.
It was probably mid-August before it happened the first time. It was likely a day off. I am sure the sun was shining. I left my apartment, perhaps on an errand, or perhaps, with nowhere special to go. As I walked, the sun hit my face and filled me with warmth. A smile spread across my face and I am sure I giggled like a little girl. I was just so happy to be here. It was a joy I had forgotten, or had maybe never known in my life before.
It was mid-October when a friend from Syracuse texted to ask how I was. I was moving out of my studio and into a one bedroom apartment. I had just survived the famed New York nightmare of finding and renting an apartment. I had sold both of my kidneys and that of my father and a friend to secure the lease of a rent controlled apartment. (There may not have actually been organ procurement involved, but it sure felt that way at the time.) In addition, between first, last, security deposit, and a broker’s fee, I had about $200 in my bank account. My grandmother had saved the day with a loan, my mother had driven a 14ft truck through city streets, and I was finally going to have a kitchen again.
I feel authentic.
I told her.
I had shrunk myself down to fit my life before. I felt like I was constantly changing myself to make things fit right, instead of changing those other things. I finally, for the first time in years, feel completely, authentically, me.
And that has not only continued, but has grown. It feels like longer than a year. The girl I was before feels farther away than last July. I miss my Syracuse friends everyday, and lately I really miss the deck and the grill, and the yard at Eldorado. But the fit I found in the last year, the me I found, and the life I built, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
I could not possibly have known it yet, but last year, as I drove across the bridge, down Riverside, and turned left toward the park, I wasn’t just moving, I was moving home.