Greetings everyone! I know that it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything, and for that I make no excuses other than to say that it’s been a little busy lately.
For those of you looking for the conclusion to my South American Odyssey, fear not. I’ve got several things waiting in the wings and will back-post them so they appear after the current stuff.
As most of you know, I’m now in New York with a new job, and I move into my new apartment in Brooklyn today! I’m ready to have my own digs again and get settled into a routine.
I’ve been reading a lot of modern British fiction lately, mostly on the subway to and from work in Midtown, and am starting to think that I should design a course about it including my recent reading materials: Atonement and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Of course, Virginia Woolf has been on my mind as well, adding another dimension to the turbulent consciousnesses at play in my fictional frame of mind. With this as a caveat, today was a good day.
I haven’t had a good day in a while. Let me qualify that to say that I also haven’t really had a bad day in a while. I’ve been floating, carried along by the tide of my life and its responsibilities, without much of a thought to how I was really doing. The shock of moving to New York is starting to wear off, and the multiple new elements of my current life are becoming familiar with varying speeds. Getting used to being around Rachael and Mandi took nearly no time at all, as was expected. Equilibrating to the subway, life in the big city, and the logistics of life without cars and box stores took a little while, but it was the good kind of adjustment. I finally deposited a paycheck in the bank, for the first time in nearly 12 months, alleviating near financial disaster and credit card debt.
Then today, I finally got comfortable at work. Not only do I feel more confident in meetings and have started to express my opinion, I’ve had some real conversations that made me feel more connected to the people at the office, and I bonded with the interns about traveling and Harry Potter. I’m in this bizarre age no mans’s land at work: the interns are all several years younger and still in college, but most of the staff is 30+. Makes it a little harder to find immediate common ground, so when something does come along it feels good.
And I can tell you it feels pretty fucking good to have an apartment.
It’s small, and my bedroom is even smaller (no really, it’s tiny), but it’s freshly remodeled with a phat phridge and high-btu gas range. That almost makes up for the galley-sized kitchen and the room that I’m not even sure will fit a full bed. It’s small, but it’s mine, and I found it thanks to weeks of grueling searching. I discovered it with my own brain and judgment amidst the swirling chaos-filled vortex of the New York City housing market, designed to suck the soul and money out of anyone who dares approach.
Last night, I felt the excitement building as I drove north through Brooklyn from my current “home” near Prospect Park. I passed Grand Army Plaza for the first time and had a (nearly) subconscious flashback of Harry and Sally standing in front of the huge archway after their marathon drive to the Big Apple. Brooklyn seemed to welcome me, and then it smacked me around a little for being wide-eyed and enthusiastic, like any good New Yorker would. Due to nighttime driving and me not being quite aggressive enough in a minivan at traffic circles, what should have been a 10-15 minute drive turned into 25 as I zig-zagged my way towards what I hoped was my apartment. Eventually I honed in on Clinton and Dekalb, snagging a parking space directly in front of my new front door. I sped up the five flights of rickety stairs (not yet remodeled, unlike our spanking new apartment) and found to my delight that not only the electricity and gas were on (I have no idea who has been paying the utility bills), but all the ceiling fans have cute little remote controls on the walls. Throwing open the windows to the cool night air, the first non-rainy non-sauna-like evening that we’ve had in a few weeks, I did a giddy little dance in the living room before taking a couple of loads of my stuff out of the van. The thought of my things in the back of the car sitting on the street in New York had been in the corner of my mind all week, and there was a part of me that kind of expected to come back every evening and see a window smashed and all my stuff gone. Now, that little corner of my mind is free again!
Once I had satisfied my need to fill the blank canvas of the new apartment, I decided that not only would hauling stuff up the stairs be more pleasant on this refreshing summer night, but that being on the roof would be too. I turned out the lights in the apartment, went into the stuffy hallway to make sure that all the locks worked, closed the door and climbed the 1/2 flight of stairs leading to the roof. Pushing tentatively on the door to see how it opened, I swung it wide open once I discovered it had no locking mechanism that might trap me out of the building. Then, I stepped out onto the spongy surface, not sure if I was allowed to be there, or if the old roof would support my weight. I walked over the ceiling of our apartment to compare the view from my bedroom window (not much different than what I see from one floor below), then walked around the stairwell’s skylight and faced south.
The lights of downtown Brooklyn sparkled at me through the clear dry air and I turned slowly to get the panoramic view: the diffuse aura of Manhattan rising mauve up from behind the nearest buildings’ silhouettes, the Chrysler building glowing at me from an alley, and the stars desperately competing with the mass of luminosity produced by this city to sustain its nearly 18 million inhabitants. Then, and only then, did I truly understand that I was now one of them. I live in New York. I whipped back around to take it all in, watched the polka-dots of the Brooklyn Bridge disappear into layers of offices, condos, brownstones, windows, and signs, and then my vision blurred a little as I realized that I was crying.
Dozens of emotions converged in me in that moment when I turned around in circles on the roof of 290 Clinton Street looking at the sky, my new home below, and the boroughs around me. The burden of searching for a home was gone, I was free to begin my daily life. Energized, excited, elated, and exhausted I let myself take a moment to think about all that I’ve accomplished in the past month since I left New York in May, in the wake of a surreal and interview-laden visit. A bit of pride poked its way into my consciousness, followed by relief, anticipation for the future, and a thread of pure joy. And then, as the cool air passed over my tired body, I truly felt the emptiness that I had been waiting for since I left New Hampshire.
Thus far, I have been remarkably successful in staving off that emptiness, keeping it away from my conscious mind with daily tasks, immediate practical concerns, reestablishing connections with old friends, partying in the city, and expressing myself creatively. But when I get tired, stop thinking or stop doing, I fall into old thought patterns worn into my synapses by several years of constant repetition. There on the roof, in the midst of this incredible moment, the feeling of what I have lost became almost as acute as what I have gained. I say almost because that little vacuum of loss is not enough to induce regret or any kind of remorse. I still think that the major decisions that I’ve made recently are the right ones for me, those which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness (thanks Jane). Yet within all that self-satisfaction had almost forgotten that it hurts to have someone that you thought you would be with forever tell you that they just don’t ever see that happening. When that feeling gets to you, it makes you catch your breath a little, like someone punched you in the chest. I know how lucky I am to have other, more pleasant emotions fighting to take the place of that emptiness, but nothingness is a little hard to get rid of.
In the meantime, I’ve been working on having something to take the place of that emptiness, and the attempt has not been entirely unsuccessful. I’ve been trying to be responsible, to act like the adult that that I am, pay the bills and make sure the electricity stays on. But in the midst of all that, I need moments like last night on the roof. Life is made for moments like that, and if you haven’t had one in a while, then maybe you should think about why.
Things are not perfect, and it will still take some time for me to fully adjust to my new social and geographical context. I’m liking New York, and I love my friends. So right now, I’m here and I’m finding my place in the bustling city. I am here, and yes, Mrs. Ramsay, it is enough. It is enough!