Friday, February 15, 2013

Looking Forward

I'm having a hard time talking about leaving New York. The act of speaking about it makes my throat close up and tears prick behind my eyes. Thinking about it, I'm fine, thinking back on my time here, I'm filled. I'm content. But speaking about it to others - the lump in my stomach rises to my throat and I am rendered speechless, with a face contorting to blink back threatening tears.

So, I am clinging desperately to what a colleague very matter-of-factly told me yesterday. "Forward motion." She said, "Just keep moving forward. The second you turn to look back, you're done." And she's right. I'm moving onto something new and different. Not better or worse necessarily, but different.

And it's true - what I keep feeling behind my eyes - I will never again be the girl who came to the city of her dreams, to make it here, on her own, for the very first time. I will never again have a first time moving here. I will now be moving back. I will never have the sweeter-than-sweet moments, nor the intensely bitter ones, that the first eye-opening experiences of the first weeks, months, and years here brought me. I will never have that city again. But when I return, I will still have this city.

And it will be a forward-moving return, to have experienced something different in the interim, to then be experiencing the same city in a brand new, in a new chapter, with a new self. For whenever I return, it will be just that - a returning to a city. Remembrances and try-agains, and try-for-the-first-times and this-is-brand-new and i-never-knew-this-existed-that-whole-first-time-here. Because everything is going to keep moving forward. And frustrating as that is, to not get to be a part of whatever the city will experience, that's the lot I've chosen, even though as I cling desperately to a city that lets me leave with no hesitation, I view it as one I've been dealt.

In my first years here I felt incredibly frustrated, left-out, annoyed, that I missed the blizzard that hit New York on Christmas in 2010 - as I was home for the holidays with family. I felt unfairly ostracized again when I missed out on Hurricane Irene - as I was out of state at a family wedding. It seems bratty and poorly prioritized that I, who has a family as loving and involved as mine, where we strive to support one another with love on holidays and on memorable occasions like weddings, would feel so stuck and left out in missing what amount to natural disaster/catastrophes/frustrations and instead get to spend time with a family who loved me enough to send me off across the country with full support and love. Yet that is the pull this city has on me - in each of those instances, I wanted the camaraderie that only a city as intricately woven as a walking city like New York can have. I wanted the bond of fretting and worry over a hurricane that was threatening our city. I wanted the kvetching and the eye rolls and the "it won't even be anything. Everyone is freaking out about nothing!" that accompany one-to-one every other person making an extra trip to the supermarket to stock up on water.

I loved that - even with the utter destruction and horror that Hurricane Sandy brought upon the city - New York rose to the challenge and helped itself start putting the pieces back together. And that so, so many people from all across the country pitched in to help those hurt by the storm to rebuild. I loved that so many people within this city set up donations for supplies, I loved the camaraderie that "getting back to normal" brought up within this city after the storm. I loved walking across the Queensborough bridge along with what felt like hundreds of others as we worked through a never-before-experienced lack-of-subway situation. I loved that each of us was just doing our best to figure it out, and that we were doing it together. I loved that when Mayor Bloomberg enacted his commuter-rule to keep the bridges that were open from getting completely clogged with cars, that New Yorkers again took each other in. That I got a ride into the city from two brothers who needed a third body in their car, that we chatted about their children and how their business had fared in the storm as they called colleagues to advise on the quickest routes from the streets they could see. I loved that when the gas rations were enacted, people would post FB statuses giving their neighborhoods, asking for rides to work by neighbors, or offering clothes, supplies, water, to those affected if someone who did have enough gas to make the trip was willing to come pick up the offerings and take them to donation centers.

I loved that the only expectation in that time of hardship and devastation for so many people in so many parts of New York City, was simply to do what could be done for each other.

And in the lesser times of nature's wrath, I loved being a part of it. I loved the looks of bewilderment and awe I shared with passers-by and harried mothers towing toddlers dressed in nothing close to snow gear in October of 2011 when New York had the earliest snowfall in years. We got hit with a storm on Halloween and I, traipsing through Brooklyn looking for apartments in my gym clothes, realized I wasn't going to do so well in tennis shoes and a tank top and began to scurry along to find a subway  platform and get out of the weather. I loved that as I went to find that subway - in a neighborhood I knew not at all - I passed by beautiful architecture, beginning to be lightly coated in white. I loved that the bushes and flowers fenced off by beautiful wrought iron were momentarily even more beautiful with snow that would soon kill them. I loved shuffling by necks craned to look at the sky with wrinkled foreheads and overheard all the confusions. "What the hell...?" / "What month is it?" / "Did they say...?" And then the reports on the weather that poured out the next day. [Because if there's one thing New Yorkers all seem to love talking about - beyond discussions of rent and real estate - it's the weather.]

It makes me sad that I will again no longer be a part of that. That the next time Mayor Bloomberg decides to take additional steps to help the lives of New Yorkers and ban soda altogether, or something, I will not be one of the New Yorkers who will see the commentaries in AM New York. I will not hear people bitching about it on the subways, even though the majority will comply with the changes. It makes me terribly sad that I will no longer get to be a part of this breathing, living, ever-changing community. Hell, I'm even going to miss the shock of walking onto a crowded subway train and getting smacked in the face by the human smell that means someone has made our current commute vehicle their home for awhile. Because that's New York. That's all part of the grit and reality and living that I wanted when I first began itching to move here.

Which is why - when I begin to look back too long as I just did in this incredibly long-winded diatribe - I have to just refocus myself.: "Forward motion." I'm leaving. I've made this choice and there's no going back.

And, for the time being, there can be no more looking back. Because it's just too hard.

So this will be the last post for awhile. I will start again when I'm settled in Australia. Or just am thinking too much and have to get things out. [A dangerous habit on a public space, I'm learning, but I type faster than I journal, so there we are for the time being. Maybe publishing need not always be my final step?] And I will hopefully return to pictures and daily happenings and experiences, like I did when I first arrived here in New York.

And I am excited for Australia, and to see what cohabitation holds, and to try life as one-without-a-salary. A whole set of brand new experiences. And so, I will refocus, and take comfort in the fact that the city that holds such a place in my heart will be here for me. When my forward motion takes me back.

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