Dear New York,
It’s not you, it’s me.
You exceeded my wildest expectations. I couldn’t have dreamt of the things you would teach me, and the opportunities that you would give to me… but it’s time to say goodbye. It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I teeter between total denial and total relief that this chapter is behind me.
My original goal was to stay with you for a year, and I stayed for almost three and a half. When I look back at the first day I landed in your giant, unfamiliar, and unforgiving city, I was a different person in every way you can be. My hands shook for a few months and my whole body vibrated with anxiety and nervous energy. I remember the excitement and crippling fear that you gave to me, equally.
I had no idea how I would ever navigate you. But here I am. I know my way around. I went to every borough. I took almost every train. This place is full of life, dreams, energy, and incredible people. I am changed. I am woke. I am in love with you. But you aren’t for me. Your light started flickering for me over a year ago. I felt the pull to be close to family and loved ones. I felt the pull to put down roots in a place that I could build a life. I want a couch. I want to buy a home. It turns out I’m a bit of a country girl after all.
My gait is faster, my speech more direct, my work ethic better. I’m more skeptical of everything, and more self-aware then I’ve ever been. I have a confidence that was never there before. I did it. I moved here, and I made it. I’m less lazy. I’m more independent. I finally know that you have to fight for what you want. I’m tougher than I thought. I’m more sensitive than I thought. I’m more clear of what I want and how to get it. I grew up because of you.
The hardest thing for me was the constant loneliness. This was also my favorite part. I really learned to be alone. I love the anonymity and the invisibility. The ability to disappear in a crowd. I loved going to the movies by myself and holing up in my tiny apartment for the weekend. I’ve been back in Denver a few weeks today and I feel vulnerable, I feel seen, I feel anxious. I know it’s going to take time to adjust, I know it’s not going to be easy. But growth is uncomfortable, and I’m up for the challenge.
One of the best things you gave to me was Twitter, and I’m forever grateful. Working at Twitter was one of the most incredible things that I’ve ever experienced. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I got through the front door, much less the fact that I was able to work there for almost three years. It changed my life and my career trajectory. The people that I met there will be lifelong friends. The skills that I learned have already opened countless doors. Taking the Subway on my last commute into Manhattan from Brooklyn I broke down. I sobbed and blew my nose, and looked around to soak it all in. My last day at work was filled with tears and goodbyes, and overwhelming gratitude.
Who can say that they had an amazing apartment and landlord in New York City? I can. My apartment for the last 2+ years was my safe haven. (the neighborhood…not so much. But inside of my walls I felt safe. I felt home.) I also had the greatest roommate I could have ever asked for. Cokey, you are the reason I stayed as long as I did. I will miss you more than you know. You are a lifelong friend.
My parents flew out to help me pack up and move out. I couldn’t have done it without them and am filled with gratitude that I have parents that love me that much. We flew back to Denver with 14 pieces of luggage, and now I’m here.
I feel blessed. I feel raw. I will come back to see you soon, my love. Until then, I will carry the weight of you in my heart forever. I hope you bestow as much love and adventure on the next girl who lands with a one-way ticket and a dream.
I wrote this on a train on November 22, 2015. It’s about the Christmas after my first heartbreak. This captures a glimmer of the deep and dark sadness that I felt that holiday season. I found this on my phone today, and wanted to share.
After You Left Me
There was a space next to my chair at the table. My family loves me enough to remove a chair so I didn’t have to see it empty. But I could feel it there. The hole. I dressed up and wore lipstick and looked like I was getting through the holidays without you. But everyone knew better. No one brought up the missing chair.
I remember thinking that at least I didn’t have to wait for you this year and offer excuses upon your behalf. You were always late, and I was constantly defending you.
The meal was all joy and laughs but I could feel it building in my chest. The ache always started low in my lungs and choked my heart and climbed up my throat and began to drown my eyes. I let my tears fall heavy and my hands shook. My fork tinged and tanged against my plate but I didn’t have the energy to move it. My family hushed to a silence that was unlike all of them. And they let me cry. They knew why, they didn’t have to ask questions. There has never been a more vulnerable moment for me than that. I was completely broken open. I couldn’t even pretend that I was ok, I couldn’t even excuse myself. I had nothing left.
Before you left me I was so solid, I was strong, cold even. I didn’t show weakness. After you left I couldn’t show strength. I had none of it left. Tears fell without warning, mostly in the car. Mostly while giving massages to strangers in a dark quiet room. It really is a cruel profession to break up in. You have 6 hours a day to think quietly, to replay conversations, and obsess over details. You are required to pretend that you are fine-even if you can barely stand up. You are required to pretend you care about someone else’s needs,knots, and lives.
The holidays that first year, though. That was a tough one. So many tears. So many tears for years after that. Not until you left me. When you left me everything changed in my heart. I am a professional at keeping people at an arms length from my heart. I’m three years in, and I’m waiting for the pain to move away, or the fear to move aside, because despite the complete sadness and abandonment of the last three years I want to love again. I want to believe there is love after the first time. There was for him.
“I’m going to stop you right there. I want you to verbally list out three things that you have accomplished because you haven’t owned a couch.”
This is what you hear after you diminish yourself in front of your life coach.
I pause not knowing what to say. I pause realizing how much I use this metaphor. I pause because she just showed me a glimpse into how I see myself and it is a difficult reality.
I often resort to self-deprecating humor when I compare my life to other friends my age and it usually goes something like this, “So-and-so owns a house, a boat, and has two kids. I don’t even own a couch.”
“Verbally list three things that you have accomplished by not owning a couch.” She said it again.
“I moved to New York, I’ve travelled all over the place, and I have the freedom to move anywhere that I want because I don’t own a couch.” I blurted out. Not a sophisticated list, but all felt important.
“Not so easy to move across the country with a couch is it? Not owning a couch has meant freedom for you. That is a beautiful thing.”She said.
She has a way of spinning all of the countless ways I diminish myself from a negative to a positive.(See below, I could list a hundred more (I think we all could) The left is what I apologize for, the right is what she sees from her lens)
Finished my degree later in life=Wisdom and self awareness
Change my mind a lot=Growth and evolution in the rawest form
I had no idea how much I diminish, apologize, and tiptoe around things that I say and how I act. Now that I have the awareness I’m going to make an effort to pause and spin it into a positive. I over explain things all of the time when there isn’t a need to do so. We over explain our insecurities and I don’t want to anymore.
I’ve been seeing my life coach/mentor/listener since mid-November and it is amazing and uncomfortable, and emotional, and has given me a clarity and drive that I haven’t ever had before. I didn’t have any idea what I was getting myself into, and didn’t really know what a life coach did, but I’ll try nearly anything when something lands serendipitously on my lap.
The conversations are usually on the phone, and it’s incredibly intimidating when a stranger says, “Tell me about you. This is about you.” It’s not very often that we are given the opportunity to have a willing listener. (Something else I want to improve this year, be a better listening friend) The first conversation with her I started with a lot of “ums, and I don’t knows,” but then I started telling the story of how/why I moved to New York. After a few sentences of telling my story to her, she stopped me, “So you moved to New York without a job, without having gone to school here, and only “sort of “knowing one person? Can you just pause and recognize that that is inspiring to me and you should be really proud of yourself.” I blushed through the phone and a smile stretched across my face the first time I heard her say that. (She says inspiring things like that all of the time, and it really seeps in after a while)
“Yeah, that does feel good, and I’m proud of that.” I usually talk to her while fidgeting on the floor of my bedroom and smiling. And then my story begins to flow out of me, comfortably, confidently, and clearly. By speaking life to my thoughts, feelings, and struggles I have been able to take an internal inventory. This inventory has helped to figure out how far I have come, but most importantly where I want to go.
My list of goals I want to accomplish this year is short, but very precise.
I have a new energy around my goals and feel really motivated to accomplish them. I have four things on my list, and one of them is to buy a couch. It’s no longer a soft place to sit, it’s going to be an extremely symbolic and emotional day when I make the purchase.
When I buy a couch I am putting down roots.
Roots! Something I haven’t been ready for until now. I’m always seeking clarity and have felt very spiritual in this new year.
I cut out a bunch of pictures of couches and put them on my dream board this weekend. I have a sexy little grey number in mind with a chaise lounge on one end…but I’m not quite ready yet but I have a feeling 2017 is the year of the couch.
I had zero interest in New York City. Like, none…until I did.
When I read my rejection letter for a creative writing program at Boise State University in a Starbucks parking lot, the tears came fast and hard. I tried to blink them away to read and re-read the email. The moment embodied hopelessness. This hopelesness was not about getting rejected by Boise State, and I know that now. But grad school was my way out, my hope, it was my chance to move on. I had just suffered a breakup that still can wreck me if I let it. A breakup that still makes my voice crack, and a breakup that has made me push every guy away for the last three years. Not getting into grad school felt like I lost an opportunity to move forward. Because I didn’t feel like I had any other options. I felt physical pain in my chest and I didn’t know what to do.
I sat there in my car crying tears for so many reasons. And then I had a feeling or a whisper that floated through my thoughts for the first time in my life. Move to New York. Writers move to New York.
The very thought, scared me. My heart raced. And I pushed it to the back of my mind. I had never even visited New York. Had never wanted to. And now, this overwhelming feeling washed over me that I had to move there.
So I did. I listened to the whisper. And I’m here.
And I’m so lonely.
And it’s so hard.
It’s big, sweaty, smelly, vicious, loud, uncomfortable, exhausting, and it makes me afraid.
I have been here going on two years now, and I still don’t feel like I fit here. My clothes aren’t expensive, my school wasn’t fancy, my heart is too sensitive. I feel that most days are me against everyone else. I have never cried more in my whole life combined before I moved here. I cried openly and hard on the street corner recently because the line was so long at Trader Joe’s and I just needed a few things. That day, the City won. Lately, the City wins a lot.
But there is never a time that I don’t pause in complete awe when I’m on the Brooklyn or Manhattan bridge. I look Downtown at the sky scrapers and the Statue of Liberty, and in those moments I can’t believe I live here. And I feel alive. And I remember the romance that is New York. The grocery store lines fade, and the sweat dripping down my back stills, and the smell of bagels baking, and cobble stone streets give me the nutrients to get through another day.
It’s hard to remember the dream in the tough moments, It’s hard to remember my excitement when I boarded the plane with a one way ticket. It’s so hard to go home alone every night. This place has shown me hard work, thick skin, and has broken me down pretty hard. I’m thankful for all of the things it continues to teach me. One day I won’t live here anymore, and I’m sure my heart will ache for it. I can imagine an emptiness after leaving a place like this. Because I will remember the romance and the tumultuous relationship that I had with this City.
Until the day comes, I’m hoping for a few days that the City lets me win.
I had a rough week. Nothing “bad” happened. It has just been emotionally draining and confusing.
Two weeks ago,my best friend (Haley) and sister-in-law (Jeri) visited me in New York and I couldn’t believe how home sick it made me. It was such a great visit, and we were New York’s finest tourists anyone has ever seen. These were my people. These are the pee-with-the-door-open friends. These are the friends that have seen me at my worst, and hopefully my best. I missed that sort of connection, and I didn’t know how much. When they left my apartment at 5:30am I sat on my couch and cried. Not a few tears, it was the kind of cry where you can’t catch your breath. My emotion took me by surprise because things have been going decent for me here.
But I realized that when they walked out of the door, I was alone. The silence hurt my ears. Their absence hurt my heart. I felt lonely in my aloneness. Alone chasing whatever it is I am chasing. Proving to myself whatever it is that I am trying to prove. I dialed my brother’s phone number this week and had to hang up immediately because I couldn’t get myself together enough to say hello. I just burst into tears. I miss my brother. And I am missing my niece grow up. I miss my nephews, and I miss my sister. I miss being able to drop by my parents house to chat.
I had a great conversation with a co-worker, Claudia, last night, coming home from the Yankees game. She has only been in New York for one year and she came from Texas. It felt good to vent, and to empathize, and to hear from someone that I look up to that she is still having a hard time. She seemed so put together, and tough. But she is feeling the exact same thing. She gets scared on the late night train rides just like I do. She gets sad when she sees someone talking to themselves on the sidewalk. She feels overwhelmed with the tight space issues. Hearing these things make me feel more…normal. I feel unsettled and alone this week. She encouraged me to fight for what I came for. Everything is a fight here. She kept telling me that this place makes you better, because nothing is handed to you. I think I am used to not having to work so hard to make things happen. I am lazy, and this is not fun for me. I have learned so much about myself, and humanity since I have been here.
Now I need to remind myself what I am fighting for. What do I want? What do I really, really, really want? I need to shift my focus on the fight. Fight for what I came here for…even though that is even blurry today. Despite feeling inadequate, I have to pursue my dreams. I have so much I want to do. I want clarity on what I want to pursue wholeheartedly. I wish I could break open a fortune cookie to see what I was meant to do.
Part of me has a feeling that I want to run…perhaps to the West coast? Perhaps to a little town somewhere that I can afford. Somewhere with a washer and dryer. Somewhere where strangers smile at you. Somewhere with pollen.
To sum up my stream of consciousness here. This week is hard. I don’t know what I want to do with my life. Most importantly; I have great friends, and a wonderful family. Despite feeling worn down I am forever thankful for the people in my life, and for the opportunity to stretch myself. Even though stretching hurts right now.
I keep saying how hard this place is to adjust to. But I haven’t mentioned two really cool behaviors that I have noticed since I have been here. Manners and chivalry are alive in New York!
- There is a coat closet at every office. Not only is there a coat closet…they USE it! They always ask to take and hang up coats! (every time I have visited an office for any reason this has happened) Now that I have been working reception, it is my job to take coats and hang them. I LOVE this! It is so impressive to me, and feels old-fashioned and sweet.
- Secondly, the elevator etiquette is so surprising. Men let women on the elevator first, and wait until all of the women are off before they exit. Can you believe this? I have noticed it every single place that had an elevator. All over the city. It is so charming to me!
I think these behaviors still exist because this city is so old and these classic manners are rooted as a cultural norm. These behaviors feel old-fashioned…because they are. I feel taken care of when someone takes my coat, and I feel respected when I get off of the elevator first. New York is making me smile today.