Photo of a church I used to walk by daily in Greenwich Village.
Today, I walked into my (now empty) studio apartment in the Village to tidy a few last things up before finally giving the keys over so that they could find their way to its new inhabitant come July. While I would love to say that it was a deeply emotional experience, filled with revelations and flashbacks to great memories, it was more of a simple and calm goodbye for me. I am deeply grateful for the 3 years in which I made this small space my home (and for the 5 total years that I’ve spent living in the city), but it honestly felt right to say goodbye. I felt at peace, and grateful, and humbled to have had this experience. Before I closed the door for the last time, I stood in the middle of the room and prayed. I prayed in gratitude for all of the growth that I have experienced in my life these past 3 years. I prayed in thanksgiving for being sent to this very location – the place where I made new friends, found great sources of guidance for both my mind and body, and evolved as an individual in countless ways.
Maybe part of the reason why saying goodbye wasn’t so emotional is because I’m looking forward to where I’m going next. During these past few years, I have learned to trust God and the divine ordering of things (a skill that I lacked big time before heading to college), and this has taken so much stress out of life changes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still stressful to move and to then replant yourself somewhere new, but when you deeply know that everything is unfolding as it should, it makes it so much easier to just go with whatever is happening next in your life. There have been far too many beautiful coincidences and ‘dots connecting’ moments for me to not believe that something much bigger than me is in control. I have come to learn that it is my job is to continue to show up in my life to things both big and small, especially when I am scared, because the necessity of these moments in my life always make sense in retrospect. I am nowhere near perfect when it comes to surrendering up that control on a daily basis, but I have come a long, long way in this department. The fears that would otherwise have called the shots have come to take a back seat in my life, and I try my best to be conscious of making choices out of love instead of fear whenever possible (Thank you, Marianne Williamson!).
I remember being so incredibly fearful before heading to NYU from my hometown. I was scared to leave home, scared to leave my best friend, and admittedly terrified of all of the unknowns of college. But something inside of me knew that it was the right move, and so, I felt the fear and did it anyway. I fearfully packed my things and I fearfully got settled into my first dorm and I fearfully rode the subway and I fearfully went to the library to read The Art of War and about 20 other assigned books similar in nature, and in time, it all began to click. The fear dissipated and I got settled in and the streets that I once would literally follow my friends through like a lost puppy dog became my streets. (There is truly nothing more empowering than knowing where you’re going, both literally and metaphorically). I learned the subway system. I took it all the way up to the Cloisters alone and rode back downtown listening to Fleet Foxes and feeling like king of the world. My comfort zone expanded, my mind expanded, and I learned (and relearned, and am still relearning) that pushing through my fears always serves me, no matter how ‘irrational’ they may seem to another human being, or even to myself.
My years spent in the city were not solely filled with soul-empowering montages in which I rode the subways with a permanent smile glued to my face. I didn’t exit taxi cabs looking like Anne Hathaway post-makeover in Devil Wears Prada, though I did get bangs. At times, I felt endlessly frustrated with myself, and more than that, completely confused over which path to choose career-wise. There were a lot of tears (most memorably in the library), a lot of journaling, and a lot of self-reflection. I even left the city for a semester and returned home to a local college, only to practically run straight back to NYU with a newly invigorated love and appreciation for Manhattan – it all at once felt like my place. My time in the city was not spent without angst, mistake-making, and utter confusion – but you know what? It was all a part of my journey and I truly believe that everything unfolded as it was intended to. I worked out the angst, I learned from the mistakes, and the confusion dissipated in time (and I’m sure these qualities will never be missing from any season of my life) .
The city gave me exactly what I needed, when I needed it. It shot me right out of my insulated suburban comfort zone and left me feeling completely unnerved at times, but shockingly confident at others. There were internship interviews that went comically poorly, there were crushes on boys that most likely did not play for my team, and there was also true soul-connection with two roommates who remain my friends to this day. There were horns honking endlessly, helicopter sounds funneling into my apartment courtyard on the regular, and once, what I am still convinced were whale-calling sounds coming from an apartment nearby. There were harsh winters and horrifyingly humid summers and then there were the crisp autumn days that left me feeling like there was no where else I was destined to be.There were beautiful experiences that I’ll never forget, like getting to see Vance Joy perform at The Studio at Webster Hall with 100 other people on the night of his last album’s release. There were dinners with friends (most notably and frequently at Jane) where delicious food and great conversation were shared. There were films seen at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and tea and macaroons devoured at Ladurée and it all went by so quickly that it seems like a blur in retrospect.
While I do credit New York for pushing me to gain the confidence and courage that I lacked before stepping foot into its streets, I am not that die-hard of a New Yorker that I would never dare leave its streets. I remember being a freshman in Writing I and our first assignment was to write about what New York meant to us. [Actually, my first ‘real’ Writing I assignment was to write a 3 to 5 page sex scene, but I switched professors about 5 minutes after I got back to my dorm. It seemed too cliché-NYU to be true, and yet it was.] Anyway, as I got to work on my first assignment from my new professor, I remember writing something about how everyone in my hometown wore the same Uggs and I was just excited to be in a place in which variation was celebrated instead of condemned. It wasn’t too sophisticated of a piece and I also remember referencing Bob Dylan because I wanted to seem cool? But what I said about the ‘no rules’ mentality of New York, I meant. It was such a privilege to go from one extreme to the other, because it enabled me to find my happy medium and become who I wanted to be. The transformation didn’t require me to drastically change how I dressed or how I acted, rather, it took the pressure off from feeling like replicating the ideal was the only way to be seen as beautiful or valuable, as it had been in my hometown. New York enabled me to evolve at my own pace, to learn how to treasure the parts of myself that are different from others, and to be empowered with the truth that everyone is entitled to live their lives in a way that gives them gratification and purpose – no matter how differently that may look. There is simply room for every type of person in New York.
I remember, during a particular season in which I was convinced that just moving to a random small town would solve all of my problems, stumbling across the book Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. I would read these stories one after another, and be incredibly jealous of the lives of these writers who had escaped the rat race. While I have had incredible experiences in New York, I have never been solely enamored with its energy, and at times I have seriously questioned whether or not my values were aligned with the general temperament of the city, regardless of what I had to come to love about it. And now, here I am, all these years later following in these writers footsteps and leaving New York. All at once, I feel empowered in this next chapter of my life in Boston because I know in my bones that God is at the helm, weaving it all into a pattern for good. The gratitude that I have for New York will not dissipate, and will probably only grow once I am living in Boston full-time. Boston already feels a little bit more like home to me, and also more suited to my nature. It’s not as loud and brash as New York, it’s much cleaner, there’s abundant history, not to mention the endless brownstones.
I remember listening to Elizabeth Gilbert on Super Soul Sessions (boy, do I love this woman), and she quoted the Persian poet Hafiz, stating:
This place where you are right now,
God circled on a map for you.
When she said this verse, I really heard it. She explained further that just because God sends you to one place, that doesn’t mean it’s your forever place, and to pay attention to the signs all around you. The truth of the matter is that New York, though it has empowered me and has been essential to me in so many ways, has never truly felt like ‘me.’ I have struggled with this for some time now, and it almost feels wrong to voice it out loud because you’re supposed to love New York – after all, it has the best of everything. And yet, something has always felt missing for me – it’s a little bit too hectic and not quite enough aligned with the type of lifestyle I want to have long-term. This is why reading Goodbye to All That evoked such envy within me – I was wanting to be one of people escaping New York for a better quality of living, and a more relaxed pace of day-to-day life. And here I am, and it feels more exciting than scary and I know that the fear never could have taken the back seat had it not been for my years in New York and the expansion of my being that I experienced through living there.
So here I am, saying ‘goodbye to all that’ to New York. Maybe it will be goodbye for 3 years, maybe for 10, maybe forever. All I can do is live in deep gratitude for the growth that I have had the privilege to have there, and embrace with open arms wherever the tide takes me, knowing deep within my soul that wherever I am headed next has indeed been circled on a map for me.