On September 2, 2002, I moved to New York City. I was 23 years old, and had no idea what I would be doing with myself. I simply knew that I'd always liked New York, always knew I'd like to try living there, and that it was a good city for a would-be writer. I didn't have a job, but I had a few freelancing leads. I had some savings, and I'd just signed a lease with a friend from college.
The first few days, the uncertainty of the whole situation was almost overwhelming. I spent a lot of time wandering around the sidewalks, seeing the blue flowers sold from stoop lines of delis, looking up at the skyscrapers, and trying to figure out what I was doing with my life.
I can't say I've entirely figured out the last part of that sentence. But I do know that in 9 years, New York City has showered gifts on me. I have learned that one can make a living as a writer -- that one's books might be sold in the Penn Station bookstore that I walked past that first September day so many years before when I showed up with my bags. That early some mornings, I would be showing up at those television studios in midtown to yak about by writings. I met my husband at a bar in the Village. For our second date, he took me out to the Aquarium at Coney Island, and we walked out on the beach, something he has spent much time doing these past few years with our children, native New Yorkers born here. I sang in Carnegie Hall multiple times with the St. Cecilia Chorus, and later in many other venues with the Young New Yorkers' Chorus -- a group of 20- and 30-something singers that would be hard to pull together elsewhere. I took up running and so spent more time pounding those sidewalks of New York, running through Central Park, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and some mornings (while training for a marathon), all the way around the bottom of the island past the Statue of Liberty, up the west side to the Intrepid Museum, and then all the way back around.
I was thinking of all this early this morning when I did what will probably be my last run in New York. It had to be quick (I needed to get back home so my husband could go to work) but I did pause for a minute to look at the East River and think about life transitions. I'm excited about our new house, and about having more space and discovering a new city, and meeting new friends to add to the ones I know I'll keep from here. I'm weary of the cost of living of New York, and wary of the battles I worry might be involved in finding good schools. But it's hard not to view leaving New York as the end of being young, a move to a different stage of life. I am grateful, though, that my leaving is not about giving up dreams.
New York has already made them come true.
(Photo courtesy flickr user mandyxclear)