What’s happened since the last time we spoke? I had my first full week back at work. I went to the gym twice (Monday & Wednesday). Ate six Reese’s Christmas trees. Drank about twelve cups of green tea and saw a movie (Uncut Gems – good but intense, and I was in a Little Women kind of mood). All in all, a normal week. There is something new on the horizon, however. Something I’ve been avoiding talking about.
I’m thinking of leaving New York. For the first time in seven years I let my mind walk across that thought. And I do it with the same trepidation one has sliding their tongue across a knife. I never thought this is what I’d be thinking at twenty-nine. In my dreams twenty-nine was the year I moved into my penthouse in West Village. I always assumed people who left New York were people who had given up. I always assumed I’d fight it out, only leaving when the dream died or the options ran out.
For my first job in New York I took the subway to midtown. I’d take the escalator out of the subway platform, the green copper roofs of Herald Square rising up into the crisp Manhattan sunlight. I told myself the day that view didn’t excite me anymore, didn’t intoxicate me with the promise of possibility, was the day I’d leave New York. But I haven’t been back to Herald Square in at least a year. And definitely not during the buzz of the morning commute. I haven’t left my apartment to walk the four blocks to the river to see if the glowing Manhattan skyline still makes the blood race from my heart to my brain. I don’t look because it’s not a question of New York not being my favorite, but because I know the second I look at her, she’ll beg me to stay.
I still love Manhattan. Still love the sting of it. The way it stays in the back of my throat like a good whiskey. I love the way it makes you hate it, always teetering that line, right up to the point where you’re about to snap, and then it does something magical. Where you meet someone who dazzles your soul at some bar in the Lower East Side or stumble into some old speakeasy that renews your faith in culture and art. I love the way the air tingles, the sweet mix of garbage and perfume, the distinct color of the sidewalk, the millions of footsteps imprinted on them. I love the way that coming back to it feels. That I’m never sad to leave a vacation because home, New York, is the where everyone else wants to be. The sad realization I’ve come to, however, is that sometimes love just isn’t enough. Like a lover who was fun in my twenties – the bars, the parties, the infinite possibilities –isn’t good for me in my thirties. I can still love her, but now I need to take care of myself. And unfortunately, I can’t take care of myself here. I need too many things it can’t give me.
But as I peruse Zillow for apartments in Philadelphia and dive deeper into this reality of what’s happening, I don’t feel as sad as I thought I’d feel. Maybe I’m just protecting myself. Or maybe because this is just how life is. Dreams change. We change. What we thought we wanted in our twenties is shallow or overdone by our thirties. And what we thought we’d never want is now softly echoing in the back chambers of our mind like a distant song.
What I thought I wanted was indisputable success. Thirty under Thirty. The brownstone in West Village. The parties. The galas. The proof that I’d made it. Today I realize I just want room to breathe. Some space to be happy. An apartment that can fit friends and family and a washer and dryer. Of course I still want success, but the latter seems more important at the moment. And while I know some twenty-three-year-old will be looking at me the same way I looked at the twenty-nine-year-olds leaving the city, I don’t care. Because my needs are bigger than my pride.
And I think that’s where the grown-up side of me lies. In the shadow between the dream and the reality. My needs and my pride. For there will come a time in every woman’s life where she’s offered the job she said she’d never take. Confronted with a question she thought she’d never have to answer. Crossing a road she never thought she’d be in front of. And crossing that road, answering that question, taking that job will be an affront to her old self. Will deem everything she thought she was irrelevant. But that’s the beauty of life – it changes. We change.
Maybe I’m not as sad because I know this. That I could be back one day. That it’s more of a goodbye for now than a final farewell. I have enough proof by now to know that nothing stays the same. Life is lived in phases. Places and persons we are for moments, land markers on our journey to the final destination. And this phase has lasted as long it’s needed to last and I can either hold on, nails scraping the floor, or I can move with the tides, letting myself go where I need to be taken. We tend to always think the next move we make is the last one, when we should know by now how impermanent everything is. How life moves like a steady current and nothing will be the same in two, five, ten years.