Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Like Coming Home

I came to New York once when I was about 3 or 4 with my parents and brother. I don’t have any recollection of this trip except through the photographs, especially of my brother and I standing in front of the Statue of Liberty. I have heard the stories about how my dad had to carry me up most of the stairs within the Statue and how Jared, although being afraid of heights, made it all the way to the crown. That was back in the day when you could walk all the way up the Statue, before terrorism, before time and age made her unstable. I didn’t come back until I was 24.

In that twenty year span, I lived in New York vicariously like the rest of the world. I saw hundreds of movies filmed in New York, had friends who often visited and returned with fantastic stories of their adventures, watched the news about the goings on in the city seen as the Center of the World, watched The Today Show filmed in Rockefeller Plaza, had friends go for internships and return as different people, saw the twin towers crash to the earth and the aftermath of the tragedy of September 11 and listened to the stories of kindness and charity that spawned from the summer blackout of 2003. It was sometime back in high school when I first acknowledged in my mind that I would someday live in New York City. It wasn’t something that I thought about doing or wanted to do or needed to do. It was something I knew I would do. I knew it like I knew my last name or that two plus two is four. I knew it like I knew God existed. I didn’t know when or why or how. I just knew that someday I would be the one walking down the busy streets, taking the subway and running through Central Park.

In college, I had friends who did the New York internship for journalism and public relations. I remember being jealous that they were able to spend a couple of months soaking in the experience of New York while harnessing an opportunity to work in their respective fields. I didn’t go. When I graduated, I suppose that would have been the most logical time for me to pick up and move to NYC, but I didn’t. In fact, at that point, the thought of ever living there had not crossed my mind in some time. It wasn’t until I woke up one day in Florida and knew it was time. Ironically, the year before, I had spent a few days in the city with my friend Emily just as I was moving to Florida. I had a great time, but I remember leaving thinking that I would never want to live there… despite the fact that it felt like home, despite the fact that I just knew how to get around, despite the amazing high rise views and the energy. But a year later I said, “I’m moving to New York City.” I made the decision without fanfare or struggle, which was contrary to my natural method of decision making. I didn’t stress over the decision, over analyze, plan out every possible scenario and road block complete with solutions and alternatives. I just decided that it was where I wanted to be and that moment was the perfect time for me to make it happen.

I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know but a few people. But I knew I would be okay. I thought back to how I had known that this was an eventuality. In a way it was the fulfillment of my destiny, and I was not afraid. So many of my life’s experiences had prepared me for what I was to do, and I was practically running at full speed toward it. From the first moment that I pulled into the city, I felt that I was at home. Of all the places I have lived since leaving home, New York just feels like me. We fit together. I never had a transition period where I felt awkward or uncomfortable or out of my element. It was as if I had always been here. I could find my way around easily, made friends with the neighborhood store owners and found friends quickly. I have woken up every day that I have lived here and been grateful that I am here. I have become so familiar with the love I have for this city that I cannot separate it from who I am and I cannot articulate it adequately.

I have always felt right and at peace being here. The only time I felt wrong was when I left. I had this horrible sinking feeling in my stomach and a knot in my chest as I drove through the tunnel and into New Jersey headed for the west coast thinking to myself that something was very wrong. But although I had made a conscious choice that I understood to be right for me at the time, I could not help but feel that I had cut my time here too short, that I had things left to do and experience here. And I missed it. I missed it every day that I was gone. It was somewhat unfamiliar territory to me because I had never longed for a place like I longed for New York. I talked about it all the time, and I could not disguise the longing in my voice. When my reasons for leaving dissolved, I spent the following six months planning and preparing to return to the city. I could have stayed away and built a life for myself where I was. I could have accepted a promising job offer, but I knew that I needed to return to New York. I knew it like I had known it the other times. Everything I did in those months was done in an effort to get back. I gave up New York once, sacrificed it as Abraham and Isaac on the altar of my agency and the Lord’s will, and I would not do it again. The chance to return was worth all the effort and sacrifice. The cost did not outweigh the feeling of stepping off that plane into JFK and knowing that I was home.

Time goes by here at warp speeds. The days run into weeks and the weeks into months. It’s sometimes hard to believe that I have been back for more than 9 months but at the same time it’s as if I never left. Will I live here forever? I think it is unlikely, but New York is in my blood. I thrive on the intellectual, cultural, emotional and mental stimulation that surrounds me at every moment. I am addicted to the energy and passion that permeates this city. There is an unmatched beauty and charm here that seems to inspire me at any given moment. My mind seems clearer; the world a little more colorful and alive; the sound of city life sharper like a modern symphony; and my soul feels bigger, more stretched and defined. I have found myself here, a better version of myself. And someday when I leave, I know I will leave because it is what I have chosen. But I will always miss New York. Part of me will always be here just as New York will always be part of me. I will think of it fondly. And every time I return, it will be like coming home.


Stephen said...

do we really know that 2+2=4? or is that number sentence true only because we agree that it is true? is truth dependent on how we talk about it, or does is exist independently of our collective minds? if either is the case, then did you really know you would end up in new york? if you knew it like you knew 2+2=4, then maybe you just knew it only because everybody agreed on it and thats the only reason you are here.

MOM said...

I know NY is in your blood. I am happy you love where you are. Keep writing -- I love reading your muses. MOM

nikki said...

Mom: welcome to the blog... hope you come back again.

Stevey: always have to question it don't you? I will just call you Uncle Ellsworth. I have to say this may be an instance in my life that is completely Howard Roarkian. It wasn't a decision based on the collective opinion of those around me but rather driven by completely selfish motives. I am not a shadow. I am perfectly capable of thinking on my own despite my adherence to the 2+2= 4 argument.

Stephen said...

mom: lets go out sometime...

petey said...

and did you also know that 2x2=4?
situations in the universe occur where it doesn't matter if you add or multiply, you get the same result.

Stephen said...

petey: in the universe or just in your mind?

Mom said...

stephen: Sorry, but I'm a married woman. Thanks for the offer though.

nikki said...

Stevey: you shouldn't be hitting on my mom in my presence. It makes me jealous... although she is pretty amazing.

Petey: 2+2, 2x2... who the heck cares. It works. It makes sense. Surely, the outcome is the same, but this muse really has nothing to do with numbers.

petey said...

hitting on her mom? what would evelyn say?
and is not the universe of my mind the only universe each of us can truly examine?

and this one is also for you stevey,
2 teach is
+2 change kids
4 ever!!

as long as you don't kill them in the process.

you brought the numbers, i brought the analysis/commnentary.

Stephen said...

mom: i'm devastated.

nikki: your mom is heartless.

petey: are you saying your mind is that upon which the universe depends? no more cute number sentences. they don't exist.

petey said...

no i'm referring to your own mind. each mind of each individual. it is the only point of reference we each have. how do i know what peanut butter taste for you save my own understanding of that taste for me?

thus, without the matrices of ideas and concepts as nails in your own head, you have nothing to hang new ones on and the universe only exists to the extent that your own ability can interpret it

nikki said...

Stevey: I am enough woman for you so don't be too crushed by my mom.

Petey: there is a part of me that appreciates your philosophical side but at 9 in the morning you are running circles around in my brain to the point of nonsense and confusion. I am not sure how my post about my love for new york turned into a platform for a philosophical treatise on the nature of one's sense of reality and knowledge based on the "matrices of ideas and concepts" in our own mind.

Stephen said...

peter: oh say what is truth