There is a feeling that New York fosters within the bowels of the subways, a moment that feels as though someone has cooked it up specifically as a smack in the head for anyone who was thinking they could remove themselves from the wonderful demographic cesspool that New York is so famous for and escape to the suburban pockets of uniformity of their youths. This, of course, is the moment when you realize that the person sitting next to you on the subway is getting off at the same stop as you. I mean, sometimes this person looks like you, but, let's be real, more often than not they look like nothing you've ever seen before and can't believe exists in polite society, and now they are getting off at your stop. With you. Moving in tandem through your neighborhood, potentially living in your building. My narrow midwestern mind has a moment of panic as it tries to process how this person could possibly be existing on a parallel track to my own. New York smiles quietly at the literal and metaphysical tableau it has created just for me, gently cracking open my skull and prying until the light and air starts to hit me right in my under-used brain.
New York is a constant reminder to each and every one of its ridiculous inhabitants that we are all the same.
I remember the exact instant that my small brain expanded to house the information that I was part of a connected ecosystem, that my tiny actions on this earth could potentially impact every other human being on the planet, if not every creature. Maybe some people are born with this sense of scope hard-coded into their brain, but I was definitely not. I'm guessing I could say the same for many of the folks who grew up in nice shiny bubble communities in the midwest. Not that I'm knocking any of that. It certainly was nice.
Anyhow, I was eight years old and we were moving from one lovely suburb of western Michigan to another when this particular expansion took place. Despite the fact that a move meant I would have to switch schools, I had generously decided to forgive my parents for this as it meant a new bedroom for yours truly, and I had long since proclaimed my current bedroom to be tragically undersized (my tendency to over-dramatize situations has not progressed much since then). I remember that in the midst of my triumph, my mom was stressing out because the people trying to move into our current house were anxious for us to get out so they could move in, but the owners of the house we wanted to move into were stalling on closing because they had not yet found a new house to move into. She was explaining the situation to me on the verge of tears, and I did not understand what she was making such a big deal about. My brain was registering one one channel only, and that channel was the huge purple bedroom in my future - how could anyone possibly be upset with times such as these ahead of us? So she ditched the realtor-speak and went for a simpler explanation.
"The people buying our house can't move in until we move out, and we can't move out until we have some place to move in, meaning we need the people in the house we're buying to move out. And they don't want to, which means we have to wait. Us moving depends on whether they move."
At that moment, the light-bulb went on and I realized that not only did our move depend on their move, but there were people trying to buy the house of the people trying to buy our house, and that THEY couldn't move in until we moved out and the people buying our house moved out of their house and into our house. And someone was trying to buy the house of those people as well! And the same went in the other direction, for the people who were moving out of the house we were trying to move into. What seemed like a singular event ("let's get a new house!") was in fact a much, much larger affair, and involved jumping into a line of millions and millions of people all moving houses at the same time. You couldn't, then, decide to change your own situation without impacting innumerable other people, people you will never meet but that were involved in the transaction you made when you were eight years old and begged your parents for a larger bedroom.
I don't remember my reaction to this, but I do remember trying very deliberately to digest the shock and take in the enormity of the truth I had just uncovered. I don't think I've slept quite the same since.
Today marks two years since I moved to New York City, another year of catalyst added to the heat of my particular journey of self-expansion. I closed year 1 on the beach in Miami; year 2 at the office preparing all kinds of planning presentations, so I hope you'll forgive me that my reflections aren't quite as blissed-out as they were last time around.
Everything has changed, but not much has changed. I still hate the heat, I still miss Chicago (the tulips on Michigan Ave in the spring! ack), and I still create all kinds of stress for myself from the energy and dichotomies that the city presents. But the whole thing appears as a more mature sort of struggle, through a lens of gratitude for the proliferation that my life here continues to foster. Life is, after all, pretty grand.
Someone told me this weekend that the first two years are the hardest. As these have been two of the best years of my life, I certainly hope they're right, and I continue on.
I continue to try, I continue to take it in, I continue to expand, I continue to arrive.