I had no idea it would feels this way, change. It never occurred to me that I’d need to grieve what I’d already lost—to grieve that which was never really good.
But it turns out that grief is how we process the loss of something we are/were attached to, even if that attachment isn’t a good one. I didn’t know that; I do now.
I saw a girl on a bike get hit by a car recently. She’s is fine—let me say that right off the bat. I’ve told this story enough times now to know that I need to make that clear immediately. She was crossing with the light on a small side street just north of 110th. The car must have been paused in the intersection—must have been sitting in the middle of the street when the light was still green and not noticed it turn red. Or maybe the driver ran the light, I can’t be sure, but I do know that no one was going very fast. And then, suddenly, unexpectedly, an impact. It took a few minutes to sort out that everyone was fine. Those first moments were about efficiency: an assessment of the situation, pulling over the car, checking out the girl, the bike, too. And once it was established that, by the grace of God and fate and chance, real disaster was averted, I watched as biker and driver both, began to sob. Maybe just excess adrenaline finding a way out of the body, maybe a keen awareness of what was so narrowly averted.
I keep thinking about how it was only after they knew that everything was okay, that they could process that for a moment, it wasn’t.
That’s the thing about change that I’ve found most surprising, that what was for so long fine—by necessity—no longer is. And how immediately that shifts.
Thirteen years of throwing a hook against a stone wall hoping it would catch, quietly panicking that it might not. Everything that happened here was both okay and really not—and only now that the worst has passed can I say that. Only now that the hook is firmly rooted in the stone can I say it was fine because it had to be, but it also wasn’t. It was really fucking hard. It took something precious and vital from me. And aware of the narrowly averted disaster, the full weight of that which I weathered, is overwhelming and I suddenly find myself grieving. For the person I was. For the person I had to be. For how sad I was and how fine I had to be with that. For the version of New York I’ll never know. And for the girl I am now who sits at bars with friends and says, I’d never do my twenties again.
There will come a day, in the not so distant future, when I will forgot what it felt like to have people ask what I was doing with my life and not have an answer. I will forget the helplessness I felt sitting at diner tables being asked, albeit subtly, to defend my worth and my time and my life. I will forget that particular brand of loneliness, that cruel question: What are you bringing to the table? When I alone was not enough.
Everything has changed, and nothing has changed. Everything will be different, and nothing will.
People have told me that there is almost no way to prepare for how beautiful a place becomes just before you go, made sweet by its impermanence. I walked through the park this morning, the air sticky and thick, everything green, the dogs all off their leads, a certain light catching the corner of my eye, and I thought, I could love this place; perhaps I already do.