January in New York. When the city is cold and a little bit bleak and in the absence of the holiday gleam, a little bit less.
I had my card reads recently. Two years. That’s how long they said I had left in New York. Two years. Two very important years in which I would actually love New York, even if only upon occasion, and just a little.
Two years, a delayed love-affair with New York City.
On the good days I think yes--yes! The city is so easy to love today, and love it I do.
But on the not-so-good-days I reach for numbers. Two years. How many more silent subway cries will that make for? How many more mice will I catch? How many more first dates on which I am stood up? How many more too crowded New Year’s parties or too-crowded subway cars? How many more nights drinking expensive wine at bars populated by young women who look just like me?
And when I do leave two years from now, how many more fine lines will ring my eyes? How many more gray hairs? And will it be just me, or me plus one, as predicted?
Such a fine and strange month you’ve been.
Circling round people and promising adventure and in the end ripe with education.
Sitting in the cab en route to the airport, Paris—or the promise of it—hanging by a thread, his response to my mistake so new and unexpected, I said to him, It’ll make for a good story, at least.
If it works out, it will, was his response.
Which has never been how I’ve lived my life. At least, not these last several years, having just learned (and more than once) that very often it does not. work out.
And in that cab I sent up a silent prayer. Out of need and desperation and quite a bit of fear I offered up four words: get. me. out. of. this.
And that prayer was answered.
And there was this very strong sense that I hadn’t just dodged a bullet, but that that answered prayer was actually in service of a different story.
I have spent so much of my youth in pursuit of a good stories, collecting them like trinkets for a mantle. Yes. Yes, a nearly automatic response. Yes, because why the hell not?
But now as I get older I can’t help but notice that a good story simply for the sake of a good story is no longer good enough. I want a better story. Which is where yes meets no and the two learn to dance. Which is where choice and ownership build a home. Which is where the overarching theme of one’s life starts to feel directional and long.
Here’s the thing about growing up that is only ever hinted at--very rarely explicitly stated: it is fucking incredible.
Because things start to fall way--unhelpful things. Because you start shedding everything that's not in service of your ever-after.
Because not-good-enough becomes so very clear. Because confidence becomes a more constant companion. Because the gut is almost always right. And you’re learning to listen to it. Because you stop feeling the need to defend your decisions or explain your choices. Because justification is not the point.
I was so lonely when we dated. I had just started a new job and was working more typical hours and I thought it was an-evening-sort-of-loneliness.
I thought it was a-going-home-to-an-empty-apartment-at-the-age-of-twenty-seven-sort-of-loneliness.
But then we stopped dating. And I wasn’t so lonely anymore.
Turns out it was a-this-isn’t-the-right-guy-and-you-know-it-but-won’t-admit-it-sort-of-lonely.
Which is of the more brutal variety.
Because it has everything to do with you. Everything to do with that small tug of the gut that says move on, you know better.
And there’s nothing like the loneliness of turning away from one’s self.
But it’s hard to be twenty-seven with the thought that you’ve never done it right before and maybe you’re doing it all wrong—and what the hell does the gut know anyway?
Well, everything. It knows nearly everything. Which I think was the point of this guy. To remind me of that. Because while few things are so exciting as slowly unfolding in front of someone you adore, to try and do that in front of a person you’re just not that keen on is confusing and unsettling and leaves you months later in a cab on the way to airport barely breathing because you-all-of-the-sudden-can’t-stand-this-person and that’s not really fair to him because he’s not all bad, he’s just not-right.
I spent much of my youth in search of due north. Wondering where it was and what it was and if I was moving in the right direction, spinning in circles because without a map between my hands I was out of my depth.
Being young is a sort of perpetually terrifying existence. Until it is not. Because enough happens that you start to trust that more will happen and because in a very real and very physical way your body hooks into something bigger.
Because suddenly due north is so very clear. Because the star of it—the truth of it—lassoes you round the waist and pulls your forward. Into the great (and still mostly) unknown. And that's not only okay, it's good.
I have learned that I can’t engineer a really good life; I can only give over to one. Because I am not as good or as smart or as clever as what is actually intended for me.
January: ill-fated cab rides—1; subway meltdowns—2 or 3 depending on who I’m talking to; travel mishaps—4; number of men who left me at the airport—1; too crowded subways—at least 15; friends who’ve been really very good to me—4; wonky days—8, maybe; blue days—2; days I really loved the city—1/2; days I remembered not-just-good-but-better—2: yesterday and today.
So not bad. January was not all bad.