I’m coming up on my third anniversary of living in New York. New York still seems fake, sometimes. It’s probably a common enough experience for the transplants, this feeling that we can’t possibly be allowed to just live here; that it’s going to kick us out any second, doomed thereafter to try and fail to get back as if New York were actually bound by a Brigadoonesque enchantment. It’s hard to accept that I live here because my life has gone a bunch of ways that no child dreams about and moving to New York is the one thing I said I would do as a unforged young person that I followed through on.
It is, in almost every way, different than I imagined it. The New York I was supposed to move to some day was meant to be the big threshold crossing, tadaima-ass moment. The person who stepped across that threshold was not just me but the best version of me. For a while, that seemed possible, as if the two suitcases I packed and brought with me on that one way flight in 2016 were all there was to it – no looming depression, no eating disorder (at least not in a cool, manageable way), no ill-advised and already dead marriage.
That did of course all catch up to me in a big and terrible way. I’ve had depressive episodes and eating disorder relapses to rival anything that dogged me in South Carolina. And I’ve learned and am still learning that you can’t leave trauma at the site where it happened. Yet! This is the first Thanksgiving I’ve had here where nothing is actively going wrong. A lot of things are going right. It’s a struggle most days to achieve a net positive, and my last period of suicidal ideation is embarrassingly recent, but I did figure out one big piece of this whole New York…thing.
In August I moved from the Upper West Side to a studio in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. This is the first time since being up here that I’ve lived completely alone, but I feel less disconnected to everything than I have in past years. The Upper West Side is old and postcard-perfect; people’s idea of New York. It never felt right to me. Running never clicked, I was never able to establish a routine, and my loneliness felt like a tangible thing. Here, catching glimpses of other people in lighted windows doesn’t hurt. It’s a joy and a relief to know that Prospect Park, which has managed to stay a little wild and almost mystical in certain light, is my park.
Years ago, living alone meant being isolated and unwanted. I am demonstrably not isolated or unwanted in my current situation. Internalizing that is still very difficult and in these past eight years and change, I haven’t learned how to feel love without dread or hope without fear. But I realize that it’s been a long time since I’ve said I feel like I have no home. Home is an extremely loaded word for me that I’ve avoided, longed for, and cried over perhaps more than any other abstract concept (except maybe the almost equally fraught “family”).
This city that will never love me back and that I should probably stop personifying is still one of the biggest constants of my life. Holding onto it might be the most tenacious I’ve ever been about anything. So that’s something. I’ve been happy and completely miserable here, very in love and very heartbroken. I’m sure I’ll be most or all of those things again many times over, but I can’t imagine a world where I’m not thankful for this place and everything that comes with it.Find me on: