The city has a strength that few can deny – in one powerful moment on an ordinary afternoon, it can steal your attention and calm your soul instantly. It takes what it can take and gives the very least it can, but you push through anyway. New York doesn’t make excuses for anything it does and it expects no less or more from its inhabitants, either native, visiting or transplanted. It’s unbearably hot, frigidly cold, entirely unpredictable, and ruthlessly relentless. But us dreamers? We keep coming, one-by-one, and two-by-two, with a few suitcases and singing a duet of ego and fear, determined to be destined to make it here, in New York freakin’ City, the place we were meant to be.
But the city fails us.
It kicks sidewalk trash in our eyes, places pigeons in our path, and tosses our dignity away with the unexpected Marilyn-Monroe-like subway vent gush of warm air up our skirts. It rains when we wear suede even though the forecast promised super-sunny highs. It has train delays on the days we need to get somewhere and is entirely too fast when we’re going to a place we just don’t want to be at. It goes express when we need local, local when we wish for express, and if there’s a rooftop party with a view, it’ll give us something to toss up the afternoon. It keeps enduring it all, failing us constantly, and we keep living.
And one day, out of nowhere in the middle of another ordinary afternoon or night, we meet some boy. With some story, from someplace we’ve never been or a town we knew from this person a few years ago who used to date our best friend who recently got married – and we’ll click. We’ll have the distracting click. We’ll watch the way they stick out their tongue when they concentrate and adore the rosiness of their cheeks when they sleep, regardless if it’s humid or chilly outside. We’ll grow accustomed to the shape of their body, the flash of joy our body experiences when we see their name pop up with a text message, and having those things that are “our” things, just between us and that boy we met that day we’ll always find just so damn glorious.
But the boy fails us.
He’s human and he’s a guy, so automatically, he’s doomed to be someone we won’t always see eye-to-eye with. He’ll call most of the time when he says he will, but on those gloomy, crappy, downright awful times when we’re blubbering hot messes in need of a shot of Merlot and a Magnolia’s cupcake, he won’t be around. He’ll be out-and-about or an emergency of the real kind will pop up, and he’ll need to have his attention elsewhere. He won’t always give us what we need and we won’t always know how to ask for it. He’ll come and he’ll go in a sweetly sickening stance, teetering between being the man we always craved and someone we pray won’t shatter our heart in the end. But we keep going, we take our relationship as it is, enjoying the beautiful highs and weeding our way through each of our jungles of the past, and we keeping loving.
Then after we take the leap of faith to tackle our city and stomach the nerve to actually let ourselves sincerely care about someone, there will be one of those ordinary afternoons again, where everything seems to be going well and we find ourselves smitten by the state of our lives, wondering where the rain cloud went and pensive it’ll return. I mean, it always does, right? Or does it? This happiness can’t actually end, we’re too big for our shoes now. We’re too self-bloated to believe anything could change. We worked for this pleasure, we paid our dues, we did what we were supposed to be, minus skipping a few steps here and there. So why would anything happen?
But then we fail ourselves.
We’ll have some news that makes us crash-and-burn, question our skills and the way we’re leading our lives. We’ll want to run and run as fast as we can in a direction we don’t dictate, hoping that by moving quickly, we’ll escape the pressure that’s building, the regret we are attempting to ignore that’s bubbling in our chest. Avoiding tears because they make us weak, then letting them escape because we’re told that’s healthy, we crumble to the ground or into our beds, smothered in pillows and sorrow, wanting nothing more, no matter what age we reach, then to hug our mother, smell her hair, and just leave it all behind.
Because we know we went right when going left would have been smarter. We keep letting ourselves get down instead of working hard to push ourselves up. We made decisions we knew weren’t right, we stayed longer than we knew we should have, we made impossible demands on things there were once possible, but now are not. We let our attention wonder when it should have stayed focused, and when we were faced with a challenge, we tried to hide instead of stepping up to it directly. We lingered on the past, on the ideas of what we were, of what we could of been, of where we were going, without remembering who we’re becoming, what will be, and where we’re headed. We got lost in the losses instead of seeing the beauty in losing.
Failing doesn’t mean the end, it means the beginning. And failing is only defined by our own terms based on experiences we’ve had where we were told doing this or doing that meant falling. We can’t fail if we’ve never failed before. But we also can’t win if we haven’t failed. If we don’t know what it feels like when life most literally sucks (there is no more eloquent word), we wouldn’t know to appreciate the blessings when they come our way. Without failure, there is no progress, and with no progress, there is no way to fulfill those dreams in New York, or with or without a man. There is no right way, if there’s never been a wrong way.
So, fail. Learn. Take the road less traveled and figure out it’s wrong. Love someone who doesn’t deserve you. Give away your heart and let that spirit crumble. Make poor decisions that leave you sitting alone at Dunkin Donuts with a red suitcase, an attitude, and a banana you can’t eat (story to come), waiting on a comfort that no one can give you other than yourself, no matter how supporting your possibility is. Be a critic of yourself and give bad reviews. Eat that cheesecake. Yes, the whole thing.
And then breathe. Pick yourself up. Pay your gratitude to the fates, who gave you the beautiful opportunity to fall hard and get a little bruised up. Because now, my friend, it’s time to heal. And of course, to again, one day, in an ordinary afternoon, succeed.
Daily gratitude: I’m thankful that I’ve failed. And that I survived it.
(If you’re wondering, no, Mr. Possibility and I didn’t break up. It’s a different kind of loss)