Manhattan is a mere 2.3 miles wide by 13.4 miles long, and yet it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. To provide housing, nourishment, and entertainment to the millions of dreamers who float on this small island, the only way to build…is up.
And up is where New Yorkers go. To the tallest skyscraper, to the top of our careers, to the highest of heels, to the most impressive of social circles, to the most diverse collection of interests, intelligence, and conversation. To the corner office on the highest floor, to the penthouse suite of a high-rise, to the man who towers at 6’4″ with one of those impressively heavy credit cards that are by invitation only. To get to where we’re going, us, the united and tired people who refuse to live in any borough but Manhattan, we do it quickly. We hustle to catch the train before the conductor warns us of the closing doors, we hastily parade through tourists admiring the sites we probably take for granted, and we are always keeping our eyes peeled for the next opportunity, for the next businessman to treat us to dinner, for the next big thing that’ll take us closer and closer to the peak we all seek.
Because we’re in such a hurry to get to our next destination, no matter if it’s work, our dwelling, or the surprisingly difficult to get to top floor of Macy’s – we take the elevator. Just like the cobblestone streets in the Village and Ms. Lady Liberty herself, some of the shoots in this city are scarily old. But, like Mr. Trump’s towers and the luxury buildings on nearly every tenth corner, some elevators are so fast, so motionless that they’ll take your breath away.
Regardless of their age, though, there is something strikingly similar about each of these mechanisms: the “close door” button is much more worn and used than the “open door” one. It makes sense – if we’re always chasing the next fire to start or to put out – don’t we want to get in and get going as soon as possible?
I don’t usually take the elevator, mainly because my building is a walk-up and my office is on the fourth floor – but when I do, the elevator etiquette is almost always the same. The men step aside to let me, the lady, in first and then they follow behind in suit, as if they’re protecting me by ensuring no one gets in who shouldn’t. We each push our buttons and face towards the exit, without striking up conversation, by smiling politely to avoid awkwardness. And then, as we’re all settling into the spot we’ll refuse to leave for our entire ride up (or down) – someone inevitably pushes the “close door” button. Not once, not twice, or even three times – but as many times as it takes until the door closes and we cascade up the shoot.
I’m convinced most of the “please, please, please close” buttons don’t work or they’ve lost their power over the years – but as much as it irritates me to watch that person insist on moving faster than the elevator already does, I have to admit that for a long time, my approach to love and life was even more diligent than his/her finger.
From the time I decided I wanted to be a writer who lived in New York, I fought tooth-and-nail to make it a reality. I took on more responsibility than I should have, I had more internships than I needed to, I took on titles and roles that weren’t necessary, and I saved more money than I ever anticipated. I walked away from relationships I thought would hold me back, I graduated a semester early from college, and I worried endlessly that my dream, what I thought was my destiny, would never get here.
I closed many doors and never looked back because my eyes were set to what I thought was the end-all-be-all, the top flight of my life. I was so focused on the doors to spread apart and to step out into the world I knew I was supposed to be a part of, that I couldn’t have gotten here faster.
And while I do not regret my path and any of the things I left behind to become a New Yorker or a writer – I sometimes wonder if I needed to rush. Because once you get to where you’re going – you’re there. Could I have missed doors that opened because I wanted the elevator to close so badly? Could I have missed a floor that could have brought me happiness because my sights were set to narrowly to my goal?
Haven’t I done this in love, too?
Once I realized a relationship wasn’t working or the guy let me know he no longer wanted me part of his life -I made a run for it. I jumped on the fastest-ride to mourning, getting angry, and eventually attempting to forget about the certain he-who-should-not-be-named. I figured, no matter if I sprinted towards the doors of the old relationship to try and catch them before they slammed shut – they would eventually close. Even if I push the “going up” or the “come back to me” button one hundred times, it would be one hundred times wasted. I turned my back often times on letting someone catch the elevator with me because I just wanted to go, to run away from any possibility for fear I’d get hurt. Yet, I always had one eye carefully watching for a door to open, for it to be the moment, when I met the man who would change it all. To stop on his floor, instead of figuring out which one I belonged on.
Like the New Yorker I always was, but now can officially claim, I never give myself a moment to breathe. As much as I don’t have patience with men, with my career, with the train when I’m about to be late to work – I have even less patience with myself. Nothing is ever good enough, clever enough, smart enough, pretty enough, shapely enough, or high enough. I want more and more, faster and faster, tougher and tougher, fancier and fancier -and I don‘t want to wait. I may not push the button to make the doors close, yet I push my own buttons constantly.
But, I’ve finally realized that the span between the lobby and the penthouse is never really that long.
Sometimes the cart is empty and you go from bottom to top without hesitation. Sometimes people come and go with each floor that passes, and sometimes a child wants to make the whole screen light up. Sometimes the doors must be held open to let something large fit, and sometimes you go up an extra floor just because you’d like to continue locking eyes with a handsome stranger (and to figure out which one he’s on). Sometimes there are technical difficulties, sometimes the air conditioning goes out, and sometimes it goes down before it goes back up.
And sometimes, when we’re luckier than we know, the doors open to a place we never anticipated. This is when instead of rushing – we step carefully out into the unfamiliar space and hear our click-click against the floor. And there, we decide perhaps we can enjoy the ride to the top and experience everything along the way. No need to push the open or the close door, and especially not our own. If we so choose, we may decide to go back down or pick a different level, and not worry about the pressures we place on ourselves or about time it takes to go floor-to-floor.
Because when the time is right, when we’ve had patience with ourselves and with the masters of fate, we know the elevator will always go up. And if it doesn’t, we’ll be strong enough to take the stairs.
P.S. Confessions of a Love Addict is celebrating Valentine’s Day a little differently this year. We’ll make it more about the single ladies and less about flowers that’ll die in a day. Submit your Valentine here.
Life is not about the day we win prizes. It’s all about the days in between.
Absolutely love this post, such a great metaphor for the race that is life. Being a mom and a Type A personality (dangerous combo), I must often slow myself down as well and realize that everything will fall into place, slow down, and bask in the beauty of life, not just see it blur by in my haste to be productive.
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