Riding back from Sunnyside Sunday morning after a night spent conquering blocks in four inch nude heels that weren’t mine, I watched the city get closer.
And I remembered when it felt — and was — so far away.
Nothing hurt more than the sight of reality when I returned from my internship in NYC during college. I traded the incredible views and interesting people for classes that I didn’t want to take and homework I couldn’t make myself care about. In a particularly depressing afternoon when I flipped through photos from my Manhattan summer adventures for about the 100th time, I called my mom in desperation, complaining that I was stuck on campus when I belonged in taxi cabs and coffee shops, writing and loving, learning and exploring in a place where the view wasn’t mountains, but skyscrapers. She did her best to console me and then sweetly warned: “Don’t wish your life away, those days will come but these days will end.”
I didn’t heed her cautionary advice then but I understand it now. Now that this city is my home and I’ve yet to return to the college town I took for granted most of the time I was there. And as much as I can’t believe it– I do miss those days. They’ve come and they’ve gone, just like high school, just like the days when dreaming of being a writer was just a dream. Just like my first year in New York. Just like my second. The days when I was a new soul on these old streets are included in my memories, just as much as the afternoons I spent dozing in the vast green of my multi-acre backyard, imagining of the life I would one day lead.
A life that is very much a reality now, even if I still pinch myself and tap my heels three times just to make sure I’m really home.
I go to sleep with the city on my skin, hearing the same familiar sounds on Amsterdam outside my window. I take a train each morning
where, against all odds and population estimates, I recognize faces. I sit close to people every day that I may never see again and the people who mean the most to me here, I didn’t know five years ago. Not even two years ago. I pay New York taxes, I’ll vote here in November and next year, my license will be from the Empire State. My step will never resemble a saunter again – though I do know it is an art – and I can’t imagine living in a place where bagels were not an option. I know my way and the way has brought me far– letting me fall in love and out of it, both with men, myself and this zip code.
So much behind me, so many days I’ve lived and people I’ve known. So many who have entered my life and left it, a handful who I hope I’ll never have to learn how to let go of. So many lips I’ve kissed and hearts I’ve felt. So many I’ve wished I could hold longer than I was allowed to. Countless boxes packed with things I’ve now donated and books I can’t give a summary of if I tried. Clothes and clothes (and clothes!), some I never wore, some I wore until my friends made me throw out. Frames with rotating pictures based on time and place, relationship status and mood. Things I thought I wanted until I had them, but couldn’t find the receipt, notes from friends and family, cards from those I’ll never see again.
Postcards that remind me of where I’ve been, journals that illustrate how I got here, and clippings of where I hope to be. Of what I hope to find. What I imagine I’ll create and who I’ll love. Of the stories I’ll piece together, and the ones I’ll write without even knowing. Of the days I sometimes, desperately want to come.
Those days where I have everything figured out. When I know exactly where I’m going, how to get there, and that it’s the place I want to go. Those days when I’ve already done the dirty work of dating and mating and relating, and I’ve somehow managed to come out on the other end, only slightly wounded and barely bitter, ready to love someone and let them love me in return. Those days where weekend plans seem fancier and pricier because my budget can allow. Those days when my savings actually amount to something, and so do the recipes that I’m no longer attempting, but perfecting. Those days when I’m free enough to travel the world but stable enough to afford it. Those days where nothing seems more beautiful or more perfect than waking up the sound of tiny footsteps racing down the hall on a Saturday morning, and together, the man I promised forever-and-ever to, we make pancakes like we did when we first moved in together.
I used to worry that those days never come.
That I’d never get to New York. That I’d never be an editor. That I’d never grow boobs or learn how to drive a car or run a mile without passing out. That I’d never know what it felt like to be in love with someone. That I’d never be kissed. That I’d never be confident in my own skin. That I’d never roam the city like I owned it. That I’d never be anything more than a hopeful spirit that flew her way North but never quite landed. That I’d never be comfortable living one-hundred-and-ten percent on my own. That I’d never find everything I was looking for, or really, even know where to look.
But those days did come. Those days are now. And those days – where money is fluent, where love doesn’t feel like a Ferris wheel, where children are wished for (not something to try and avoid) – they will come too. And if If the last ten years are any indication, they will be here before I know it, before I have a moment to think or get too settled.
And these days will end. So why not enjoy them? Why not be single and full of life? Over-pouring with overpowering optimism that you can only have before you learn one-too-many hard lessons? Complete with energy and passion, ready for the next adventure, the big change to come, the first solo trip that only happens once? Letting love find its way to you while you focus your attention on other things – on things that you love, which ultimately, brings you right back to the very thing you were allowing to fall into place?
Besides – if you spend all your time waiting for those days that’ll come, you’ll never enjoy these days you have.