“Wow honey. Six years. That’s hard to believe,” my mom said in her groggy morning voice. No matter how early I call on my walk to work each day, she picks up. I know she’s proud of me (after all, she doesn’t go a week without reminding me), but her sentiment about my moving-to-NYC anniversary was layered with both grief and kindness. As much as she will never admit it, I know a part of her wishes my dreams would have kept me in those rolling Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and not led me to these hectic, boisterous streets of New York.
Six years. Six whole years.
In truth, it’s hard for me to believe too. While I hate to say that 21 feels so long ago, considering I’m only 27, it really does. That girl who first moved here, wearing her Target pumps and skin-tight skirts, believing every moment was covered in gold and ripe with possibility, is a little different from this woman I’ve become. I’m still positive, I’m still hopeful, I still love Target – but I’ve grown and changed so much in the years claimed a triple-zero area code that I can’t imagine who I’ll be in six more years.
March 14 always feels like an important day for me – a time to think back on the best decision (and biggest leap of faith) I’ve ever made. There have been some pretty rough times over the years, even moments when I considered leaving to start all over somewhere less crazy. Less intense. More forgiving. There have been brilliant moments of both success and love, where Manhattan shined as bright as it did when it was a mere thought in the back of my head as a child. There have been such amazing moments of luck and wisdom, adventure and determination, friendship and laughter. My life in New York has surprised me and taken me in directions that I wouldn’t have mapped out myself.
My life in New York is both everything – and nothing – like I imagined it would be.
Last year, at the five year mark, I was feeling more than a little lost: unsure of how I felt, unsure of how I felt about my location, not confident in where I wanted my career to go, and well, at the breaking point of giving up on love after countless failed dates that left me feeling more than a little bitter. Last year wasn’t the hardest year, but it was one that forced me to take an honest, hard, difficult look at my life without those rose colored glasses that I always clung to, and figure out what’s next.
That’s really the question, you know – once you’ve made (some of) your dreams come true, what do you do next?
At the time, I was afraid to dream. Afraid to close my eyes and configure a new way of looking at my present and my future. Afraid to have that same silly hope that made me brave enough to move here in the first place. Afraid to be the bubbly, kind and open-hearted woman who saw the bright side. It wasn’t that I didn’t have things to be thankful for (of course I did and still do) – but I had lost my way. I didn’t know what I wanted or how I was supposed to get there, wherever that was. I only knew I was unhappy, and that I didn’t wear it very well -I never have.
Today, at the 6-year milestone, I don’t know where tomorrow will take me or six months from now, or at the seven year anniversary (I can already feel that itch).
But I’m dreaming again.
And in a way that I never have before: my whole world doesn’t revolve around the axis of New York. Sure, I mostly love it here. I have a happy life, a support system I depend on and a job that I love with the most inspiring colleagues I’ve ever worked with. I’m single, but my heart, somehow, is still ever-hopeful and confident about what it knows will eventually come my way. I’ve found peace in being alone, realizing that I never quite am, that really, love always surrounds me.
I’m living day by day, moment by moment, savoring the joy, the beauty, the love in each of them. There is something so profound and so calming about living for the now instead of the next. It makes it easier to dream when I’m not pushing for the answers. When I’m not worrying about what will happen. When I’m not anxious. When I’m not plotting or planning or defining anything.
When I’m just living.
So what has New York taught me, six years later? The hardest – most important lesson of all: How to let go and how to let my life unfold. And also, how deep the capacity of my heart truly is. Because even after all this time, on an uncommonly sunny March afternoon, while talking to my mom 800 miles away, I can catch a glimpse of the Empire State Building surrounded by beautiful blue skies, and smile.
Because regardless of what the future holds or where I go or if I stay, the very fact that I get to be alive is pretty incredible.
Happy Anniversary, New York. I still love you.