Part One: “I just want to get out of here.”
I remember walking through the streets of New York City from the age of six, clutching my mother’s hand like a lifeline, completely overwhelmed and amazed at the tall buildings and how many people surrounded me at all times. I remember putting subway tokens into the coin slot, and once my sister and I were separated from our family when the doors closed too quickly. I remember the first time I went to New York City with just my friends, no parents, and how we walked around like we owned everything, despite straying no further than a small radius in Midtown. I remember late nights in Little Italy, the deli we used to go to after visiting the jewelry district, the smell of the city when we stepped out of Grand Central. In my childhood, my parents loved to take us to the city once a month or every two months or so, and at the end of every trip, I would say the same thing: “I’m going to live here someday.”
Back in 2014, when I got the New York City skyline tattooed on my arm, I had no intention of leaving. I wanted to commemorate my life as it turned out, single in the city, finding myself, and wearing my heart on my sleeve, always. I’ve loved this city with every breath that’s come out of my body since the day I got the keys to my first apartment, back in September 2010. New York has been my greatest relationship, one of my soul mates and maybe even my true love; this city holds so much of my heart that I ache to leave it, even for a few days, missing the constant movement, the sensory overload, squishing with strangers in the subway, stairs for days at every turn. For so many years after arriving here, the only thought I had was how much I couldn’t wait to be here forever.
There was a distinct moment over the summer, when I took stock of my life in New York City and realized that everything was perfectly fine. In my nearly-six years here I’ve watched friends grow and get married; I’ve settled into my apartment and fallen in love with Washington Heights in the three plus years since I moved into my own apartment and everything started changing. I love the bustle of the city, the fast-paced nature of my job, and the people that are a part of my life here. But in that distinct moment this summer, I had this overwhelming gut feeling like I was getting ready to say goodbye. It felt like the last hour of a wedding reception, where the band is starting to wind down, people have slowly trickled out, and while you and your friends are still having a total blast, you know you’re in the final stretch till the afterparty.
And so I contemplated that thought for the night, letting it run over me like a summer rainstorm down Fifth Ave, until I reached a moment of pivotal clarity that has shaped my life every day ever since. Could I leave New York? If I could leave, where would I even go? It was a question that popped into my head more than once over the years, but it’s something I thought about more from a casually-interested, what-if perspective; now all of a sudden all of those conversations with myself came flooding back and I realized that while at the time I’d pushed them out of my head as silly hypotheticals, they were really rooting deep somewhere inside my brain, ready to come out the moment I was finally ready to ask myself the most important question that I’ve been thinking about daily ever since:
When can I logically move across the country to start over?
To be continued….