Over looking Manhattan from a reception hall in Brooklyn
Heraclitus said that you cannot step into the same river twice because the river is not the same and neither are you. Returning to New York City reminded me of this truth.
I quickly realized that this city and I knew each other at a very different time. When I needed it to help me accept that my appearance is also a fundamental aspect of who I am. When I was willing to endure a lot of loneliness in exchange for a grand setting. When I had more tolerance of materialism and superficiality. When I had more patience for a definition of success that runs so counter to my own… Now that I have moved past this, the city no longer feels like home.
As a result, visiting her was like meeting with an old friend who I was really looking forward to seeing but, when we spent time together, it was obvious we don’t click anymore. That our values have become so dissimilar that conversation has to stay on a superficial level.
This is at least how I felt at first. I was both disillusioned and disappointed for a while.
Friday, during a torrential rainstorm, I wrote a melodramatic little post for you all titled “That Felt Like Goodbye” about the city. It was a nice little ending. An eloquent way to close a chapter of my life. I intended to post it for you yesterday before leaving. But, even by Friday evening, it was less appropriate.
In that draft, I concluded that New York has given me all it has to offer. Therefore, I can let her go. I referenced Isak Dinesen’s statement in Out of Africa when she says that, if given the opportunity, she would not live her life over. The only reason to want to relive one’s life would be if it did not turn out as it ought to. I stated that I can let go of New York because my time there was as it ought to have been. Even in all its imperfection, I feel I lived the life there that I was meant to. I don’t need to relive that experience.
To an extent, this is true. I no longer desire to move back because there is nothing there to reclaim, nor a past that I feel needs to be repeated in a more satisfactory way. Still, I cannot say all that this city has left to offer me. Even though I did not have the experience I expected to, the city had more to offer me then disappointment.
Besides confirming my choice to leave (which was certainly valuable), it still left me craving city life. I realized that so much of what I have missed is what a city has to offer: Being able to observe and interact with so many different people. Having grocery stores, cafes and clothing stores in walking distance. Stepping out my door to the bustle of a busy street full of life. Working in an environment that has a sense of grandeur (I definitely ended up working there because of blisters and the weather and my complete inability to relax until the weekend). And, of course, feeling like it is completely normal to walk around in 4 inch heels if I feel like it. I just discovered that I’m ready for a new city.
It gifted me with many good new memories. I had a wonderful time with most of my friends and with others. At Patti’s wedding and reception, I had fun hanging out with a number of new people. In a very classic New York moment, I ended up making a friend on the way back to the Upper West Side from Brooklyn. A little tipsy and turned around, he helped me figure out my way home. We ended up talking through three transfers and for at least an hour longer at the street corner where we had to part ways. As a connoisseur of conversations, I can say with authority that this was an especially excellent vintage. Though I was freezing, it was hard to bring our conversation to a close.
Leaving the city yesterday, I did not feel the sense of finality that I imagined I would. As long as I have friends there, I believe that I will continue to return. Though the city and I will never be the same, we will always have something to offer each other. There is nothing tragic about Heraclitus’ observation because the pleasure of the river and of life is its vital fluidity.