Something seems to have happened within the last year that makes me sort of hold my breath. I never really think about leaving New York, ever. We’re committed to raising the girls here all the way through college and beyond and I’m not done with this city yet. When I look back at my own NYC childhood and reflect on how the city has shaped me and how I see the world, I feel good about raising the girls here. I have a feeling that we’ll be in our current apartment for a good long while even though many of our neighbors are upgrading to bigger spaces or moving to the suburbs. But when I try to visualize our senior citizen selves living in this apartment, well…I’m not sure I can see it.
You know how you absentmindedly joke about something for awhile and then all of a sudden you start thinking that it might hold some truth? We used to joke about retiring in Washington, but while I’m sure Mark wouldn’t mind going back to his home state at any point in time, it was always something that I tossed around without much thought or seriousness, partly because it was so far into the future. But as you know, I’ve been thinking about the future a lot lately because the future is suddenly not so abstract and the more I think about it, the more I think it’s possible that I might be able to let go of New York.
It almost hurts me to think this.
But I’ve been through this before. When I got on a plane 21 years ago headed for Seattle, I didn’t think I was ever going to come back to New York; it wasn’t in my plans to move back. I was done with the city. Done. But the city has a way of getting under your skin and weaving nostalgia and memories into this undeniably luring web. After awhile, I became homesick for this crazy place – the characters, the food, the friction, the diversity. 5 years later, it was time to go home.
I do really believe that we are meant to be in specific places for certain stages in our lives. Sometimes it’s not apparent when you’re there at the moment, but when you can reflect back on a personal timeline and see it spread out in front of you, it often starts to make sense as you weave together the pieces. I was meant to be in the East Village in the late 80s and early 90s. I could argue that without that experience, my world and my mind would be tremendously smaller. In much the same way, I feel like I was meant to go to Washington in the early 90s to figure out who I was again after those years of experimentation and stepping out of every comfort zone I possibly could. It wasn’t that I wanted to go back to my high school self – no, not at all, but rather to find a compromise between the life that I was living at that point.
When I left the Northwest, I said good bye to the rain and I thought that I would be leaving for good; it felt so right to be back in New York and I didn’t ever want to leave again. But a funny thing happened. I don’t think that I would have ever predicted that I would again feel a similar sense of nostalgic longing about the place I once called home – a 5 year blip, really, in my life as a New Yorker. Through our yearly trips back to Seattle to visit family, however, I’ve come to realize that this feels like home too.
Who knows why we feel the pull towards some places while we feel nothing for others. I look at these 2 photos above and feel different things that draw upon memories from distinct periods in my life. Some of it is steeped in youthful dreams and fantasies before the realities of adult life and responsibilities take hold. Maybe it’s all based on nostalgia, but the point is, I feel something and they both pull at my hearstrings. And so we begin to talk about where we want to be in 20 years long after the girls are done with college. Maybe our parents will be gone by then too. And I think for the first time since I’ve moved back 17 years ago, I might be ready to be done with New York again.