Lately all of my excitement and energy has been directed towards our upcoming move. Thoughts of paint colors and green grass keep me counting down the days. I've been surprised at how easy "packing" has been. I'm finally letting go of things that, until now, I've hung onto for years--the futon that I recovered with my mom in Minneapolis, the yellow distressed dresser that I paid $40 for 10 years ago in Iowa, the pink dress that I wore on my 21st birthday, the blue retro couch where Ryan and I had our first kiss-- all of it has either been donated or set on the curb with little afterthought.
But last weekend as my husband was sorting through a long-forgotten shoulder bag, he came across an old iPod. MY old iPod. The one I swore had been stolen in 2010, but really had just been hiding in the pocket of his Lands' End bag all this time. For me, it was like finding gold. I eagerly scrolled through all of the playlists, listening to the soundtrack of my early 20s.
Then I opened the iPod's photo album and came face to face with a photo that was taken about three weeks after I arrived in NYC. It's a blurry photo of me standing on the shoreline in Dumbo with the city spread out behind me. I'm wearing a simple grey tank top and a purple American Apparel skirt. I'm skinny and sunburnt and wide-eyed and hopeful and wanting to believe that my broken-hearted self would find meaning in this big crazy place.
Looking at this photo now, I have the urge to hug that purple-skirted girl; I want to hug her and thank her for her bravery and remind her of how far she has come:
You did it. You found the meaning you were looking for, and then some. You taught students --beautiful, spirited students--and throughout the process, of course, they taught you. You let go, chilled out, and stopped wearing makeup. You spent more time looking up instead of down, and learned to appreciate the feeling of being tucked next to complete strangers in a crowded subway car. You took risks and fell on your face and learned to trust yourself. And you know what? Something beautiful happened here. Amidst the city noise and the grit, the long hours and the ridiculously high rent, you finally started to wake up to the world around you. You learned to care less about being a size 2 and more about being useful. You looked around and realized that this life is about so much more than you and me. You smiled and cheered as you watched your nephews grow. You fell in love with a kind man who loves you fiercely but treats you gently. You flew to Africa and left a piece of your heart with the women and children you met there. And then somehow at the end of that 5 year journey, you found yourself sorting through a 700 square foot apartment, ready to get the hell out of the city.
You see, I'm finally realizing that the things that matter to me aren't the things that I can pack up in a box and move from city to city, or state to state. They're the thoughts that keep me company, the people that inspire me, the ideas that make tomorrow seem brighter than today, and the hope that each of us truly can leave ripples.
For me, coming to New York City was a way of coming into myself.