Ten years ago, I took a course called Daily Themes in college. For one semester, I wrote five short pieces a week. Some of them were funny (there was one about my suite’s pet goldfish) and most were forgettable. But there are a few I still think about, including this one about growing up and searching for direction.
August 20, 2017
All summer, while I slept in my adolescent bedroom and sorted through everything I left behind when I went to college and when I moved to New York, I was thinking about memory. Memory, and nostalgia, and belonging, and though the whole summer through I meant to sit and write something about it I never quite found enough time alone to find my words. I’ve been in DC for over a week and I’ve unpacked my books, hung my art, met with my supervisor, and interrupted work and nesting to visit with friends. But today I struck out on my own and I’ve found a minute to think, here in the shade by the fountain in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.
Before I left New York I devoured a book by Rebecca Solnit called A Field Guide to Getting Lost*, and I’ve talked about it to anyone who would listen ever since. It meanders through the topics of loss and lost, drawing connections between the two that are surprising but resonant. In one anecdote I loved, she talks about childhood memories and how they grow less distinct over time. How when she has written a memory it stops being real or alive and becomes “fixed in letters”. Solnit writes of seeing a snapshot of herself as a toddler wearing a shirt she remembers having on, and then losing the sensation of what it was like to wear it now that she sees this “unrecognizable toddler” who lived that memory.
I write this because I need to step carefully. I don’t want to lose the shivery sense of walking back in time I felt this summer when I made my way from the street where I was a teenager, where my family still lives, down a short path through the woods to the street where I was a child, where one of my best friends now lives with her family. It was one of the joys of my summer to turn the corner and step into the brief quiet of that path.
I have never believed in signs. I enjoy reading my horoscope, and a friend recently got me into reading Tarot, but those are all about narrative lenses: How do these arbitrary but supposedly specific sets of insights wrap around and reveal parts of my story that are obvious and parts that are hidden?
But signs? The universe calling out just to you to tell you what to do, speaking through — what? Books and Instagram and a Broadway musical?
Finding a spot to sit and read and write and be alone in Prospect Park on a sunny Sunday in May is a challenge. I tramp around the paths of the Ravine in my hiking boots looking for a place where there aren’t too many people. It takes a solid half hour (and a weird pass by a spot where a young guy sits with a laptop while other guys, some with bikes, seem to hang nonchalantly around the area — I look curiously and then walk away quickly) before I find a fallen log next to the path that seems promising.
Even still, someone passes by me, and I can see another path nearby where people walk in both directions. It’s hard to be alone outside in New York City — sometimes you can almost achieve it if you keep moving, but if you’re sitting still, someone will always come by.
I’ve been thinking a lot since I posted last week about how much I left out of my New York goodbye. It’s so easy sometimes to write something and feel pretty good about it and want to share immediately. That’s the joy and the danger of a blog, especially when you’re the only person to tell you, hey maybe sit on this a little longer. That you should dig deeper, craft a stronger perspective.
Crossposted to Noted in NYC.
In two weeks, I’m moving away from New York City. I’ll spend the summer with my family in western New York, and then in August I’ll move to DC for graduate school.
Two weeks. I moved to New York on August 30, 2010. I’m packing up exactly six years and nine months later, and I don’t quite know how to say goodbye. I’ve had the goodbye drinks, a party is on the horizon, I’ve tried to see as many friends for dinner or brunch as possible in the weeks leading up to my last day of work, and now I’m slowly putting books and dishes and odds and ends into boxes and bins.
I started my blog, Noted in NYC, in the fall of 2013 – my “about” page says: “I started blogging as a way to remind myself to take better advantage of all the awesome things there are to do here in NYC.” It was true, and I certainly did more exploring in NYC, seeing more shows and visiting more museums and going on more walks, after I started the blog. But I also started it because I wasn’t sure about New York. I liked a lot of the opportunities it offered, the place I worked and the people I knew, but I hadn’t fallen in love with the city itself. I hoped blogging would change that.