pith.org :: core
November 5, 2000
I currently live in Boston, but I don't like it very much. I was about to say "I currently call Boston my home," but that would be a big lie. Actually, "live" is pretty much a big lie too as I search for housing elsewhere. "City that currently has most of my stuff" is probably most accurate. Never has it been clearer to me than just recently, when I returned to my apartment after a two-week vacation, flung open the door, and found the room into which I stepped to be completely foreign. This was my home, or so I thought, and here I was, looking at the piles of papers and magazines that should have been charming, or at least familiar, and feeling nothing but a vague sort of emptiness.
This city has never been right for me anyway. The subway closes down at 12:30 am. It takes 45 minutes to travel a couple of miles north. The people aren't friendly enough. It's too small. There isn't enough activity all the time. People don't walk enough. There isn't enough city in the city. The list could continue, but at this point I begin to bore even myself.
It makes the most sense for me to move back to New York City. I lived in New York for four months before my move to Boston and since then, it has been something of an urban utopia for me. I can think of nothing better than the time spent in what I affectionately call "the city." One can walk for hours and see only a fraction of what is available. The subway runs all the time, and takes me exactly where I need to go, and if it doesn't, then I can just walk, which is fine, because everyone walks. There are people around all the time. And the diversity! This list goes on as well, but it is at this point that someone generally reminds me that I was miserable for most of those four months, and only started getting much happier around the time that I realized I was going to be moving.
So panic suddenly sets in for me as I realize that I might be happier in Boston now that I'm going to be moving back to New York. I've been going out, dancing even. Meeting people who seem suddenly more friendly. I've been going to art galleries, and as I attend each event I find myself thinking "I'm going to be missing out on this when I leave. They don't have one of these where I'm going." The process of doubt sets in. Maybe I've just not been going about this city the right way. After all, I moved here for a crappy job, and that rubbed off onto the city. Maybe I'd really be happy here if I just gave it another chance.
To put my feelings of doubt out of my head once and for all, I return to New York to try to regain that sense of wonder that I remember feeling at one point in time. I hope that by wandering the streets of New York I will remember what it was that I left behind. The New York-ness of it all will come rushing back to me and I will be home again. Barring that, I try to force myself back into that mindset. I walk block after block, looking around me, repeating "This is it. This is home." I sound quite unconvincing and I tell myself to shut up.
I seek refuge in a coffee shop and as I stare blankly out the window, it finally occurs to me that what's been missing hasn't been a transportation system that works, or a job that really makes me feel all warm and bubbly inside, or an apartment with a view (though that would be nice). What I am really looking for is a routine. Some stability. A bit of permanence. Well that's frightening. I mean, I'm young. I shouldn't want to settle down. I've even made fun of people who have started to settle down. Could it be that my own fear that with settling down comes the loss of some sort of innocence? That settling down means becoming an adult?
In my desire to stay hip and free, I've been locking myself into a constrained view of what it means to be settled. I never let myself get comfortable in Boston because it's always been known that living there was just a temporary situation with an expiration date. The trick is that I've never known the actual date. Had I moved unconditionally, I could have started a new life. I could have settled down and allowed myself the freedom to do anything I wanted. Routine? Sure. If I wanted it. It wouldn't have been necessary, but the option would have been there. But by slapping this label of "temporary" on my life, I've limited myself to living within a deadline, and there is no freedom in that at all.
I now know that the first time I finally felt comfortable in New York wasn't when I realized that I was going to leave, but when I finally decided that I was going to stay. I just had to move away to figure it out.