It was well after midnight when the taxi left Newark Airport and sped along I-95 toward Manhattan. As we approached the city, an enormous half-moon hung in the sky, and the Empire State Building – lit up like a Christmas tree in red and green – sparkled in the distance. My eyes, tired yet watchful, remained ever forward.
After I had unpacked my suitcase, sorted through a stack of mail, and inventoried the contents of the kitchen, I crawled wearily into bed. My body was exhausted, but to my dismay my wired brain simply wouldn’t shut down. It wasn’t until the sun threatened to rise that I finally fell asleep.
A day and a half later, I boarded a subway train bound for downtown. I didn’t want to go. The fog of jet lag was still thick, the temperature had dropped into the teens, and snow was in the forecast. But, at the urging of a friend, I’d signed up for an intuitive reading at a place called The Alchemist’s Kitchen in the East Village, and it was too late to get my money back. Besides, I needed an excuse to leave my apartment. So, I went.
Once there, I took my seat across from a woman named Victoria. She jotted down my name on a piece of white, unlined paper, then proceeded to look at me in that unnerving way “spiritual” people sometimes do when they’re trying to read your mind. Or maybe it was just unnerving to me, concerned as I was about what someone might find in those dark recesses.
“I keep hearing the word move,” she said. “What does that mean to you?”
“Uh, I just moved here. About three months ago.”
“That’s great. Welcome.”
“Is there something you want me to ask your spirit guides?”
“Well. . . I’m not really happy here. I think maybe. . . I made a mistake.”
She looked at me and smiled.
“I felt that way, too, when I first came here from Ohio. But three months is nothing. You’re still in the adjustment period. Wait until spring before you decide anything.”
Wait until spring. If there’s one theme that’s been running through my life lately, it’s that: Wait until spring.
It was last spring when I decided to move to New York. I’d rented a tiny apartment on the seventh floor of an old building in Greenwich Village, and spent my days covering miles of Manhattan on foot. I toured theaters and talked art and literature with friends and strangers. I held meetings over delicious meals and cocktails and coffee. All the while, the weather ran hot, then cold. One day, it rained. Another day, a lightning storm. But even the unpleasantries were somehow beautiful, perhaps because they were short-lived. Tulips bloomed on street corners, and friends gathered to share news on park benches, and everything felt hopeful and full of possibility.
I moved to New York because I wanted to change my life. Because as much as I love Los Angeles, I was too comfortable there. I was coasting through my days with no clear sense of direction, no real feeling of purpose, no evidence of personal growth. And I was terrified that I’d wake up one day and find that I’d spent a decade that way, without having challenged myself, or accomplished anything I was proud of.
So now I’m here. The trees are barren. The snow is falling. The wind chill is well below freezing. And there’s no relief in sight. And in the heart of winter, I’m finally realizing a truth that should have been obvious all along: you don’t change your life by changing your address. You change it by looking within, by asking yourself difficult questions, and by finding the courage to answer them. For me, most of those questions revolve around what I’ve been holding on to that I need to let go of. My guilt for all the ways I’ve failed, both myself and others. My attachment to a past that’s not coming back. And the story I’ve been telling myself that there are things for other people that aren’t for me; that “almost” is good enough.
As I write this, I’m sitting in my living room, looking out over the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. It’s January fourth. The sky is white, the snow relentless. But every few minutes, a subway train rattles past my eighth-floor window, some brave soul in a puffy neon jacket clears the sidewalk with a snow plow, and life goes on.
And on the eighth floor of an old brick building on La Salle Street, wrapped in a blanket, note pad and pen in hand, lucky enough to have nowhere to go and nothing to do except watch the snowfall and write, I made myself a promise: I won’t move again until I’ve answered the difficult questions. No matter how hard it gets, no matter how uncomfortable it is.
And if, in the process of answering those questions, life leads me elsewhere, that’s fine. But for now, it has led me here. To New York, in the winter, a place where – despite the cold and discomfort – countless doors have been opened for me, if only I can be humble enough to recognize them, and brave enough to walk through them.
Eventually, winter will end. Spring will come again. And I’ll be here, waiting.
Until next time, friends.
I always like your posts but I have to ask, how much time of the three months have you actually been in New York building a life there? You travel an enviable amount.
From my own experience, it took me 18 months to 2 years to build a life in PNW when we moved here.
I was curious, so I did the math. It has actually been 16 weeks since I arrived in the city, and of those 16 weeks I’ve been away for 4 1/2 of them. So if you take away the travel, it really has been three months. You make a fair point and it’s one I’ve been meditating on myself lately. These last few years, travel has become my habit when the here and now feels uncomfortable, which is often. I guess you could say this post is my resolution to try harder. Thank you, as always, for reading!
Moving cities is hard- I’ve done it several times in my 51 years, & I reckon it really takes 18 months to 2 years to really settle in. You’re therefore right to ask yourself why you actually moved- therein lies the truth of the challenge you are facing. Sounds like you’re willing to do the work required though, and sitting with yourself at your writing desk is the best place to be. Good luck & happy New Year of new beginnings, G 🙏🏼
Thank you so much. I agree! The writing desk IS the best place to be, which is probably why I spend so much time avoiding it. 😉 Happy New Year!
When I feel frozen or stuck, a friend reminds me to “move my feet”. I wonder if that is really why Victoria kept seeing / hearing the word “move”. Perhaps not because you just did move, but because she intuitively knew to advise you that you are not stuck or frozen or immobile. You can move your feet right there in NYC and who knows what groove you might create for yourself. Move. Groove. Smooth. Yes you can.
I agree, Melanie. It’s just harder to move with the negative wind chill. 😉 I walked a half mile to the gym yesterday in the snow (and lots of layers) and I felt like a hero. It’s the little things. Love to you, friend.
This piece speaks to me. Recently, I have felt myself in a stagnant position, very little move toward challenging myself. Although I have not moved it has crossed my mind. Like you I realize changing my address will not change what I need to do, which is go inside and face myself and my fears. It’s a tough road sometimes, confronting yourself but a necessary one. Good for you recognizing this and making yourself stay put while you do just that.
Thank you Amy! I’m wishing you well.
At least for those of us who read your posts, it doesn’t matter where you live. We get to enjoy such wonderful writing. Stay warm.
What a lovely thing to say! Thank you.
You’ll be okay wherever you are, Sarah, but know that it really does take years to settle! You will work it out. Take care and know that many are cheering you on. Happy New Year!
Love to you, Eadie. ❤️ Happy New Year!
I once read an article years ago and never forgot the advice a grandfather gave his granddaughter. ‘Life is hard, by the yard, but inch by inch, it’s a cinch’. Applies to all areas of life I find, from dieting to health issues, work issues etc.. And as my Dad says often ‘Just keep picking them up and putting them down’ (he means your feet!!) Happy Weekend my dear xxx
I love that! Thank you. xx
You always seem to inspire me. Fear and excusees have been my set back for awhile now and I have moments of spiritual enlightenment and move forward a few steps and then pause, but reading this just now sparks a fire within me. Words are a powerful thing. Thank you.
What a beautiful thing to say. Truly, that means so much to me. Thank you. I’m wishing you well.
Pingback: THE ONLY WAY OUT OF FEAR IS THROUGH | Bottle + Heels