What could be.

“For what it’s worth. . . it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Spring came early to New York. Even if it was only a brief respite from the snow that hadn’t quite finished with us yet, the February day where the sun appeared and the temperature warmed to nearly seventy degrees was glorious. In the late afternoon, I took a thirty-block detour on my way to the gym to walk through Morningside Heights. An elderly couple sitting on a park bench smiled at me and said hello. Children chased each other and laughed, unencumbered by their scarves and jackets. As I turned down 110th Street, sleeveless joggers charged past, heading for Central Park. Even the way the waning sun fell across the brownstones lining Harlem’s Manhattan Avenue felt, somehow, hopeful.

When I meet people in New York and they learn I’ve only recently moved here, it doesn’t take long for them to ask the inevitable question: why? Why would I leave a seemingly comfortable life in Los Angeles – a place with enviable weather, where I have great friends and an established network of contacts – to move across the country to a city where life is arguably more difficult? Why now? Why, with no obvious anchor in the form of a job or school or a relationship, at an age where – let’s be honest – starting over is not easy?

Whenever I’m asked this question, I invariably answer with some version of the following: I’d been feeling creatively stagnant in L.A. for some time and I needed a change. I wrote a play that I want to produce here. And I’d always wanted to try New York and figured, if not now, when? And all of these things are true. They’re just not the whole truth. The whole truth is something more difficult to pin down, something I feel embarrassed to admit.

Ever since I was very young, I had an idea about the person I was supposed to be. She’s braver than I am, more confident. She’s successful and her life is glamorous. And – perhaps the most important part – she’s happy.  Like really, really, stupidly, ridiculously happy.

When I moved to L.A. as a baby faced eighteen-year-old, all the big dreams that drove me there were wrapped up in this idea, this need to find the best version of myself. Over the years, I caught glimpses of her. I caught glimpse of what could be. But the life I longed for never fully materialized. And just after my thirty-first birthday, everything went off the rails. And I began to wonder if time had run out on my dreams.

In a way, New York felt like my last shot. If I was too afraid to respond to the siren call of the city, what would that say about me? Would it mean I wasn’t as brave or as adventurous as I wanted to be? Would it mean that my best days were already behind me?

I’ve always been an optimist. But here’s the thing about hope: it’s a currency that grows more expensive with time and with exposure to loss. After every death, after every disappointment, after every heartbreak that has rocked this rollercoaster decade of my thirties, it’s become harder to pick myself up and begin again. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s not that I don’t try. It’s just that I have learned to protect myself by not only preparing for the worst, but by expecting it.

So, when the sparkle of starting again in a new city wore off and the inevitable reality of adjusting to life in New York set in, I got down on myself. I succumbed to melancholy and depression. I stopped believing that good things were going to happen for me.

But here’s the other thing about hope: it’s persistent. Our dreams don’t die easily. And sometimes, all it takes is one small shift in perspective to set the world right again.

I suppose it’s ironic that my shift in perspective was brought about by the flu. Forced to slow down, stay home, and stay in bed, I had a lot of time to think. And I thought about all the friends from back home who had been sending me love via emails and texts and calls, telling me they were proud of me and they believed in me. I thought about the new friends I’d made in New York, who had been so generous, so warm and welcoming, so willing to help me. And I felt both grateful for everything I had been given and ashamed of myself for taking it for granted. And I resolved to try harder. And I reminded myself that the only time you ever really fail is when you quit trying.

Until next time, friends.

22 thoughts on “What could be.

  1. Starting over is hard at any age, but since we only live once, you just have to try. The worst that can happen is that you have to go back. Major kudos to you for your courage. Not many would want to do what you have done. You’re doing awesome!

  2. Wow, this came at exactly the right time. I am currently facing an opportunity to change my life, and I’ve been doubting some decisions. You really spoke to me on this. Thank you. And good luck, I believe in you!

    • Thank you Jeff. And I’m glad to hear that. I tend to think too much, overanalyze my decisions and hesitate. If I had thought about the move to NY for much longer than I did, I would have found a million reasons not to do it. The transition hasn’t been easy, but I’ve never regretted coming here. Sometimes taking a deep breath and a leap is the best thing you can do. Good luck to you!

  3. As always such an amazing post beauty! And soemhtign I needed to read today so thank you!
    I always laugh when people ask me WHY I moved here, in a city of so many transplants, why not? We all have our reasons. But as a friend told me right before MY move, “Failing in New York is like succeeding in every other city.” New York is a challenge. But it is also beautiful and raw and authentic and her people are strong and brave. YOU are strong and brave. This city isn’t for the faint of heart, but even on our worst days, we are still killing life because we are HERE. It takes a courageous soul to move to a city, especially to New York. It isn’t easy, but you aren’t just surviving even after everything you have ben through, you are living. SO much love to you sweets ❤

  4. And so are you saying
    Closer than even your own heart Sarah, and every morning will send to you a wee song bird to lit upon your snow dusted window sill, to dance tracks, to tap needed seeds, and to get a chance to peer within and gaze upon the most beautiful fare skinned lady, whom smiles from within her heart upon . Sarah Kelly you are never too old and exhausted to fall backwards upon the Hushed vast white virgin shows and create snow angels. You’re forgetting the gloomy days and struggles of many awesome women of our pasts. Helen Keller; Lady Diana (Princess Diana); and a vast may more.

    ‘Helen Keller went Clogging and bowling. And so..

    …and so – Herm Albright:

    ~ A Positive Attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. Herm Albright (1876 – 1944)

    ‘Raised in L.A. with annual moments of escape, one day I stood before the ‘Grand Tetons’ in weep, in awe and great wonderment’ my heart has never returned to the cities, and my soul visits me heart’ whenever it can.

    Broc. – aka Wolfram Raven Poe. 1959 – Present now.

    Sar, I hope this finds its way to your heart, I have packed bird seed, as well, both English Breakfast and Earl Grey teas, as I know you like neither : ), and oh and warmth of heart. Acquaintances are many; friends leap along with you wing tip to wing tip to cheer you along the way.

  5. With whatever time i spend on wordpress, your pieces are the ones i always look forward to. My heart comes to a calming silence to finally admit that i too walk through life, toughening up; falling apart; rising back again… Only for that person that i want to be- someday.

    For the better versions of ourselves!

  6. Pingback: the currency of hope – guitarsallie

  7. I always wondered what it would be like to start over. I was born and raised in Victoria BC and I have never really strayed away from that. A couple trips here and there but I always find myself back here in my comfortable setting. I’ve always sort of known that one day I will move to some place completely new. It’s a life experience I want to live at least once. Would I be the same person? Am I just a subject of my social setting? It’s all just so profound to me.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I can only imagine how many things must have gone through your mind from LA to New York. Hopefully a lot of the bad thoughts were left back on the tarmac at LAX. You sound strong and motivated. I look forward to reading more from you!

    I just created my blog here and I’m trying to branch out to like-minded individuals. If you have some time to visit my page, I’d really appreciate that! 🙂

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