The farewell tour (part one).

“What we call the beginning is often the end.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.”

– T.S. Eliot

There’s something downright magical about autumn in New York City. The stagnant summer air lifts like a veil and disperses, offering a gentle respite from the suffocating heat on subway platforms, the stench of garbage bags piled high on sidewalks. The scarves come out, the sleeves get longer, legs that were once bare are covered over in tights. The leaves change quickly – to gold, to crimson, to fiery orange – a reminder of the impermanence of time, inviting you to pause and breathe in their colors before they’re gone.

Fall has always been my favorite season. I suppose it’s odd that I should find this time of year so hopeful just as nature begins to do its dance with death, but I do. The lazy haze of summer has ended, and before the sparkly glow of the holidays descend, there’s a window of time that feels both industrious and optimistic. Back to work, back to school, back to routine. The energy is palpable on the streets of the city: the weather still mild enough to travel by foot, but with crisper air, an accelerated pace, and a sense of urgency that permeates every movement.

I’m in love with New York right now. It might be because I love autumn, or it might be because, soon, I’ll be leaving. Either way, every moment is suffused with wonder, each day brings a new revelation.

It’s joyful, and at the same time, it’s sad. I’m grieving my departure as I would the impending death of a loved one: I’m grateful for the time we have together, yet I can’t help but anticipate the end.

So then, why leave at all? There are many reasons, but the biggest one is this: after spending the last few years floating through life, floating from one temporary situation to another, I am ready for structure, and stability. I’m ready to ground myself in something more permanent, some place that feels like a home. And locating those things in this city – permanence, structure, home – simply hasn’t happened. For reasons both financial and personal, they feel out of reach.

At the end of August, I learned that I was accepted into the MFA writing program at the College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia and offered a significant scholarship. After a visit in late September, during which I toured the school and met with faculty, I decided to enroll. I start classes in January, and while I’m excited about embarking on this next life chapter, the prospect of moving to the southeastern United States has me feeling. . . nervous. Suddenly, I’m contemplating living in the path of hurricanes and red state politics. After selling my Prius and spending two years riding subways, I’ll need to get a car again. After a scary operation earlier this year, I’ll have to surrender my New York health insurance and kick-ass Manhattan doctor in favor of finding a health plan on the Obamacare market in Georgia. And after spending all of my adult life living in two of the world’s major cities – Los Angeles and New York – I’ll be moving to a town with a population of roughly 300,000 people, many of whom travel at a much slower pace than I’m currently accustomed to.

And yet. I can recognize that my life has been stuck. In order to achieve my goals, I need to do things differently. Shake things up. Take some risks. Act a little braver than I feel. And here’s something I’ve learned from the other times I’ve jumped off the proverbial cliff: change is scary, but it’s also necessary. And it’s usually necessary before we are ready for it.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the hell out of my remaining time in New York. About six weeks ago, just before my trip to Savannah, I reached my two-year anniversary of moving here. As I reflected upon the lessons of the last two years, I wrote them down in a post on social media that I’d like to share with you below:

Two years ago today, I woke before the dawn, finished packing all of my belongings into three suitcases, and drove with my uncle through the still-dark early morning to Sea-Tac airport, where I boarded a plane bound for the opposite coast. Early that same evening, I greeted a landlord I’d never met and moved into an apartment I’d never seen, marking the official start of my new New York life.

Two years. Two years that have contained two surgeries, six play readings, countless applications and rejections and near misses and almost-might-have-beens. Two years that have tested me in ways I never could have imagined. Two years that have reminded me of just how much I still have to learn.

New York, I’m sorry for every time I cursed your name. You were only trying to teach me that who I had been was no longer enough. That if I wanted to do all the things I had always talked about doing, I’d have to work harder, become stronger, push myself farther than I ever thought I could go. You were a tough teacher and I hated you for that. But boy, did I learn.

Sometimes your heart has to break before it can open. You did that for me, New York, and then rewarded me by unfolding an epic love story at my feet.

It’s no secret that I may not be calling you home for much longer. But for as long as I’m here, I promise you this: I will take in your towering skyscrapers and your sunsets over the Hudson River and your autumn leaves falling amber with aching wonder. I will move through this great city with gratitude for every moment that I have left. And as I do, I will remind myself again and again that I did this. That two years ago, I came here alone, with no plan, and I made friends and told stories and fell in love.

And that is something, New York.

That is everything.

In the words of T.S. Eliot, “What we call the beginning is often the end.” And now here I am, at the beginning of my New York farewell tour. But maybe this beginning won’t be the end, after all. Maybe instead – two years later – it’s just the place where I’m starting from.

Until next time, friends.

Mile End.

The train was late leaving Montreal’s Gare Centrale. I stood near the front of the line, talking to a middle aged couple from Boulder, Colorado, as we watched our departure time tick later and later on the neon screen above our heads. They were taking the train to Schenectady, renting a car, and driving to meet their daughter in New Haven. She used to live in New York, they told me, but the stress of the city became too much and began to affect her health. As soon as she arrived in Connecticut, she felt better. “New York is a wonderful town,” said the man, whose name was Pete. “But it can be a lot.” “I’m still new there,” I told him. “I guess time will tell.”

It was Canadian Thanksgiving – “Action de Grâces’’ in Montreal – and after four days away, I was eager to begin the eleven-hour journey back to Penn Station. The trip had gone too quickly, as trips tend to do, but my “Things to do in New York” list was long, and I was ready to get started on it.

I had been in New York just three weeks when I boarded the Montreal-bound Amtrak train, and it still didn’t feel like I lived there yet. The three weeks had gone quickly, consumed with the business of settling in: buying household items and assembling furniture, shopping trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond and Fairway Market, sending “I’m here,” emails to friends and acquaintances, unpacking boxes shipped from L.A., navigating my new neighborhood.

The urge to get away swelled within me from the moment I’d arrived in the city, a common occurrence when the here and now threatens to overwhelm me. I had wanted to visit Montreal for years, ever since my niece Nora began studying art at its Concordia University, and the $150 round trip train ticket with its scenic route through the Hudson River Valley and the Adirondacks was too good to pass up. Plus, Nora’s punk band “Dish Pit” had a show that weekend, at a joint called Bar Le Ritz. How could I miss that?

I booked an Airbnb in Little Italy, on the border of the Montreal neighborhood Nora told me was her favorite: Mile End. I could immediately see why. Vibrant street art, hip cafes and bars, trendy boutiques and vintage shops. It was an artists’ haven, full of color and life and youthful enthusiasm.

I explored much of the city on foot, canvas bag containing a notebook, umbrella and ear buds slung over my shoulder. I walked from Petite Italie through Mile End, into Plateau and then downtown. I sampled bagels at the famous St.-Viateur bagel shop, tried on delicate lace dresses at a boutique on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, ordered meals in broken French, and bought a faux fur trimmed denim jacket at the hipster hotspot Annex Vintage. I caught up with Nora over dinner, met her school friends – and was wowed by her guitar-playing skills – at Bar Le Ritz, and traded stories about love and life as we wandered around Chinatown searching for a rare and expensive monkey oolong tea.

As much as I love to travel, my favorite thing about going away is how different home looks when seen from the perspective of another place. And New York had not been home for very long. In fact, it was the first time I answered the question “Where are you from?” with “New York,” an answer that still felt strange and foreign rolling off the tongue. And it was the first time, when asked by a customs agent what I did for a living, I said, “I’m a writer,” which didn’t feel strange at all. It also wasn’t technically true. Technically, I was unemployed, and was living off my savings, money I’d inherited from my parents and my grandfather’s life insurance policy. But that was far too complicated (and potentially problematic) to explain to border patrol. And besides, I had begun to learn the lesson that if I said a thing enough times, I would start to believe it, and then I would find a way to make it true. After all, that was how I ended up in New York in the first place. I simply told enough people I was moving there, until eventually, I had no choice but to go.

It had only been four days since I’d made the trip north to Montreal, but in those four days the fall colors had already intensified. Alongside golden amber leaves were branches dressed in accents of ruby red and flaming orange. I paused from scribbling in my journal to intermittently rest my head against the window of the southbound train and watch with tired eyes as October rain fell across the changing landscape. I pulled out my pocket planner, filled with its inspirational quotes, crossed out and rewritten plans, and counted the days: thirty-eight. There were exactly thirty-eight days until my flight to Heathrow, where I’d meet one of my dearest friends and we’d continue our journey on to Venice, Florence, Rome, Positano and Sorrento to celebrate her birthday. Thirty-eight days. Just over five weeks. Five weeks, during which I would write and work and enjoy the fall in New York City. Five weeks, and then I’d be off on another adventure.

But for now, I was ready to go back to New York.

I was ready to go home.

Until next time, friends.

Blog at WordPress.com.