I feel like I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t have an existential crisis approximately every 6 weeks. This is probably because I’m a mix between a poet, a planner, an overachiever, a traveler, a pragmatic dreamer, a survivor of many things, a fighter of even more things — all this to say I live with a constant hunger. Sometimes I get really freaked out that I will never be fully happy, never stop playing out all these different options, scenarios, choices, lifestyles, never cease imagining my life in various sets of circumstances.
Current crisis? New York and I are fighting and I kinda wanna go on a break. I mean, we’ve had our problems for a while, but I thought they’d just go away. And now I’m wondering if maybe we should break up for real for real.
Okay, so I love New York. But I also hate New York. Honestly, most people I meet here feel the same way. I could go on and on about why (on paper) it’s the right place for me professionally, artistically, socially, etc. But there’s also a lot about it that I’m struggling with that I didn’t expect. New York does sometimes blow my mind, fill my heart, take my breath away. These moments are few and far in between, though, and although there are so many options, I mean options on options on options, I just don’t feel very fulfilled right now. So what does it matter how many opportunities and events and cool projects and people are here?
I’m gonna skip the part of explaining why I love New York because, well, it’s just so typical. I’m one among millions who’ve been dazzled by the concrete jungle. So I’ll say a little bit about what I’m struggling with. And that’s just it — it seems like everything feels like a struggle. And maybe some of this is because of certain professional and social circumstances that are less than ideal, but some of it is also location and the city’s culture. It’s funny, but even though I mentioned I have such a breadth and scope of opportunities and options, I feel extremely disengaged. Like I am going through the majority of my days starving for a connection to someone, to something. And it’s leaving my mind and my soul so malnourished.
I have done a lot of work on myself, yes. I understand that happiness and fulfillment are largely generated from the internal, but I also can’t deny that there’s only so much I can do. And I don’t want to mentally and emotionally alter myself to cope and be content with circumstances that are ultimately malleable, if I just have the courage and audacity to make changes.
To be completely honest — and this is not to say I haven’t had amazing opportunities, successes, moments of happiness and fulfillment — I feel that I struggle every day with three emotions: sadness, loneliness, and anxiety. Some times for just a moment, a well of tears brought to my eyes on the train and then it vanishes and I’m good, some times it looms over me and lasts a week. And this is nothing new, I am very used to feeling these things, it’s just more often than I’d like to live with and I’m missing a lot of the other people and things I used to have in my life to balance that out.
Part of what it comes down to is that I’ve realized that I’ve changed (yeah, yeah, blah blah blah everyone changes and transforms into weird little butterflies and shit). But really, I think what’s happening is that the lifestyle and the values I hold have shifted. This may be from my year abroad, leaving college, just generally growing up. I used to dream about making it in NYC (rolling my eyes at how cliché this is), I surely romanticized it and idealized it greatly. But this makes sense for someone who’s had some tough things to overcome and wanted an escape and craved independence in a place I could fully be myself. I still love this about New York. I used to fantasize about my life as this rough struggle where I overcome and work so hard and that relationship between fight and achievement never ends. I mean this is so much of who I am and how I think. But (lemme add three thousand buts and parentheses to this post) now, I’m thinking about all the ways my deep self-reliance and all of these behaviors have actually made me someone who rejects joy. I reject joy. I don’t see it as an option for myself. I duck and avoid it. It kinda scares me. And yet I crave it more than anything. I’ve had it and lost it. I’ve lost and lost and lost.
And so what would it mean for me to allow myself joy — at least from the sources I can control. Fully. Without hesitating. Without capping it. I want to give all of myself — my heart, my mind, my body — joy and fulfillment. I want to honor those three parts of myself equally. The past year in Spain and my last several months here in New York I’ve been trying to do this and have become much more self-aware and surely a lot better at it. And I feel like I’m plateauing.
Reflecting on some of my favorite places, experiences, activities, a good many happened in cities and a great deal also happened in nature. Since moving here I’ve said a million times how much I miss nature, but I also am afraid of getting bored not being in a big city the way I felt in Boston. So what would it feel like to move to a balanced place, in a city surrounded by and infused in nature?
I remember this one time in like January or February, I was going to a feminist art party in Brooklyn that I thought was gonna be so cool. As I walked up to the house, I passed a tree under which gathered a pile of leaves on the ground. And it hit me so hard. I hadn’t even seen leaves in so long. I am not joking when I say I started to cry. This one little exposure to nature really made me that emotional. And at the party, everyone was drinking and chatting and being so ‘artsy’ it all felt like performance, and I just leaned up against the counter and thought about a god damn tree.
Thinking about a lifestyle where I can be in a city and go to events and learn and work hard, while also being able to walk outside much more, lay in the grass, have year round warmth and sun, go to the beach on the weekend, hike in the mountains and forest in my free time, generally just be more active and see beautiful scenery, breathe cleaner air, have fresher produce and make better food. UGHH. I just. I want that lifestyle. I want it for myself and, in imagining my life to come, I want to share that with my friends, my future partner, everyone. So I’ve been thinking (daydreaming, mostly) about maybe making a move to San Francisco/Oakland soon. Who knows.
I am 23 but already feeling the quiet and rapid escape of time. It’s scary. I don’t want to waste the time I have right now (not twenty years down the line after decades of keeping my head down). I want to give myself that chance. I want to give myself every chance. I’m planning a trip to San Fran/Oakland to check it out and see how it feels. Maybe it’ll be super amazing, maybe it’ll be totally wrong.
So. This is an open invitation (to this trip and in general in life). Come with me. Let’s hike. Let’s feel the sand on our feet and the salt in our hair. Let’s sit in the sun and talk until we are silent and laugh again and ruminate on the gorgeous and complicated world we live in. I am tired of everything feeling like a struggle. Let’s go and just exist. For a moment. For a weekend. For all the precious time we can. Please, let’s just be. You and me.