Did y’all know I was really sad in Seattle? This seemed too ironically typical at the time, since Seattle has a reputation for being depressing. Boy, was it ever. Chett and I arrived smack dab in the middle of a huge wave of gentrification, and in our naive millenial reliance on public transportation, we soon developed fraught and, in my case, furious relationships with Seattle’s ineffectual infrastructure.
Not to rationalize my emotional state: I was just flat-out depressed. I have long struggled with powerful mood shifts and anxiety brought on by not being able to tune anything out, but Seattle really cranked my freakouts up a notch. If I could help it, I wouldn’t leave the apartment for days at a time, for fear of overhearing some misogynist Amazonian bullshittery or having dozens of encounters with the same crew of hipsters who pretended we had never met after three or four conversations about their apathy, their band t-shirts, their expensive haircuts.
So, we hustled back to the east coast, to a place I’ve described on more than one occasion as miserable, so over, and debilitatingly expensive: New York.
Some context: every trip I’ve taken to NYC has been overwhelming in great and terrible ways. My long-time best friend’s incredibly cool cohort all ganged up to laud the city after a wine-fueled dinner party. My ex had a full-on freakout and insisted on crashing in a Brooklyn Best Western and ordering Chinese take-out. It thunderstormed and I wept under an awning in Midtown, soaking wet with a deep gratitude for East Coast rainstorms.
Last May, at age 59, my mother took a job in Manhattan, rented a studio apartment, and solidified her status as the most badass, fearless human I’ve ever met.
Fantasizing about a life without scooping ice cream, with some of the spectacular friends I’ve managed to accrue in my many ill-fated friend trysts, I started to get serious about abandoning yet another potential: did I want to reforge a life for myself in a sea of strangers and a super-white literary scene, or could I imagine being as poor as I have been for my entire adult life once again, but in the most wild and alive city in the country?
So, nine months into our service-industry soaked Seattle life, full of penance for being Southerners and East Coasters, Chett and I packed up our ample book collection and shipped it back across the country, sold our Ikea furnishings, and bailed on Seattle.
Since January, we’ve been settling into NYC-paced life, and despite all the anxieties about being slow-moving Southerners, we’ve done a pretty goddamn good job. In truth, the quick pace matches my own “get-shit-done” mindset, which was unusual in NC and fucking unheard of in Seattle. I never knew that spatial awareness was such an integral part of my human identity, but New Yorkers manage an incredible balance of doing a million things with getting out of each others’ ways, physically and psychically.
I’ve been working on striking a similar balance: work and writing, friends and sleeping. After a few weeks worth of freakouts about my future plans (I got into NYU’s perfect MA program but I couldn’t afford it; I’m working at a restaurant…again; what am I going to do now?), I have nestled into a great pattern of reading on the train, writing poems, sending mail, sleeping, and drinking shiploads of coffee. I’m still looking for exactly the right opportunity, the slippery but ideal mix of work and play, but that would be true anywhere. I’m grateful to not feel hemmed in by my surroundings, but rather, empowered to try stuff. The stuff is endless, and somehow, I am not overwhelmed. I am myself again: sassy, a serious bookworm, always seeking.