New York is a place specially designed for the short term. After all, some of the things we associate most closely with this city are fashion, commerce, art, enterprise – all lauded and wonderful in part because they constantly change and evolve. The Meatpacking District evolved from the shady haunts of transgendered prostitute walks to trendy, upscale designer stores and restaurants. Every time I see a child or, especially, an elderly person, it produces a jarring sensation. They seem out of place – isn’t New York a place for the 20- or 30-something? The place for people who desire transience, who haven’t yet “settled”?
The ephemerality of New York is a large part of its intrigue and draw; it’s why people associate New York with a place where things always happen and where anything can happen. And often does. This is why New York is exciting.
This is also why New York proves to be a particularly difficult place in which to make weighted, life-determining decisions that can impact the long-term trajectories of career and, well, life.
Recently, I have been faced (confronted, plagued) with a decision that could lead me down two very different paths – one where I could be pretty sure of the journey and an idea of the outcome. Literally, each year is planned for the first six years (during year one, you do this. Year two, you start compiling these materials. Year three…). Staying in New York, I don’t know where I’ll live and work next month.
I have always been a planner; I like having options and a weighing them (but, honestly, only when one option is clearly better than the others…). I like having a fall-back plan, a worst-case-scenario understanding of the consequences of my decision. And those worst-case scenarios better be pretty mild and the decision pretty air-tight of problems, or else I will not do it.
At least before I moved to New York. In fact, trying to change that aspect of myself, the always-have-to-know-the-future characteristic, is one of the reasons I moved. Really, that attitude is based in being a *control freak* who is too terrified to admit that the future holds untold possibility and pain that we can never know on this earth…and sometimes that can be exciting.
Long story short, and many details omitted (though I have provided many in emails to close friends and family), I have decided to embrace the excitement I’ve felt about unknown possibility, the excitement of living in New York and just experiencing all the life that flows through here – and my own life. I have decided to try to impact that life and others’ lives from this vantage point, and I have decided to go through the difficult process of being ok with not knowing exactly how I’m going to do that yet.
When I started this blog only a few short months ago, the intent was to inform friends and family of my experiences. It’s still that; only a handful of those read it anyway. But the underlying implication was that these experiences needed to be documented and embraced because they would be short-lived. They would be made memorable because they were ephemeral, just like New York. Leah’s New York Adventures were adventures only because the idea existed that I would return to “normalcy.”
But now I begin the process of making this transience "permanent." To make this New York Journal more of a “life” journal. After all, New York is obviously not without long-standing history, not without places like St. Paul’s Chapel, where Washington worshipped on his Inauguration Day, which miraculously stood while the world changed around it, falling in the debris of the collapsing Twin Towers across the street. So in a cliché act of renaming this blog, I’m stealing from one of the nation’s most famous poets and one of his most well-known poems, from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.*
One’s-self I sing—a simple, separate Person;
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-masse.
Of Physiology from top to toe I sing;
Not physiognomy alone, nor brain alone, is worthy for the Muse—
I say the Form complete is worthier far;
The Female equally with the Male I sing.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful—for freest action form’d under the laws divine.
The Modern Man I sing.
So let me be modern. Let me be naïve and idealistic and hopeful. Let me be in New York.
And let me accept and embrace the unforeseen, the fact that I may not be here in a year. But let life still be immense in passion, pulse, and power.
*Well, I do live within walking distance of Fort Greene Park, which Whitman basically helped create.