Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day Thirty Seven: If I can make it there...

I lived in New York once. I was twenty two, fresh out of college and looking for a year-long adventure with friends before we all packed up and headed into "real life". It was a miserable year. I worked two jobs to stay afloat, rode the subway home from Brooklyn at 2 am from waiting tables in Soho, drank too much, ate too little, didn't have health insurance. I didn't make enough money to have any fun or adventure.

It was the sort of year I hope my kids experience that I do not want to know about.

But I did it. I survived a year in New York and it gave me enough confidence to know that I can survive just about anything. It was an invaluable learning year. And I couldn't wait to get the hell out of dodge. Ugh. The grime, the snow, the traffic, the attitude. Gray and rude. That is how I experienced New York City. It was a Spiritless year for me: while God was certainly at work, it was not daily evident and it remains to this day the lowest point in my spiritual life and development. I was in survival mode. Going to seminary there was totally out of the question.

I'm in New York now, twelve years later, staying in a sweet little boutique hotel in the lower east side, with fluffy towels and someone else's hot water bill. I walked sixty blocks up the east side just for fun this afternoon in the lovely sunshine, watching the neighborhoods change as the street numbers got higher. I shared a bottle of wine with an old friend and we ate good food and talked for four hours. Tomorrow morning I'm going for a run and eating a bagel and tomorrow night I'm going to see a show on Broadway.

This New York I could get used to: taxis and sun and food. Leisure time and a bit of money to spend. Not a lot of either, but just enough extra to have some fun.

I do not at all regret the year I spent here, though I do not look back on it with fondness. A good friend of mine likes to joke that "suffering builds character" and in this case, he is right. I am stronger, more self-assured, a little tougher and more worldly for a year doing battle with this city.

I do, however, deeply appreciate this time spent actually enjoying this city that has so much to offer. It is from a place of privilege that I am here now, no longer living hand-to-mouth, not in any kind of hurry. I get it now. I'm not nearly so worried or harried. The architecture is beautiful, the neighborhoods are fascinating, the food is phenomenal. I can see how this is a place full of opportunity and promise, funk and mystery.

All the same, I'm glad this is just a visit!

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