26 March 2018

I want to write about this day two years ago, but also this week for the past two years. Today I am itching to travel. I have already obsessively checked enterprise, hertz, and Avis for a rental car to let us go. I’ve woken up from a dream of me fleeing to London and seeing you sitting on a bench because you came after me. I’ve done this life and this day by myself for a while now. But the past three years of doing it with you has made the difference.

Two years ago, we were in Chicago. We had only been together, together for a month—and I had only known you for two. Except when I was allotted my first wedding guest, and no longer looped into the family invite, I took a chance and ask if you wanted to come. So, two years ago, we boarded a plane and went to another city where you practically met my entire family, and that didn’t scare you away.

Fast forward another year to last year where together we were in Montreal, Canada, after just spent the past weekend traveling around Canada and boarded a 10 hour Amtrak train to New York City. For a change, we were with your family, although I had already met them when I too flew to be your wedding guest at your brother’s wedding in Germany.

It’s strange to think that this past week, for the past two years, we’ve been in different cities than our own, but this year I don’t know if it would change it.

I’ve heard a lot of fear resonating from people not in New York, about what it’s like in New York. I’ve had invites to leave, contemplative reasons to go. But as I work from home for the 8th consecutive day, I am thankful for what this city has given me, so for once, I won’t leave it behind.

It’s strange being here, I’ll give you that. I hear the horror stories of what hospitals are facing and what it feels like to have the virus. I catch myself wondering if I, too, could get it because I’ve stayed in the epicenter of the virus in the USA. But at my core, my heart aches for everyone who isn’t as lucky as me, because today I feel fortunate.

I find myself, these past few mornings reflecting on the past and what has happened since I’ve moved to New York. I finished a book about the loneliness that lingers within this city and how everyone feels that longing to be whole. This city is for the strong-minded and the firm will, and I can attest that it wasn’t me three years ago.

But as you grow with this city, it evolves with you. You learn how robust New Yorker’s are. How resilient and sturdy they can be. I’m still not entirely talking about me, but I now know what it feels like to not have a safety net to fall back on within this city. I know what it’s like to feel lonelier than ever and powerless within these hallowed street blocks and dampened dark rooms.

I’ve found myself staring down the fears of New York and submerging myself in those depths to come out the other side feeling the opportunity this city can have. Sure this virus has left many of us feeling stranded and alone, but to me, that is New York.

The city feels lonely now if you think of it in that way. For once in what could have been decades and centuries, not many people are going outside. Dust is starting to collect the stools that are turned over on dining tables and bar tops. It’s strange to see a single paper, tapped to a glass window of a typically illuminated and busy store, noting their indefinite closure. It’s sad to think that many restaurants, stores, and bars that I’ve come to love may not bounce back from this. That so many of my friends have lost an income because of this.

But for once, on March 26th, David and I are doing what we can to keep ourselves happy and sane in our small one-bedroom apartment. We’ve reminded ourselves to wash our hands, tidy our space, and do everything we can to remain as positive as we can this year.

Although I’m itching to go on another adventure, I am glad this year I too am still by my best friend’s side, taking this obstacle on one step at a time.

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The Concept of Loneliness

Something that’s crossed my mind a bit this past month is the idea of being alone, being lonely, and feeling lonesome. It isn’t because I feel alone, neglected, or overseen but rather how today’s advances isolate us in ways different than the past. In February, I read The Lonely City by Olivia Lang as well as You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy. Together, these books examine how loneliness doesn’t discriminate. Together they focused on two thought-provoking topics. On,e is how even in a city as populated as New York City, you can feel incredibly alone. Another being even if we have people who we care about us may do little to make us feel acknowledged instead somewhat ignored. 

Something I felt when I first moved to New York was his it’s sheer size did, in fact, isolate me more than I already felt. I moved to the city of opportunities for a new life in New York. But, I moved here heartbroken

The man I love ended our last conversation by telling me he never wanted to hurt me. What he never understood was, saying a final goodbye to someone I wanted to always say hello to, was a pain that I could not numb.  He propelled me into the loneliness of heartbreak while I was alone, surrounded by strangers. 

I was smuggled by the emptiness each evening. Those who supported me felt the timing of it all was perfect—the only baggage that I would have was the emptied suitcases stored on the top shelf in my closet. I struggled to see how lost love would be a silver lining when I had no desire to find it with the city or the men who filled it. 

I used to say my hardest goodbye was London; a city that propelled me into the best version of myself. When I found love that was reciprocated in a way a city could not, I realized there were goodbyes that would drop me to my knees. I knew I couldn’t love like that again soon, so I took to explore New York. 

The first week here I found my, past intertwined with my future. A chalkboard that leaned against the window of a bar, just a block away from my apartment on 9th Street, caught my attention. It displayed happy hour prices that were grad student reasonable, but it was the bartender of the evening’s information that had my feet moving downstairs into the dimly lit dive bar.

His name, Alex, was the same as my older brother’s. He was born the same year as me, and only eleven days separated our births. We grew up in the same town in Southwest Florida, and somehow our paths crossed in New York. The serendipitous meeting was my first shot at finding a community in a place that associated closely with my lonesomeness. 

He introduced me to everyone he knew. Soon the other bartenders knew my drink order, and the regulars knew my name. The owner learned the story of how I came to be a regular and told it to everyone. Inside the bar, New York shrank in size.

Several times a week, I entered the watering hole for adults. I took notice of the novelty decorations that hung all around and seemed to have no reason to be there. I paid homage to Einstein, who overlooked the entrance and the knight amour who stood tall over the bar. Christmas lights colored the low ceiling, while small amber lights attempted to illuminate the faces who lined the mahogany bar. 

I’d press my fingertips to the cool copper countertop; lean in to greet my friend on the opposite side. Over their head was a wall of confiscated IDs, an underage drinker’s most wanted that filled the empty space above liquor bottles. They’d place a Guinness in front of me and smile. The froth with the first sip gave me a slight ‘stache which made me smile larger in return. I thought I found good company in New York that appreciated my presence. 

Men who frequented the bar took me as a damsel in distress that needed saving. They consumed my evenings with small talk, which lead to questions of nightcaps, numbers, and future dates. Single seemed to objectify me and the wrong men some became possessive—the last thing a woman wants/

One evening, I stood outside with them. The three of them wavered as beer replaced the blood swimming through their veins. In his thick Irish accent, one bartender enclosed me with his love which turned confessional of how much he cared for me and how glad he was that I was apart of the bar. He flicked the butt of his cigarette to the ground and held me tightly in his arms before he faded back into the bar. 

Another checked that I would be okay walking home as he inhaled his final drag. I nodded and he hugged me goodbye before he slipped downstairs. The last one closed the door and turned to me. I uttered goodbye as I turned for home, but my sense of safety slipped from underneath me. 

I was face to face with a man who wanted to hurt me. Aggression filled the words he interchanged for goodbye. His displeasing attitude stemmed from me not falling into bed with him. I caught on to that when I asked him to repeat what he just said. He wanted power over me. I stood in shock, as he listed threats that came one after another. Confused by how this change of events happened, I sought clarity with the bartenders inside and attempted to open the door. 

If his words weren’t painful enough, his hand clutched around my arm as he pulled me out of the entrance. He pushed me further outside and yelled at me to vacate the premises. The men who loved my presence did not get up. The men that just said goodbye ignore the scene which unraveled outside. They heard the yelling, but chose to stay downstairs. 

At that moment, I questioned if I had found a community, or had I found depths of another beast? Observe, but avoid confrontation if possible while here in New York. The community I felt dissipated in a matter of seconds. I spun a web and somehow became tangled in it. Embedded in the pain, I could not forget was feeling alone in a bar that I once felt safe in. I could see that evening was their eyes as they diverted from the conflict I was confronted with. I felt confused as to why they feared to lose me when I mentioned it wouldn’t be ideal for me to keep coming around. As if my final goodbye caused them some sort of discomfort.

Were they just as lonely as I was? I questioned, as their smiles grew each time they served another Guinness to the coaster that sat in front of me. I wasn’t surrounded by strangers, but that made the pain of loneliness feel different.

Since then, I’ve contemplated if there was any benefit of isolation. In the coming months, I went back to see them and share causalities of the day and weeks ahead of us. I used the bar to understand myself and the insecurities that were growing because of the company I felt. I vowed to focus on myself after the issues there piled up. And those weeks in December that I spent in isolation, I found myself. Like Murphy mentions, these men weren’t listening to me. Sure maybe my friendship benefited them in some way, but I gained little to nothing from them past more pain.

It’s strange to think I could ever feel alone or isolated in New York City, but as millions of people rush past you, and you know no one, then all you can feel is an amassing weight of being singular.

Finding Balance

A lot of my life for the past two years has been about finding the balance between two or more essential aspects of my life. Like balancing exploring and school, school and work, work and social life, social life and alone time, alone time and friends, friends and relationship, relationship and myself until the neverending balancing act weighs too heavily to one side. When that happens, I put a lot of effort and time into one side of the teeter-totter, and that leaves me neglecting other fundamental entities in my life that feels far away and out of reach. It sometimes feels impossible to do so, but recently I have tried to find the balance between devoting time to them all—as equally as possible.  

I think a lot about how the city I live in balances various landscapes, people, and activities. I joke that sometimes when I walk in Central Park, I can forget that I am in New York City. Where less than a mile from where I stand are miles of concrete, brick, and steel, but when you are amongst the trees and the lakes, sometimes its difficult to see the towering buildings overhead. But, eventually, in my walks, you reach a rolling field or a serene lake, and see the way the skyscrapers brush against the low hanging clouds and remember exactly where you are. That is how I can visualize balance. 

New York, or shall I say the “concrete jungle” is the strange place that has always tried to balance nature and urban life. Obviously being that Central Park is the most abundant green space on the island of Manhattan isn’t saying too much. There are 14,600 acres of land that makes up Manhattan, that’s roughly 22 miles of land. Only 840 acres of those 14,600 is Central Park. 14,000 compared to 840 seems unbalanced, so how can I sit and feel as if it is balanced? Well, even though Central Park is only 5% of the land, it feels massive compared to what actually surrounds it.

One of the largest urban parks in the world is the English Gardens in Munich, Germany. It is 900 acres and often compared to Central Park, and being that it is bigger, by 60 acres, it seems like a great feat. Except, Munich is 119 square miles, roughly 76,700 acres. That is just 1% of the acres in the city. Sure, the Gardens are more prominent, but balancing is all about how one entity is relative to another and how you devote your space to each and every one.

It hasn’t always been the easiest, and its been a lot of “touch and go,” but so far, I feel I have recently broken out of focusing on one side and found a way to reach the apex of the triangle—what I feel I am balancing on. Being that I am the triangle, I have had to learn how time can be shared amongst various tasks and how they are relative. Something I do a lot now is set 20-minute timers. Meaning, if I need to clean the living room, I set a timer for 20 minutes and clean as much as I can during that time. It leaves me wasting less time and has me working faster and harder to beat the clock.

A considerable hurdle was trying to balance my work and fun times. The twenty min timers help when I need to take a break from something that is frustrating or trying to cram a lot of little tasks into a busy day. It helps sanction off my writing, reading, and journaling into manageable tasks when I know I would want to spend all day doing that to avoid anything else I need to actually get done. The 20 min timers make sure I don’t spend all day organizing and leaves time for me to learn new skills, talk to loved ones, and still have personal time later.

Another one of my goals was to try and balance my friends and my partner. I love him dearly, and I live him, so I see him the most often out of family and friends. However, I know I need to make time to see him outside of nights on the couch before bed, just as I am making time for meaningful time with my friends and family. Recently, I have learned to see my friends on weekends or nights when he works, so I feel as if I can balance friendships and the dating world. Obviously, there are times I see my friends when he is home, and there are times we gather all of our friends together and spend time with everyone, but it’s about finding a balance between all of those relationships, so your do neglect one over the other.

But the one thing I have really overlooked while trying to balance everything else is myself. I have been standing, doing everything I can to balance my social-life, work-life, and school-life that I lost what it was I needed to make sure I have enough attention. Earlier this week, I wrote a post about self-love and care, and I feel as if I have tried to focus on that recently. When I am upset or down, I can’t find time to devote to anyone else because I am mentally not there. So, I take to spending days like Friday really focussing on me and activities I love to find a balance inside me.

How is it that you feel you find balance in your life to do everything you could possibly want to do, and spend time with everyone you want to spend time with? Do you find that it is difficult to find time for yourself during those times, or are you spending too much time on yourself that you are letting other important tasks fall out of reach?