One Year

The wind in New Rochelle sucks.  Which is to say, if I had a choice, I'd never come back to this blustery town based on that single criterion.  Walking from the train in the morning, climbing the chain-link enclosed stairs to street level, everything seems fine.  And then, just as I turn the corner on the Trump Tower monstrosity on Huguenot Avenue, the wind slaps me in the face, as if it's been laying in wait to ruffle my wet hair and invade my body's every nook and cranny for the entirety of the walk to the office.

But today, as I made this irritating trip, I remembered that in its sameness, today is different.  As of the 31st (Sunday), I will have been in New York an entire year, and this day marks my one year anniversary at the company towards which I trudge through the wind daily.  As people, I think we tend to make a bigger deal of these occasions than is deserved, but in my case (as I'm sure is true of all specific cases), I think it represents a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon the ups and downs of the past year.

Perhaps most present in my mind is the concept of freedom.  I've been away from home and on my own for a full year, free from the influence of my parents (which was never really an issue, to be honest).  I pay my own bills.  I'm free to make my own decisions.  I'm also reading Freedom by Johnathan Franzen, a primary theme of which is the double-edged sword freedom presents to our lives.  I've also been free of health insurance, a car, and large amounts of discretionary spending this past year, which many will recognize as purely optimistic phrasing of a pretty frustrating situation.

It's been incredibly stressful, uplifting, and growth-inducing to be on my own.  I came to this city full of hope and with a heart open to change and malleable to the influences I might find here.  I also arrived with a deep depression fueled by personal uncertainty, various life events, and almost entirely empty pockets.  In a lot of ways, it's one of those typical "kid moves to the city" stories, but that would be simplifying things greatly.  I remember the fear with which I stepped onto the subway platform for the first time, the confusion at seeing such high prices on such simple grocery staples as bread, and the anxiety of being the only polite human being within a ten mile radius (I was raised in a small town, in the South).  All that changed, and quickly.  Within two months I was in the full swing of things:  I became rude, learned to advocate for myself in tricky situations, and had managed to quell my depression with music, writing, and personal exploration.

I would be hard pressed to find a dull moment in the last year.  From the all-night parties, to the days spent in my dear friends' garden, to the moments swiftly riding my bike through the green wilderness of Prospect Park where I thought I might cry from the beauty and transience of all life and all things, my life has been absolutely filled to the brim.  Had I known what I was up against by moving to the North, I might have decided against it to avoid the stress, the perpetual fatigue, and the frequent emotional suffering, but looking back, I know it was worth it.  Trite though it may be, it's impossible to put a price on friendship, on human connections, or on life lessons that are felt and experienced rather than taught second-hand.  And I know, with all my heart, that the experiences of the last year will stay with me forever.

I still remember the wonderment of reconnecting with old college friends after a full year of absence, of taking my little brother with me to a New Years celebration where hugs were exchanged and lives were changed forever by the new faces and names I became acquainted with.  The following months constituted some of the most severe ups and downs of my life:  love found, lost, and finally cemented into eternity, personalities of friends expounded upon and appearing more and more nuanced, and the discovery that within each of us is a stable core capable of withstanding the sharpest pain of humanity's inadvertent cruelty.  We are all fragile beings, each one of us, and sometimes we make mistakes that shatter the glass surrounding another's heart.  Ultimately, however, we all have the tools to redeem ourselves and to redeem those who have harmed us in the past.  In the past year, I learned true forgiveness.

And more recently, from within the ever-branching circle of friends and loved ones that has captured me in the center of its ever-so-sticky web, I found devotion and heartfelt human compassion in another human being.  The connections that led me to arrive where I am today make no sense and point to a unique human randomness that operates not on the principle of a simple lack of order, but rather chooses indiscriminately from the relevant and useful aspects of your life, illuminating a path that you can choose to follow if your mind is attuned properly.  In one of those rare moments of clarity, I stumbled upon a person who has become one of my best friends and a better conscience at times than I can provide for myself.  She knows that as much as we pretend to, none of us truly stand tall on our own, not without the love and positivity of others.  I learn new things from her each day, with one recurring lesson:  there's nothing better in the world than another human being who you can connect with deeply and without fear.

So, that dear readers, has been my year.  Somehow, by being far away from my roots, I've grown closer to them.  My family has become dear to me in a new and more profound way, and my own life has been an exercise in juggling the responsibilities and privileges of being free in a society that generally discourages such nonsense.  And on the cusp of my second year in New York, all I can say is:  bring it on.  Bring it all, however quickly, irritatingly, or frustratingly you want to, because I think that despite my complaining (sorry to those who have had to endure this!), this city has made me a stronger, better person.

Although, I honestly could do without the wind.


Debra said...

Thank you Sam, for offering this insight into your soul and for giving us a means for reflecting back on our own lives. Time brings change but some truths are timeless. I love you.

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A blog about social change, written from Brooklyn, New York. Currently looking for contributors.