Delay, delay, delay.
They kept pushing us around, from gate A36 to A32, and A34, from supposedly landing in New York at 10pm, to now 1am, to now 3am.
I went from being excited, to being drunk, to being hungover, to being incredibly thirsty, all in one fell airport swoop. The lens of making it to New York became murkier and murkier, to the point where I heard no flights till Christmas.
They — whoever “they” is — canceled the flight.
I found a different flight out the next day. Somehow. One of the last seats—by the bathrooms, middle seat. Too many connections. Too much money. I almost said fuck it, I should stay here and go to the mountains, take some room to breathe in my new home. Just be.
But I tapped “purchase” on the American Airlines app, and began making a makeshift bed at Gate A57 with my scarf and coat. I tore a piece of paper from the back of the book I was reading, asked for a pen at a nearby counter, and began writing.
It’s been four months since I moved to Colorado. This was my first attempt to come back to New York.
I had been wanting to write a story on what it’s really like to move across the country. I figured no better time to start than at 1am in an airport. Yet, I didn’t want to write the expected, which would be easy: Moving is hard/be vulnerable/be patient/work hard/you can do it/you can not do it! Come back. Stay.
Instead, I started scribbling the misunderstood parts about moving. The tiny details.
The pebbles that create the rockiest of roads, but also some of the most beautiful paths I’ve seen.
I’ve moved and it’s been really great and really hard but what has it really, truly been?
The first thing I want to talk about is parallel lives.
Only because it might still be the hottest pop-culture reference I can use, moving is like being in the upside down. It’s like I’m building a new life in parallel with the life I left—but keep living?—in New York.
So much has happened in Colorado. I’ve spent countless hours getting lost in my neighborhood, hammering old nails into new walls, and finding the best coffee in town. I slowly, like dirt, begin to mold a home. I love my living room, where I lay on the couch and read early in the morning, joining the rising of the sun. My head faces west towards the foothills and my fireplace, where a self-crocheted blanket only reaches my ankles. I have a ceramic pour-over coffee drip that I dropped, which now has a crack on the lip—the perfect size for me to pour milk in my mug while the hot water steeps through.
There are the endless trailheads, craft breweries, and semi-decent Mexican restaurants. There are the friends I’ve met from running with ski jackets on in negative temperatures, friends-of-friends who agree to meet up for platonic blind dates, and new colleagues who invite me to go skiing. Yoga teachers. College acquaintances. Second dates.
Yet, my New York life knows nothing of this. Of them. It doesn’t know that 28th street turns into Highway 36, or that the sky turns into a harrowing deep purple and orange at sunrise. It doesn’t know how a team of eight pulled my car out of a makeshift ditch in a mountain lodge parking lot, or that the local hardware store is considered one of the top in the nation.
The tiny details I want to share with everyone? Well, I can’t. The flicks of ice and gravel I stomp off my shoes before entering my apartment in Boulder—my roommates in Brooklyn know nothing of it. In fact, that apartment in Brooklyn is no longer mine. The scenario of us three young women living there will never, most likely, be repeated. It came and went but I feel like I could go back there, my palms full of icy pebbles from a common Colorado snow, and spread them all over Franklin Avenue, up to our 3-bedroom on Sterling Street. Pebbles to the most gorgeous of roads.
I built this life in Colorado, but never left New York behind.
No time has passed when I finally touch down at LaGuardia— after a 20 hour stint in the Denver airport—and spend the week in the city.
Williamsburg, Wall Street, Crown Heights, Greenpoint, Hell’s Kitchen: You stay the same, and you are always changing. The streets may be lined with different storefronts, but the engineering of roads is one my legs always know.
I can’t help but think of that river analogy: The river is ever moving, always changing, yet still right there.
I walk by the corner of Lorimer and Bayard in North Williamsburg, and I pinpoint a myriad of memories: unpacking the green van with amps and guitars before our first summer gig, us held tightly together, the mile repeats I run at the track, and walking home drunk with half a loaf of fresh bread.
That all happened, came, and went. Here I was, there I am.
By moving, maybe I’m learning that things actually don’t change that much. Life goes on in other places but it doesn’t forget about you. I wondered if New York would reject me, but in reality it’s too busy to even notice. New subways may open, but the lines are the same. Maybe we never leave our old homes.
In turn, I want to talk about work.
My career has always been really important to me. Yet it was never my everything.
A move to the mountains was a chance to rest for one small second. Be in nature. To not work the weekends, and maybe try something new. Yet I’ve quickly learned that career matters way³ more than I thought. I’m too young to take the skills I’ve learned to push it out to the world in a neutral way. I don’t want a 9–5 job that doesn’t do something really fucking important.
I couldn’t find a job that fills everything I seek: a profound purpose, an energizing culture, a place that pushes me, and a place that provides a creative outlet (not to mention good benefits and a somewhat decent salary).
The solution? I have three jobs and a volunteer position so I can check off all the boxes. I work at a tech company for the pay, health insurance, great people, and a cool opportunity to learn a lot. I consult at a social impact agency to get purpose and put my creativity to work. I freelance write to keep my byline healthy and stay a strong writer, aaand for gas money (trips to the mountains add up). I volunteer with immigrants to find communities under surfaces.
Does one job ever fulfill everything you want? Probably not. But I felt uncomfortable with coming out here and feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. The original purpose of my move—to slow down, to find space—quickly disappeared.
Which leads me to space.
I look at life through this binary: doing & being. I am way better at the doing, whether it’s through work, social commitments, early morning runs, volunteering, or #YogaEveryDamnDay. I am way worse at being. How many times have I tried daily meditation, and have failed? When do I let go of control for just a few minutes, and god forbid let something come to me? I fill up space so easily there is no flexibility. The next seven weekends I ski. The money saved up for travel is to Vietnam. If you want to hang out, talk to me in August.
The flexibility I seek—the the go-go-go of New York I tried to leave behind—well, I guess I carry that with me. I guess I build my own roads no matter where I go.
These are the rocky roads. They are at a max speed limit (85 mph) and I’m pretty sure they go on forever.
Perhaps I fill space to mask feeling lonely.
Sometimes when you enter a new place, building new roads, you assume sole aloneness. You believe you’re the only one going through that thing. I came to Boulder and unconsciously believed I was the only new resident in the entire city of 103,166 people. (Should I conduct a survey?) I was the only person alone, confused, and looking for connection. By participating, doing, and joining, I was filling up time that would otherwise be used to say it to me straight: You are by yourself.
Yet, more often than not I meet someone who is in my same situation. Just moved here. Misses home. Is also confused by the 28th street turns to Highway 36 thing. I even meet people who just just moved here, and I’m telling them what bars to go to, where the closest trailheads are, and how to navigate the various bike paths. They are alone, too, and maybe we can be alone together.
After all of this reflecting, I’ve learned that moving across the country—alone, as an adult—is a lot less about redefining yourself and more about rediscovering yourself.
I am not changing my Self. I am not starting over. My life and world in New York is not gone, and it’s not leaving me behind. A new job (..or seven) doesn’t label me as someone else. My Instagram account that’s now filled with photos of incredible vistas, scenes I call home, doesn’t erase the pictures of New York City skylines and unspoiled, Nepali slopes. All you need to do is scroll.
Rediscover, not redefine: I’m not here to begin again. Rediscover, not redefine: I am here to restore connection and purpose. Maybe even some space.
So as the world continues to shift around me, I trust all of the moving parts will be gentle enough, so I can step on and continue to pave my roads.
They may be filled with potholes, while others smooth as water. But they’ll all carry me towards this full, dynamic life that I am proud to live.