New York, Old Me

Dear Andy,

Last week your dad and I went on a long awaited, parents-only get away to New York City. As you know by now, we lived in New York throughout most of our 20’s. We returned there for a wedding of a beloved friend and to rejoin in merriment with other friends about town. IT. WAS. AWESOME. I hadn’t been away from you for more than a few hours before this trip and I was a bit nervous. But as our plane circled the Manhattan skyline, I felt a connection to someone I hadn’t felt since before you were even conceived. With all the sights, sounds, rush, and familiarity of my once home, I saw her again. It was nice to spend time with your dad and our friends. It was amazing to spend time with the old me.

I have always loved New York. Before I had even been to the city I knew it was for me. It should have been no surprise that as we entered the urine-tainted waft of La Guardia, I felt right at home. The pace is hurried and anxious. Time seems scarce and activity is abundant. I can relate to everything about how quickly things move. It is so comfortable to me. As I sat in each train car with your dad this last week, watching people zoning and whizzing in and out of their own thoughts to traverse quickly and safely, I realized why I felt so at home in this place. It’s like being in a fast-paced machine. The machine is efficient, and well designed. It is the epitome of invention and success, despite adversity. It is elegant and raw at the same time. It is luxury and struggle. It is desperation and aspiration. Everything about this city sings home to me. It is like a mirror of my own mind. And this, I realized, is why we had to move.

I remember the painful moment of knowing we were going to move. It was 2011 and we had just gotten married. I started to talk to your dad about the idea of kids. We both agreed we didn’t want to start a family in New York. It was a terrifying realization. We saw no other way. We could move and have a family, or stay and put it off. Now, people raise children in New York all the time. I know these people. They have great kids. But somehow, despite my undying love for the city, I knew it wasn’t right for us. And now I know why.

Before you were born, I didn’t really understand that I was an anxious person. It took having you to really hammer this point home. Postpartum depression and anxiety were like debt payments I had been putting off since a traumatic childhood, and living in New York allowed me to blend in. I could lose myself in the rush, and stay committed to the busy-ness. The city was stressing me out, I could tell myself. All I needed was some time in Central Park… or more money…or more success. But when we left New York for Austin, everything got WAY slower. It hurt me. The pace people keep in Texas was difficult for me to adjust to. Tacos and sunshine are fantastic, if you’re sane. If you’re anxious, dirt, grime, and noise are the gentlest of surroundings. I felt heard in New York. The way people keep to themselves, but help each other in dire situations is everything I believe is good about humanity. I love the history and presence of immigrants starting life anew, despite the odds. I loved how hard it was…Yes. I loved how hard it was.

But. What some part of me knew, deep down inside, was that this beautiful, blended chaos I was living for, was only suiting me. And I knew there was greater and more beautiful chaos yet to come. My mind was too loud for the outer and inner turmoil to exist together. I had to make a choice. So I chose the possibility of you. And not just you, but making space in my mind and in my heart for a new chaos, where things were less predictable and success was harder to measure. Becoming a parent took all of my puzzle pieces and dumped them out on the table. All of sudden, I have to make sense of myself and life. For you. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I can’t thank you enough for being the catalyst for this change.

I love New York. I will always love visiting and remembering who I was when chaos was my home, and my heart was protected by small walls and 300 square feet of space. But now I am open and exposed. And chaos is life itself. It is learning to embrace this that has set me free in so many ways. The girl I was before you existed was so scared. I feel sorry for her now. She didn’t know she could survive what life would throw at her. But she was plenty brave, too. She knew she’d never know her biggest love if she didn’t journey onward. She risked the greatest thing she had to lose, and she lost it completely. This was the illusion of who she thought she was. Well. We showed her. Didn’t we, Andy?

Life is chaos, Andy. Beauty and chaos. You are so much of both, and so am I. Make room for the calm in your life, and know that love is always risk and reward. There will be no beauty without chaos, no order without questioning, and no safety without fear. We must onward to challenge ourselves and find our balance. The entire purpose is to better understand where we are and why we are. New York City is where I was. You are why I am.

Dream big always, my son. And come home to yourself at the end of every day.

With greatest love,

Mom