and the love she made me see
New York, the city that never sleeps. My adrenals went into overdrive just contemplating that statement because I endured years of countless nights when I literally never slept.
It took me three decades to find a city where I actually feel at home. It still confounds me that I can never call a place where I had grown up and had most of my life’s memories, home. Instead, it was experiencing the vast blue skies of San Francisco on the 22nd of July, 2011 that made me understand what it means to feel whole.
I will always love San Francisco with all my life because she gave me my life. I didn’t know it back then, but on that day my old self died. It was from that seemingly ordinary moment onwards that I began to experience life with a childlike sense of wonder inexplicably gifted to me.
With so much love and history for a city, how could I possibly love another? It was with admittedly bias and skepticism that I stepped into New York. A city that never sleeps. Shudder. Within a day of my visit my friends asked me what I thought of her.
I didn’t know what to think and feel. I was confused. It was like going on a first date with someone whom I didn’t like or dislike enough to know whether I wanted to have a second date.
One week in. New York is still confusing and is probably designed to be. That is because she is everything, nothing and anything. I wrote,
New York is like discovering flowers bloom among the winter-drenched brown.
She is so empty yet so full. She means so differently to everybody that it is enough to fill up a dictionary. She is dense and hence she is rich. Yet she feels close to people because she is distant.
I had deliberately chosen to spend my 33rd birthday in New York, learning just to be, at Central Park. I remember thinking to myself, how much fortune I truly had to gather, in order to spend the day honoring my birth at one of the most beautiful parks in the world?
For the past week I walked aimlessly to be surprised. I ate like there is no tomorrow and in New York the distinction between today and tomorrow blurs into the background. I smiled at strangers and looked into their eyes. I told my old stories in order to give them new lives. I understood more of my meaning because her people listened to me. I replaced the windows of my soul, in order to be fully in her light.
I made new connections and revived old ones. I loved and I lost. I learned that everything is impermanent and yet eternal. I understood what it means to have nothing and yet everything. I discovered my feelings are not best expressed with the words I lean on as a crutch, but in the beautiful ambiguity of a moment.
I am selfish in order to be gracious. I am tremendously flawed yet imperfectly whole. I like to be invisible so I can be vain. I pursue solitude in order to exist with the world. I want to desperately hold on and yet bravely let go. I love vulnerably and honestly, but only at a chosen distance.
This is what New York has taught me. She made me learn that in order to have my identity I must accept that I have no fixed identity. That I am everything, nothing and anything. I am defined because I am really undefined.
With San Francisco I understood what it means for me to belong somewhere. New York has shown me that perhaps ultimately I don’t need to belong anywhere, because I will still be me, everywhere.
I fly back home to San Francisco, tomorrow. I felt that weird disconnect for I could be breathlessly alive in New York, while in the depths of my soul I terribly miss that city who first gave life to me.
But it was here that it became clear to me, that love is infinite and has no boundaries. Each and every entity I love is unique on its own and should not be defined with human-incepted labels or compared with. That love is not black or white but a full spectrum of colors in between. In its truest essence love has no particular definition, time or space — that the love I carry will live on as a part of me and be felt, from everywhere, nowhere and anywhere.