I have decided to leave New York.
If I stay, I will undoubtedly continue in the routine I am accustomed and I am not interested in turning 42 on my 28th birthday.
I feel safe in New York City. The same way I feel safe under my covers. I mean that literally. I feel as if no monster can grab my ankle and pull me into the depths of my underbed. The blanket is warmth and warmth is protection. As humans, our most basic protection is the womb. We crave our mother’s wombs all day, every day. We must go forth from them but ultimately, we want the womb. New York City is that for me, and I believe, for our people, the post World War II Jew. It took me five years of living here to understand that. I love New York City. I love Manhattan. But I find myself sinking back into the womb, and that is called regression. I also don’t lust after New York City anymore, and I proudly place lust as a cornerstone of a fulfilling life.Artwork by Amanda Shafran.
New York and I engage in a perpetual fall out, largely due to its overt coolness. The longer I live here, the more I find myself hating the younger, and even more sadly, the older generation. New York City is a parody of itself. New people move in, desirous of the S&TC lifestyle lol!, quickly realize they are a part of a burgeoning community of alike and lost people, and instead of communicating with their peers, collectively buttressing one another, they continue to puff up the wheezing bouncy castle of egoism and faux importance that surrounds boozy brunch.
I tell you this because, perhaps unwittingly, I have already dialed into my proverbial carrot. I have a job, partner, plans. I will move within the confines of New York City and its close surroundings, near a good Jewish day school, of course, and I might just plan on having a child soon. This is all excellent, no irony intended. I wouldn’t be here if my parents and their parents didn’t do this as well and I thank my lucky Star of David that they did.
I have also been taught otherwise. For years, my mother has pushed me toward something other than New York City. She pushed me to go to the University of Maryland over Yeshiva University. This wasn’t Mars over Earth, but it was a step. To this day, she pleads with my siblings and me to move somewhere, anywhere, so she can come visit. When she bought her new apartment, her friend called and gasped, “One bedroom? What about the holidays, the kids?!” “That’s why there are hotels” she retorted.
It’s not easy, upending swaths of life. When I move, I will leave behind many people I love and for whom I care. I am leaving behind herring and my hockey team. But I have been blessed to know that good things most definitely come from confusing and seemingly difficult situations. I posed this question to my Rosh Chodesh learning group, and I pose it to you: how many actual regrets do you have? Real, big regrets? Chances are your answer is closer to zero than you thought. Life is lived and we smooth out the past. I can’t worry about regret, I can’t worry about writing that hand written letter to the job I want, or having that extra drink with my friend visiting from London, or transforming my life completely. Moving. I may be lonely at times in my new place or mental space. But I am not missing out. On the contrary, I am experiencing.
It will be here. It’s always here. New York City and its spirit crushing hand isn’t going anywhere. When I arrived home from my gap year in Israel, I realized that nothing had changed. Not one thing. I missed nothing. I have never forgotten that.
I can and will be able to tell myself I did it. I made my life more sinuous.
Moving may not be the answer. Lots of people take an extended vacation, travel after college, only to find themselves in a bit of a lessened position on the social and economic totem pole. Then they punch the clock and feel alone with their memories, and the memories somehow become cruel, other peoples' expectations of them, twisting beautiful memories into time wasted. Shame on this. I choose experience.
I want to choose experiences.
I wish I could take credit for this but I read it in Moonwalking With Einstein. The author speaks of our brains, more specifically our memories, as spiderwebs. Each strand of the web is an experience. And the more experiences we have, the more connections our web forms, building a stronger web, a better brain, and a clearer, more acutely timed memory. This all adds up to a longer and more fulfilling life.
Let’s give an example. Jacob opens a book instead of Netflix and reads a new word. He internalizes that word and uses it in conversation. He impresses someone, gets his point across in a manner he couldn’t before discovering that word and gets told, “good point!” you should try writing that down. He then starts writing again and feels more fulfilled. Or, on a grander scale, Jacob decides to leave New York City.
When Jacob is actually 42, will he remember going back to his apartment in Alphabet City, 10009, or will he remember moving to a new city? Which opportunity will yield a larger basket of memories, let alone a more interesting now?
Jacob is deep in the throes of his late twenties. He currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
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