So, I am sitting in a coffee shop in Greenwich Village, New York, and I don’t know for sure what I want to write, so I am just going to start spewing out some words and hope that, in the end, they make sense. If they don’t, well, I am sitting in a coffee shop in New York City, writing, and I consider that in itself enough.
Unquestionably, this city takes up the vast majority of my heart, for reasons even I don’t understand – so don’t bother asking me why I love it so much, I just do. Pretty sure, though, that I was born with NYC blood pumping through my veins. I am adopted, so it is completely reasonable to think that my birth mother shagged some guy named Bobby from FDNY Ladder 69 – nobody really knows the story of my conception, so who’s to say it’s not true.
When I was in elementary school, I took a copy of the New York Times to school, and proudly showed it off like I was carrying a personalized key to the city. None of the other fourth graders gave a shit. Like, they didn’t even pretend to care. They just stared at me blankly after I showed it to them, and I was like, ‘It’s a New York Times, FROM NEW YORK CITY.’ And the response usually went something like this, ‘Who cares? It’s a stupid newspaper!! Show me your marbles and let’s play for them.’ I was in possession of highly sought-after marbles, but it was evident to me as I stood there completely dumbfounded by their disinterest in my newspaper that the ones in my head were slightly different than everybody else’s. This place that I love so much touched my soul before I was barely old enough to point it out on a map and I was aware even back then that it was inexplicably a part of me. So…this city? It’s everything.
In 2014, I came to New York (beautifully broken) desperately seeking clarity, and what happened to me over the course of four days was nothing short of miraculous. The city changed me and also prepared me for the wrath the universe was set to unleash upon me when I returned home. Those four days are without question the most meaningful and cherished days of my life. Without them, I fear who I would have become or where I would have ended up. But, luckily this city saved me, so I really needn’t wonder.
When I arrived in New York on Sunday morning, I was hesitant and terrified that perhaps the magic I had discovered here wasn’t real and that I wouldn’t find it again. As I began to move throughout the city, that fear came to life. I felt nothing. I was painfully numb. And unlike last time, every step was in vain, each a wasted one, rendering nothing in return. I was merely going through the motions. But then, as though the universe had placed a prop ever so strategically on the set of my life, I walked right past Lena Dunham, as I made my way back to my hotel.
After getting over the initial, ‘HOLY FUCKING SHIT, THAT’S LENA DUNHAM!’ in my head, I just thought, ‘Sooo cool’ and carried on my way. The enormity of that celebrity sighting wasn’t apparent to me at the time, but the seed had been planted.
As I lay in bed that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Not like that, and not because she is a celebrity I happened upon, it was her accomplishments and unremitting tenacity that had grabbed hold and taken my mind hostage. I thought about everything she has achieved with her uncompromising honesty and sense of self, something I admire so greatly about her and wish for myself. She is living and writing her dream, and I was unable to refrain from the comparison – she had succeeded, and I had failed. Simple as that.
Who knows what I dreamed about that night, all I know is that after only two hours of sleep the night before, I slept soundly as a new day approached, and when I awoke in the morning, the magic had unexpectedly returned.
From the moment I rose from my bed, my pulse was electric, like I had suddenly realized where I was and the significance. When my feet hit the pavement, this time it was with purpose and determination and each step meant something. I opened my heart and mind in eager anticipation of what was to come.
Each day as I have navigated the city streets, it has been with thoughts of Lena, but one’s comparing our dreams rather than her success versus mine because it struck me that I am doing myself a disservice by discounting my own. My success is deep-rooted happiness, the connections I have nurtured and the hard work it took to become someone I am capable of loving. I am proud of those things, and consider them to be my greatest successes. No matter what I achieve in my life, I suspect they will remain so.
Not long ago, Lena was no different than me. Maybe she is no different than me now, only she is a dreamer who is doing, and I am one who is wishing harder than doing. Love her or hate her, she compromises herself for no one. You can’t reach her level of success if you don’t wholeheartedly believe in yourself. It’s a choice. She chose to believe in herself, and the results speak for themselves. It’s time I make that same choice and no longer let doubt cast a dark shadow. She has inspired me and made me realize that I need to stop wasting time questioning whether I can or can’t, and simply believe that I can. Time is eventually going to run out.
The other thing I have learned, and perhaps the most significant, is that life is lived in moments. Forever I will cherish and appreciate the heartache, loss, shame, and pain that I have had to feel and overcome in the last three years to arrive at this place in my life. But now. Now I need to begin living in a new moment. I need to separate my past from my present and move forward. It is time.
The greatest gift I have ever been given is perspective, and he who gave it to me will come with me, safely stored in my heart, so I never forget that the next moment is not a guarantee. The rest of it, though, I am leaving behind. It has served its purpose. I want to live this next moment without the weight of the past, and with only hope, belief, and a heart once again willing to take a chance.
So, tomorrow as my plane ascends high above the streets below; I will look down and feel immense gratitude for this city, for Lena and what they have both taught me.
It’s time to leap. To risk it all. And to truly believe that I can.
My dreams await me, and who knows what else or who.
What I finally know and understand, is that I am ready to find out.