life in transit (and why it’s worth it)

I’ve been feeling a little strange lately.

Perhaps it’s all the vodka, or possibly it’s all the protein – potentially it’s the lack of sleep, maybe it’s the excess of avocado, or perchance it’s the absence of apples.

Probably, it’s a combination of the above.

But really, it’s other things altogether. I feel like I’ve been living in transit for the past few years. Between Brisbane, the Gold Coast and New York, I have not spent more than a year in one place in quite some time, and I have been readying myself for my next move at all times. I have spoken with friends about this, increasingly oft of late. Last week I booked my flights to New York, metaphorically sealing the deal on my move. My parents and I agreed that I need a deadline if I am ever to get serious and prepare myself – (this is a common problem in just about every single sector of my life, no surprises that I chose to study deadline-driven Journalism) – and so I am set to fly out of the country in the first week of June.

It has been absolutely no secret that my intentions since the day I returned from the States were to find my way back there, through whatever means possible. And then, last year, the universe threw me the biggest juiciest mofo of a bone and in less than four months I will be back home. I quite literally do not think I could be happier about this.

However, the knowledge that I am soon to leave is engulfing the rest of my life in this dreamlike sheen; I feel like none of it is completely real, anymore. That’s, admittedly, a very strong way of putting it, but it’s very hard to validate your own emotions about certain things in your life when you are essentially living by an egg-timer.

It makes me wonder what it would like to be in the military, or any occupation where you can be deployed/relocated at any given time. How do you make decisions about whether to dig your hooks into certain people, certain places, certain situations, or whether to set yourself apart? How do know what is real and what is not? I have been consciously moderating my thoughts over the past few months as well as the way that I approach my life and the lives of those around me, so as to be smart and tactful and graceful (as graceful as I can possibly be which is just under 4% graceful) with the knowledge that I am no longer anything but a temporary fixture in this environment.

There is something totally thrilling about that for me, and I thrive off change, but having finally set my move into motion – in a tiny way, at least – I have become introspective, as I am wont to do. It is not terribly difficult to feel sad about what I am leaving behind, and in some moments I really do. It’s not hard to feel like an outsider, which I often do (though I think this is only of my own volition), and it is easy to doubt myself and to question if my plans are the right ones. There are fleeting moments when I feel hopelessly in love with everybody; moments when somebody smiles at me or teaches me something I never knew before or laughs at exactly the right frequency for these ears and in these moments I feel utterly foolish and reckless and lost.

But then I remember the following things:

  • The way the city smells in the fall.
  • Complete anonymity: the license to finally be whoever it is that I would like to be (that day), without the constraints of space or judgment or poor understanding.
  • The word “arugula”.
  • That time a group of almost-strangers put together a rousing rendition of Kelly Rowland’s “Shake Them Haters Off” and proceeded to perform it for a subway car full of definite-strangers for 10 minutes running. The applause afterwards.
  • The night that gay marriage was legalized in New York. Standing on the rooftop of a Brooklyn apartment building with another group of near-strangers, watching The Empire State Building shine its special, one-off rainbow lighting and feeling hopeful and proud to be human.
  • The time I saw a man dressed as Merlin at West 4th station, and nobody seemed to find it at all strange.
  • Hot cookies from Le Vain bakery.
  • Trader Joe’s: the only grocery store on earth where the staff can get away with wearing actual disgusting Hawaiian shirts and pretending that they’re the crew of a ship. All the impossibly in-depth conversations I had in under 10 minutes with customers whose names I never even learned.
  • Being asked if I’m from London or Ireland.
  • The little laundry lady who knew me by name and folded all my underpants for 80 cents a pound.
  • The siren that goes off on Fridays at sundown in South Williamsburg, to alert the Jewish community that the Sabbath has begun (I think?). My roommate, Lisa, and I, were under the idea that that was a hurricane warning siren for far too many months before we bothered to Google.
  • Brooklyn Bridge at sunset.
  • Finding a roommate on Craigslist who became a best friend and the best frozen-margarita drinking partner ever. That time we went for dinner at Lisa’s favourite Mexican joint by Union Square only to find out they held free dinner upstairs that day. We ate chimichangas and then went right upstairs and ate a second dinner just because we could.
  • Bagels with 45,000 types of cream cheese.
  • Watching people give up their seats on the subway. These moments were occasionally very profoundly beautiful to me, and some of the best possible glimpses of humanity.
  • Ice cream trucks outside my window at midnight.
  • The time those two strangers had a screaming match in my subway car and the male ended the argument with, “I’ve worked at the US Postal Service for 20 years and, bitch, I’m gonna make sure you don’t EVER get your mail again.” He didn’t even know her name.
  • Wearing my pyjamas to the bar and garnering no second glances.
  • $2.50 falafel sandwiches.
  • Free-pouring.
  • Benny’s Burritos – my Mexican haven, where the tequila birthday shots were the size of my fist, the frozen margaritas were deadly, and my favourite waitress, Betty, remembered me even when I visited a year later. She said to me, “You’re looking great!” and I said, “Probably because I don’t spend every weekend here anymore.” Sidenote: I would throw up every time I went to dinner here.
  • Hours spent alone, walking the streets, people-watching at Starbucks and reading books.
  • Walking. Walking everywhere.
  • Street book stalls.
  • Thrift shopping.
  • Boarding the subway at 5am to go to work and seeing a car full of other sleepy-eyed New Yorkers.
  • Being exquisitely lonely but never, ever alone.
  • Making friends on streets corners, in cabs, in coffee lines and at bars.
  • The bums who rarely get given money but always return with, “You have a nice day, then! God bless.”
  • Laying in the snow at Columbus Circle after that insane blizzard. Making snow angels with my best friends.
  • Central Park at any time of any day in any season.
  • Yogurt Station.
  • The vegetables at Westville.
  • American people. Ugh. I miss you.
  • Sheep Meadow in summer.
  • The blind man at the subway station, holding a paper note and repeating “How much am I holding? How much am I holding?” I stopped and told him it was a dollar. I hated to disappoint him. Something about that moment moved me.
  • Show-tunes bars, and the man who showed me his “Straight Men Who Love Show Tunes” business card.
  • The taxi drivers.
  • Being seen only for who you are in a city where nobody really cares. The liberation of having no reputation, no disclaimer, no preface.
  • Real iced tea.
  • Sharing a secret with 8 million strangers.

Everything is more than okay.


One response to “life in transit (and why it’s worth it)

  1. I just got back from visiting Chicago and I feel the same way. Sharing a secret with millions of strangers…so true.

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