This week, I returned to New York, after six months away. Six months of moving, backpedaling, and trying again. Six months of applying to jobs. Six months of pitching stories and articles to the void. Six months of trying many times to start over.
Returning to this place – known and loved (sometimes loathed) – has felt peculiar to me. Because as much as I sometimes could think of nothing but leaving, as much as I complained about the traffic and the filthy sidewalks and the general congestion and the feeling of buildings looming overhead, I have missed it here. I have missed this city’s familiar hum. I have missed its carefully curated corners. I have missed its sense of history. And I have missed, perhaps most of all, the lovely, layered, little apartment we left.
We passed by our old building the other day. I glimpsed it from the end of one block in a cab, and I felt my throat tighten. “It is still there,” I said to Jack, “and we are not.” Somebody else lives in its tight quarters now and has had six months to make it their own, their home. I wished we could just go back and sit in it how it was for a while. I wished I could stay there and feel surrounded by its still, comforting warmth.
I have longed for home these last six months. I have stretched my mind and heart around several versions of what home could be, might be, in California. But in all the coming and going, in the trying and then trying again, nothing has truly become familiar. Nothing is worn in. Everything feels new, stark, uninviting, bright, and uncertain.
At the start of a new year, beginnings, aspirations, dreams, goals – general newness – get a lot of air time. Beginnings and endings, dreams and doubts, though, are always tangled together, no matter the time of year. We are complex, complicated even to ourselves. Mysteriously, we unfurl. And wisdom, when it comes to living our own lives well, begins with honesty and leads to courage – courage to change, to begin again, to walk in the unfamiliar dark.
For many of my loved ones, 2020 has begun like a lion, has been like baptism by fire, has rushed in with change, whether they felt ready or not to receive it. Change is hard when its dramatic and unwanted. Change is hard when we feel uncertain. Change is hard, even when we are excited and bathed in sunshine.
Be gentle with yourselves, dear ones. Notice, and let it be. Whatever “it” is, it is. And may these words from Rainer Maria Rilke bring comfort to you in the waiting, in the listening:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”