I suppose we are all washed up on an island of our choosing. It is hard to let go of certain memories, and becomes easy to get carried away in the rip tide.
What started as a retreat to the familiar waters of the Caribbean, turned into the realization of a lifetime. I knew the basics of what I was signed up for – living off of the basics, basically. I’ve been running through life, unsure of the destination or why I feel the need to be anywhere but in the moment. It became clear that my past was catching up to me, and for once, I didn’t know how to push it back.
To understand where I am going, I must first acknowledge where I have been. Yet, my journey has been a puzzle, and for someone so strategic in the real world, I throw caution to the wind when it comes to navigating through big life decisions. The heart knows just as much as the mind during the process.
New York City.
I could argue it started many countries and cities before this one, however for the sake of time I will begin here.
New York was never on my mind. Ever. I was perfectly content living a simple life, one in which I could connect with nature and curiosity. I had just spent two magical years in small towns across New Zealand and wanted the extreme opposite to compare. I flopped between Chicago and New York, ultimately deciding I would like the subway system of the east coast. I’ll admit, at this point in my early twenties I was beyond repair looking for a place to retreat; a place where animosity knows every concrete corner and far worse souls than yourself congregate. Self-hatred does not reside in this G–forsaken megapolis. The city knows how to turn a blind eye to all your past wrongs, past hurts, and past dreams.
Like all things in life, irony quickly stumbled upon my temporary doorstep. I had just hopped off the plane, breathed the filthy air of the Port Authority Terminal and sighed with relief. There may not have been much to my name, but man did I have all the guts and guile to replace it. During this first month I was so fortunate as to live on the couch of a kind stranger, an immigrant who single-handedly made his way through University of Texas in Austin. We were comrades from the start, understanding that life does not always deal a good hand, and it takes a certain character to pick up the game so early. Everything was new, chaotic and simultaneously stimulating.
Days turned into weeks when I first heard the news. Yet something deep in my stomach knew months prior when I visited her in Italy. I couldn’t understand why I cried leaving her at the train station and brushed off the departure. The news of her death would come as a shock and foreshadow. I was alone, without a job, without a home, and so far away from anybody who knew me. The news of my best friend’s sudden passing became a cold awakening to the fleeting world we live in. I was numb for an unknown period of time, walking the crowded streets every night with black tear-stained cheeks. The city took me into her enormous, shallow arms and allowed me to shamelessly and aimlessly figure out the meaning of life. Lana Del Rey sang me through endless hours of hot water baths, one of the few things that calmed me. It became clear that I was losing grip of who I was, and who I came here to be.
Truth be told, the only people who reached out was my best friend, Phillip, and my father. Everyone else in my life was going through their own ordeals at this particular chapter. My father came as a shock, because for the first twenty years of my life, we were disconnected. It was only until I returned to America that I felt like I finally had a father who was there. Prior to this part of my life, I didn’t know the man who was around. He was quiet, strict, and taught his children how to fend for themselves. It was during my time in New Zealand that his life (along with all my siblings) changed drastically. My mom left him for traveling nursing, they sold our childhood house, and even put down the family dog, the latter two without my knowledge! It appeared a lot changed during my two years away, but one thing was clear, my father was so full of love for his children and we finally saw it.
Life has a way of closing and opening doors. While I lost a dear friend who can never be replaced, I found a new one in my father. I didn’t know it at the time, but he loved his children more than words could express and made a point to check in on me during the rough months ahead. I would later find out that his search engine had my blog as a favorite and all the years of silence didn’t matter because he was supporting from afar.
Seasons changed and I learned to cope with death, distracted by the harsh reality of living in such a fast city. Winter brought an indescribable, soft surrender; despite the struggle between bar and temp office jobs, I found peace in watching my first snow storm. The fragility of time allowed me to live each moment of exploration. Despite the setbacks and shortcomings, this was my city and she took me in when I didn’t have a home.
Congratulations, you suffered your way through this long introduction. Pat yourself on the back. You are free to carry on with your day. You are also welcome to carry on with this trilogy…