Don’t move the way fear makes you move.
Move the way love makes you move.
Move the way joy makes you move.
– Osho, Indian Spiritual Teacher
Thirty-four days from today, I will set foot in NYC for the first time as a former Chicagoan instead of a future New Yorker. It’s a dream almost six years in the making — even longer if you consider my teenage hopes.
I thought for a long time that I wouldn’t move until I had $10,000 in the bank (today I have $81.37). Or until both boys were in college (eight years from now). Or until “the time was right.”
So much for those thoughts.
Talking to my friend Claire — who is 24 years old and moving to NYC in July to pursue a career in publishing with her freshly minted English degree from Northwestern — I stumbled across the idea that following certain paths and dreams is a little like deciding to start a family. You want to wait until you have enough money or are established enough or get the promotion or whatever… but there’s never really a “right” time. If you wait for things to be perfect you’ll be waiting forever.
When the opportunity came to apply for the teaching fellow program, of course I jumped at it. And being in NYC a couple of weeks ago to interview for the fellowship was sublime; I ate street food and saw Pulp at Radio City Music Hall (thanks to a concert-ticket angel) and explored Brooklyn and generally settled into things. I also cried a lot — especially at the Pulp show — not out of sadness but pure joy. To feel so alive and at peace with oneself is a rare opportunity.
I’ve been crying a lot today — reading stories of people offering each other redemption and forgiveness doesn’t help — out of that same joy. Except it’s tinged a slight bit with fear.
Fear that I’m making a mistake, that I will fail in some way (large or small), that I’ll be adrift, that the plans to be back in Chicago every other weekend won’t materialize, that the faith and hope I have will not be enough.
But also fear of putting too much or too little in storage, of getting rid of most everything material I’ve accumulated over the years, of missing people (especially my kids and my sober friends), of floating away once everything holding me down has been sold, scattered, or sent down the river.
The truth is that everything will be fine. I will probably put too much in storage rather than not enough. I will probably part with some possessions that I will miss greatly. I will have a completely different life in a completely different city. There has to be some sort of price for that, an entrance fee for newcomers. I don’t mind paying it, though the emotional cost is a bit higher than I’d expected.
I’ve long said that NYC is the one place where I’ve spent any good amount of time that isn’t littered with various sadnesses. Chicago is nearly the opposite, 22 years of failed relationships and grief and stories that make for funny conversation but leave me deflated at how little I’ve come over so many years.
And then there’s Jack. NYC was where we’d planned to get married and the place we’d planned to move to before long. But he never went there with me. Leaving Chicago is also leaving Jack behind even more than death has already mandated. It’s no mistake that my Chicago bucket list includes going to the tiny resale shop by his house — where he bought me sifters and I bought a kettle/percolator set and tiny pieces of artwork. We used to go in there when it happened to be open and I’d try on old-fashioned hats or sometimes we’d sneak into the back room to steal kisses. I have to go back there again before I leave. I don’t know where Jack is buried — his family won’t tell anyone — and so that’s the best I can do.
I’m learning that leaving is hard, harder than I’d ever thought it would be. Going is the right thing to do, even amidst the honesty that NYC is a rough place to settle into. I’m grateful I have friends there and a built-in sober fellowship to ease the settling. But I’m also scared and weepy and not entirely sure I’m sane.
The wheels are in motion now, though, and it’s time. A weepy and sometimes fearful time… but deep down there is the realization that walking in love and joy can sometimes be a little scary, too.