changes, fear, NYC

on moving, for a sixth time since coming to new york

If all goes well—that is, if I don’t change my mind out of fear (or, more likely, abject panic)—tomorrow morning I’ll sign a lease on a room in Chinatown. It’s a quaint little apartment, almost cottage-like: a two-bedroom, 1.5-bath place on the other side of a courtyard behind a popular restaurant on Pell St. The room is smallish and has no closet; the apartment itself is nothing special. When friends ask about it, I say, “It’s a Chinatown apartment,” and they all nod their heads, understanding the implicit shorthand that goes with the geographic territory. They also then express a bit of awe that I’ve procured the space without being Chinese myself; this is apparently a bit of an impossibility, but if there is one thing my time in New York has proven it is that I am able to do things others tell themselves cannot be done.

This will be my sixth “residence” in New York, if you count my two stints on David’s couch twice, since they were separated by five weeks in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens (my “Brooklyn Weeks”). Call it my fifth “residence,” then, but the sixth time I’ll need to move my belongings. This time there will be something new, though: I’ll need to buy furniture, all the other residences having been furnished for me in one form or the other, in varying degrees of comfort.

I feel stressed and overwhelmed at the prospect. Not just by the finances of the whole thing (it is always the finances) but the mere thought of change inspires my lizard brain to get all wonky on me. Even if the reasons for change are good—I can walk to work! no more screaming children bouncing a rubber ball against my bedroom door at 9am on a Saturday! no more pot smoke wafting in from the living room!—I still get antsy and anxious and start second-guessing myself. (Good thing I have therapy tonight.) It doesn’t help that I’m pre-menstrual and still weepy over having left my son at the airport yesterday. Nothing feels right today, even when I think about how cute my room will look with a loft bed with a little sofa underneath and my writing desk underneath the window that looks out into the courtyard, which will soon be filled with greens and flowers. I’ll once again be able to bake cupcakes (full kitchen privileges!) and hang out in the little comfy common area and even sit in the courtyard and read…and it will be peaceful and calming and nice. And, even better, it will be a place where no one who has ever hurt me will have ever, ever touched.

(It’s no small matter that one motivation in moving away from where I am now is that I was hurt very deeply there; I take these things seriously. I cannot stay in spaces where pain lingers, no matter how lightly.)

So this Chinatown space has the potential to be lovely and adorable and oh-so-Amy. But, also oh-so-Amy, I am balking because it is change and it is more money and it is different and what if I’m making a huge mistake?

But then I look back at the past two years. And I think of all of the things I’ve done and decisions I’ve made that have had all the same questions attached. And I remember a text-message conversation I had with my good friend Andy last week, in which I said,

As long as you keep doing the bare minimum the universe will carry you along. I don’t know how I’ve survived the past two years. That’s the best explanation I have.

Followed by,

There were many days I didn’t know how I would stand another minute of what I was doing. I was sure I was going to die of fear and poverty. But I kept remembering to just put one foot in front of the other and just go to sleep if it got too scary. And I didn’t always go to meetings and sometimes didn’t shower for a week but it all did work out and I’m baffled at how but I’m grateful I did. Of course I did do a lot of footwork. When I wasn’t terrified or depressed.

And I need to keep all of that in mind, that I’ve been here before—at the crossroads of not knowing whether the decision I thought was the best one would end up being the right one—and everything ended up more than okay. I was there when I got on the Amtrak train to move to New York, when I slept on a couch in exchange for giving diabetic cats shots twice a day, when I worked for barely above minimum wage at a call center, when I chose to become an unpaid intern at a publishing company instead of accepting the offer to be a teaching fellow (with a guaranteed salary). Some of those (okay, most of them) were counterintuitive for everyone except me, but I went ahead and did them anyhow…because I had a feeling that they would work out. And I was terrified every step of the way…until I got my footing and figured out that things were working out. Even the job I’m in now, the one I absolutely love, I wasn’t quite sure about until I was about a month into it.

So, yes, I’m terrified about this Chinatown thing. It’s different, it’s scary, it’s another situation in which I’ll be the only white girl (and definitely the only white girl with 19 tattoos) within a several-block radius. I’ll be in a dangerous neighborhood, if by dangerous you mean “across the street from my favorite place to eat in Chinatown (Vegetarian Dim Sum)”—but I think I can handle that. It’s all a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, keeping moving, getting things done, staying focused, and breathing. Because, really, life doesn’t get much better than being terrified about the good things that are happening.

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