There are plenty of great places to live in America with enough variety in culture, size, and every other demographic that it’s possible for everyone to find their niche, no excuses. Jack Kerouac even made it a unique American rite of passage to hit the road and find yourself while testing out a few different locations. Maybe even test the patience of a few locals.
But, despite what pop culture would lead the rest of us to believe most of us stay glued to one spot for years with only our gaze headed just over the horizon.
I know this gig really well because I lived it out for decades. My feet were firmly planted in Richmond, Virginia, which is a great place to live by the way, but my head was stuck in a northerly direction. Right there is enough for all of the southern readers to wonder where my upbringing has gone wrong, but hear me out.
No matter how much I loved the people I was hanging around with, which I did, or found enough interesting things to do, ditto, Richmond never felt like home. No matter how many years went by every time I joined a group or signed up for a gym membership in the back of my mind I’d wonder if it was worth really getting involved. After all, I wasn’t planning on staying, and yet I didn’t take any action to be somewhere else.
So, when I finally moved to New York City in the summer of 2007 it felt like I’d been unleashed. I drove a U-Haul truck all night singing a bad rendition of the Mary Tyler Moore show’s theme song. Things would really change now. Look out world.
That’s not exactly what happened. At first, everything felt absolutely perfect. It was everything I expected and then some. Dated someone with a sailboat for an entire summer and got to sail around the island over and over again. Watched the 4th of July fireworks from a corner penthouse on the Upper East Side while talking to two birders about the variety in Central Park. Managed to not say hello and gush all over Nate Berkus, Oprah’s interior design guru who was standing by himself on an empty Soho sidewalk. Pushed my way onto the crowded number six subway and took shallow breaths while trying not to brush up against very sweaty arms. Check, check, check and check. That’s just the short list.
And yet, I never really fit in there, either. However, this time instead of just wishing for things to be different I dug in deeper and was determined to make it work. It wasn’t possible that someplace I had loved so much from afar wouldn’t have a small corner just for me. I refused to budge.
Well, the universe saw it differently and as all of the readers know, the apartment I was ensconced in was sold and things changed again, anyway. I was out of New York and pondering where to go next. One place had been too small to suit me and one place had been too big.
Next stop, Chicago and the small neighborhood of Lincoln Square and much to my surprise I really fit in here. I say that cautiously just in case there are future updates from Albuquerque or Seattle but so far, so good. Two years later and I’ve already made new friends, joined a running group and a book club. It’s been somewhat easy and that’s the point.
In the past I was always trying to force my luck to bend to my will rather than letting go and shaping myself inside of my luck. I was so convinced that if I didn’t head straight for what I was determined to get, I’d end up with something I never wanted at all. But, once I was willing to let go of standing still and then let go of the list of things I had to do everything fell into place, at least for now. Of course, I’ll let you know how it unfolds. More adventures to follow.