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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hello to All That

New York, they say, is for the very wealthy or the very young. I am neither. By the time I seriously considered moving there in my late 20s, most of my girlfriends were on their way out of New York, off to grad school in Boston, law firms in Atlanta, husbands in Dallas. For too long, I convinced myself that door had closed.

Besides, I reasoned, I was too old to live in the kind of tiny apartment I could afford in Manhattan. What would I do with all my stuff? My Cuisinart, my books, my grandmother’s rug? Moving into my condo seven years ago, I reveled in being reunited with the beloved belongings I’d stored as I lived briefly in Brazil, then with my mom, then with my sister. I filled the bookshelves in my condo with my treasured books, categorizing them by genre. I lined up my black boots in the closet. Unpacking all my stuff felt good. It felt familiar. I was home.

I’m not sure when that began to change. Maybe when I realized I should seize the opportunity of being single. Maybe when I did a six-week stint in London and loved every minute of being on my own in a big city. Maybe when I realized the biggest thing keeping me from moving was dealing with all that stuff.

When I bought my condo in 2006, I got a five-year adjustable rate mortgage. Five years seemed like an eternity. I was 29. By June of 2011, surely I’d be married or ready to move into a real house, wouldn’t I?

And yet, here I am. I have zero interest in schlepping my stuff to live anywhere else in Charlotte. I love my condo—even though there’s no way I could sell it in this market. Meanwhile, I’ve watched certain friends’ lives evolve. They’ve finished graduate school, fallen in love, gotten married, had babies. And here I am, living in the same place, working for the same company, going to the same parties. Something had to change. Had I really missed the window on a big-city adventure?

Too many of my ideas about why you’d only move to New York in your 20s come from one of my favorite pieces of writing, Joan Didion’s essay “Goodbye to All That.” It’s about arriving in New York when she was young and na├»ve. And it’s about leaving years later, jaded and pessimistic, having realized “it’s distinctly possible to stay too long at the Fair.” I’ve read the essay a dozen times in the past 15 years, and I’ve come to realize it’s not just about New York. It’s about the way we all get older, lose our innocence, change our priorities.

“I was very young in New York,” she writes, “and at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore.”

I may not be that young anymore. But I’m not that old either. And I’m fortunate enough to have a job at a global company that facilitates flexible work arrangements. Half my colleagues are in California; my manager works on a different floor than I do. We spend our days dialing into conference calls and sending emails. Couldn’t I do that from another location?

Yes, it turns out, I can. My manager was supportive and agreed I could work from an office in New York. Then came the hard part: renting my condo and finding a place I could afford to live in the city. Both happened surprisingly quickly. I found a friend who wanted to rent my place fully furnished; I think she’s as happy to get it as I am for her to live in it. While I chased leads on Craig’s List, my friends Neil and Nate found me a room to rent with a friend of theirs in the West Village. Hooray!

As all this unfolded, it’s been a little bit like finding my way by flashlight. Even in the dark, little signs kept popping up to tell me I was on the right path. Moving to New York has reminded me of those trust falls we used to do at summer camp. And yet, as I’ve jumped, God’s been right there to catch me. Helping me rent my condo, finding me a place to live, giving me the courage leap into something unknown. Being 34 years old and abandoning your own condo to rent a room—a tiny room—may seem like a sad step backward to some people. To me, it feels like following my spirit and letting my light shine. It feels like making the most of this time and place in my life. It feels like choosing to live in a world of trust and abundance, not fear and scarcity.

The grass in New York won’t be greener. In fact, on some cold, grey, lonely days, it will probably seem awfully brown. But you can’t stay too long at the fair if you never even let yourself go in the gate.

Jogging today on a perfect spring morning, I looked at the blooming trees and savored every block of my lovely neighborhood. It will still be here when I’m ready to come back. In the meantime, I’m preparing to travel lightly. How many books or pairs of black boots does a girl need? I feel like I’ve decided to choose between stuff and adventure.

And I choose adventure.

* * *

My heartfelt thanks go to Leigh Ann and Neil for their enthusiastic encouragement of this leap and their help with the logistics. I am convinced God plants angels along our path when we need them. In this move, both of you have been my most faithful cheerleaders. I hope I can someday return the favor. 


Dee Stephens said...

Lovely post! I sure hope you continue to blog in NYC! I'm coming to visit..NO DOUBT! Congrats and Good Luck!! MUAH

Bunny Nicholson said...

That's my girl! Go for life, proud of you!

Rob C. said...

WEST VILLAGE WOOO HOOOO!!!!! I am so excited for you. I just know you are going to be heavily rewarded for your courage... And think of all the books and boots(sample sales!) to be discovered in the city, I mean THE city! I'd pack light. xo,e

Page Leggett said...

I am in awe.

Chantal said...

I often wonder if it will be my biggest regret ... So glad it won't be yours. Go live it up!

The Carter Family said...

Wow!! That is wonderful! So excited and happy for you!! Please continue blogging as I can't wait to hear about life in the big city!! As I was reading this the verse Jeremiah 29:11 came to mind. Good luck! You are going to do great!!!!

Katie said...

Amazing! God does have a plan for each of us and He shows us the path when we ask Him. I cannot wait to hear all about your new adventures. You will do it like no one else!

Neil said...

so excited that you are coming here! we can't wait.

and you know it's funny about that joan didion piece considering she eventually moved back here and still lives here now. maybe we'll run into her!

Meredith Garlington said...

(You don't know me... but I am a friend of Page Leggett's and she posted a link to your blog on facebook.) I am so, so impressed and excited for you! I remember when I wanted to go to grad school at the age of 30 and thinking I couldn't possibly go because of "all of my stuff" and an apartment (!) I loved. Luckily I figured out that was a ridiculous reason not to change things up. I'm only sorry I haven't heeded the same call for change a few times since. Good luck and godspeed!

Karen said...

I will come visit! Excited for you! Remember that my niece, Caroline Kirk, lives there. FB her and ya'll can get together- I think she might live near where you will be. She gave Kathlyn and John some names of wonderful places to eat.

Courtneybee said...

Huzzah! I am so excited for you! NYC is fantastic and you will love it there! Best of luck to you in this exciting endeavor!

Susie said...

The words jealous, happy, nervous, jealous, adventurous, jealous all come to mind but mostly, I believe you are doing the absolutely best thing at the best time!

Robin DuMont said...

"You can't stay too long at the fair if you never let yourself go in the gate." God I love that! I hope this opens more and more gates for you my friend!!!