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 naïve. 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.