On New York, and being alone

So. I’ve been in New York City since May 24th, almost two months ago, and I’ve been writing half blog posts since I got here. I’ve been trying, every week (or two) or so, to sit down and open my computer and get my thoughts down, as I did so often during my travels last semester. The difference, though, is that I don’t have the seemingly infinite time and space that being on a ship for four months gave me; I don’t have the hours to kill just staring at the ocean, waiting for and expecting nothing and just letting inspiration find its way to me.

Here, I need to take a brief pause, before I get into anything, really, to say that every human being – and me especially, I often feel – romanticizes the past. Therefore, to sit here and claim that every moment of my last semester was perfectly calm, beautiful, and inspiring would be wrong. Last semester was not that way at all half of the time, and it involved a lot of uncomfortable introspection and sadness along with all of the joy (see most of my posts in the Semester at Sea section of this blog); but it gave me space, and that space was a luxury that I no longer, rushing around New York, have handed to me.

Now, to be fair, New York is a place where space can be created for oneself. It can be created in routine, in an intentional sense of constancy. Many of my friends here have very set morning and evening routines that seem to keep them balanced and on track and life-loving – you know, morning trip to the closest artsy coffee shop on the way to work, spinning class or a run before dinner, a walk or a glass of wine when all is said and done, rinse, repeat. Space can also be created, of course, in space itself – ownership of a room or some corner of an apartment or coffee shop. A space that reflects and comforts the soul of the person occupying it – something I am always seeking out.

Despite my knowledge of the power of this intentionality, however, I have found myself unable to hone in on it. For some reason, I’ve had trouble standing my ground, creating my experience instead of letting it create me. I have been letting New York suck me in, take me with it on the kinds of exhilarating waves only it can create, and set me back down again, reeling and exhausted and alone despite all of the people involved in my life every day.

Living in New York is truly a roller coaster. One minute, you’re wrapped up in the buzz of it all, and the next you’re sitting alone, listening to the buzz around you, with an uneasy sense of fomo (fear of missing out) that you can’t quite place on any exact event that you’re missing out on: there are possible thousands, all involving people you may never meet. I have found myself making social plans almost constantly just to avoid feeling lonely, and then feeling more lonely than ever when I burn myself out and just can’t keep up with my own life, or – god forbid – if someone cancels on me and I’m left with an unpredicted bank space in my schedule. It’s completely silly, and I know it’s silly, and yet… it happens.

What’s funny is that I absolutely love New York. I honestly don’t know that I’ll ever be able to live anywhere else. There’s just something about being at the center of everything, knowing you couldn’t possibly exhaust all of the possibilities that exist in that concentrated space in an entire lifetime. It’s amazing, and magical, and addictive.

I also happen to love my alone time – I truly do. I could spend entire afternoons on my own and be completely content and entertained (and not just by Netflix, by fulfilling activities like reading Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance or pretending to teach myself to play guitar or writing this blog post). So, I just need to find a way to bring my love of New York and my love of alone time together. I’m confident that it’s a possible feat, and I’ve definitely had some great alone moments here. For example, I often walk to the reservoir that’s just north of the Met in Central Park so that I can watch the sunset over the skyline and the water; sometimes I hang around and read, and recently I’ve even walked back in the dark among the summer fireflies (one of my favorite things in the world). Just walking around the city is inspiring and can provide such a great space for reflection on all of the oddities of this world; creating that space is the challenge at hand, and being more than ok with being alone in it is the even bigger challenge; but that is such an important part of being in my twenties and single and uncertain and lost, and figuring out who and what fills me up with the joy and comfort and simultaneous curiosity we are all so hungry for. Life is a journey, and often a lonely one; so I’m thinking I just need to embrace that.