Tonight I am sitting in New York City, laying on a bed that is in a room that I am renting. My name isn’t even on the official lease while bits and pieces of my life are sent across the country. I am just trying to make this place feel like home.
The scary part is, I just celebrated my 27th birthday a few weeks ago. And here I am living like a college freshmen, no map in hand and making things up as I go along. And yet somehow, I am still waiting for the moment of panic to settle in. The realization that the numbers only go up from here and I am nowhere closer to figuring it out.
I am officially in my late 20s. Working as a bartender and living with a roommate, I can’t begin to explain how insignificant and yet monumental it feels. I know I’m young and still the number of candles on my cake each year is beginning to seem more important.
Building this new life from nothing has given me more reasons to reflect on why I came to New York. More importantly, what I plan to do next. It is the one question you can never avoid in a city of transplants. Where everyone is from somewhere else and they all expect you to have a reason or a plan. My answer to the revolving door of why’d you move here questions is always the same. Why not?
Lately though, that answer just doesn’t seem good enough.
I always assumed that getting here would be so difficult that the being here was sort of overlooked. Of course I fantasized about living in a dream apartment in the West Village. I fantasized about getting paid to write and sitting in trendy cafes while meeting with actor friends. Planning a weekend trip to the Hamptons or an upstate cabin.
But it was just that, a fantasy. I came to New York in such an unconventional way that I pictured myself failing miserably. I could see myself walking back to California if I had to, just to escape. But the idea of failing is so relative and always changing that it is almost impossible for me to know if that’s what I’m doing. So many people come to this city to follow a dream, a job, or a significant other.
I came to figure out what that dream, or job, or significant other is.
So here I am, 27. I’m living in a small apartment in Astoria and getting paid to serve beer. Then spending time at bars at two o’clock in the morning with my friends who want to be actors. I play with the idea of going back to school for a masters degree, looking for an internship or just taking off on another three-month trip. Maybe this time to Southeast Asia.
All those thoughts are really ways to distract myself from feeling what I really feel. Which is scared. Or to make myself seem like I have some direction. Especially when I am confronted with the inevitable questions of why I moved to New York. Because the truth is I did it just to do it. Or maybe to prove to myself that I could do it. Perhaps it was to prove to everyone else that I could do. But whatever it was that got me here doesn’t matter now that I am here. Because people expect more of an answer. And at my age, I feel like I should have one.
I am nowhere near where I thought I would be at this point in my life.
Yet I am exactly where I want to be.
I am a walking contradiction of expectation and reality. I am mad at myself for being stubbornly content. Yet i’m forever comparing myself to the twenty-something’s that have it way more together than I do. I am almost certain there was a time in the past few years when I felt like I was building something, heading somewhere. But I can’t quite familiarize myself with a sense of commitment to whatever foundation I may have had.
Now I have just a few small building blocks with nothing to hold them together with. Except maybe a strong desire not to go backwards.
But it’s not all denial and self-doubt. Growing up means so much more than just getting older. It means getting to know yourself and surprising yourself. Exploring parts about yourself that you lost or never knew existed in the first place.
It means one year closer to 30.
But one year further away from your past bad decisions and unhappy memories. It means the opportunity for better things to come. Making new memories in new places with new people and adding moments to your life that make it worth living. Even if it doesn’t come with a masters program or an engagement party. It means committing to the people that really matter. Because now you have been through enough to know who is worth making an effort for.
More importantly, it means having small is this really my life moments.
The other night after work I waved down a taxi in midtown. Then I gave the driver detailed directions to my apartment. While driving across the upper level 59th street bridge, I looked back and caught a glimpse of Manhattan at night.
I had a moment of clarity that I can do this, that I am doing this and that the older I get the more capable I feel to at least start figuring out what comes next. I’m teaching myself things I’ve always known but never practiced. I am allowing myself a day, a week, six months to just not know. I am redefining what it means for myself to be successful and at what age being successful really matters to me. I tell myself regularly that I have adapted and molded myself and managed to at least feel like I am right where I belong at 27, and that’s half the battle.