Thursday, June 5, 2008

Be brave.


When I was a sophomore in college, everything fell apart.

I remember for a few months, vaguely, a sense that I couldn't see the future. I had no idea what came next. And then I remembered, specifically, that one day that the bottom fell out.

I had always been a good student. It was everything I loved and all that I was good at, really. I didn't know how people made a life, work-wise. My father was a civil servant and my mother did her thing. I wasn't sure how people made life "go." It was distressing to have no idea what the future should hold, and worse to suddenly realize that although I had no idea where I was going, I knew that I was going nowhere at all and I just needed to stop.

I quit school and moved home. I am not sure I spoke to anyone but my mother for about 4 months. And Guillermo. I did speak to him, but only barely.

At the time, my mother had taken a border, some guy from Colombia. He was annoying for a host of reasons, but he really pissed me off the day he announced at dinner that I was not brave. I am not sure how the conversation came up, but it did, and the outcome was an indictment.

I was so offended that whatever existential dilemma I had playing out in my head suddenly took a vacation. By the next day, I snapped out of it (if only Cher had been there to slap me!) and I rented an illegal room in an apartment for $225 a month. I moved out immediately with the very few things that would fit.

The "room" was in a beautiful 1911 apartment building with hardwoods and vintage details. But it was so small that my futon frame wouldn't fit. I brought only the futon pad and had to keep it folded in half so that I had a little bit of floor to walk on. I had a small table on which I put my small CD player, a few personal items, and I was allowed to use the front-hall closet as my own.

It was perfect.

Every real adventure in my whole life started that day. I still had no idea what was going to come next, but by then I decided that no matter what I was doing, I was going to lean into it.

I had brunch with my mother a few weeks ago and she remarked something about all that, in an oblique way. She said, essentially, You are nothing like you were.

I didn't ask for more on that because I wasn't sure if another indictment would follow, but she's right. I am nothing like that myopic scared kid who didn't know how to make the world "go."

I think it's why I like NY so much.

I like being in a cab in NY when it's approaching summer and the heat of the day is finally defeated by the cool breeze, which I swear is generated entirely by the speeding cabs of this city. I like the blurred lights and the hollering and the voices and the intermittent thumping you hear when you pass a bar or club. I like smell of the cool air with a hint of the day's garbage; I like the people you see at 9pm in bars who are still wearing the costume of business. The day barely stops before their whole night begins. NY is a city full of people leaning into what comes next. This city is just so much - of everything.

As I get older and keep coming here, I see these YOUNG girls all over NY, and they are here to make this life, this fashionable life, out of a city in which the odds are completely against them. Are they brave? Are they fearless or just foolish? Who knows. And does it matter? I mean, they are the ones doing it. They are here to make their world GO. And that's something.

44 comments:

Kim said...

That was something special to read.

Anonymous said...

You're so on target. Dream seekers flock to NY. Not everyone will reach the stars, but they might just come damn close. They'll always be left with their invaluable memories.
I had recently relocated to the south and it just wasn't a "fit" for me. I've been kicking around the idea of returning home to NY.
Your post did it for me. I'm moving back home to NY!
Thanks for the enlightenment.
Penny

Suzy said...

you know what...it's more than something...that is everything. maybe being brave and being stupid go hand in hand. but why would you want to live life any other way? I read a quote years ago - can't remember who by - that goes "I'd rather regret something I did do, than something I didn't". I've tried to live my life like that ever since.

maison21 said...

beautifully written.

thank you.

paola said...

Hey! I didn't know you could write so beautifully...

JJ said...

I've followed Suzy's quote unofficially since 11th grade. I just vascillate back and forth for a while and then flop over the edge of whatever cliff.
(Yes, I flop because I am not the least bit graceful at making these moves.)

Get after it, E.
There's something big coming...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this poetic post.

Maybe it's because I have a bit of PMS, but it's made me all misty eyed.

Maria said...

such a great post. a young friend just moved to NY to make her best attempt in NY as a writer. i'm sending this post to her to keep her inspired :)

Mary T. said...

And you know what's cool? No matter how old you are, you can choose to be brave on any given day.

Leah said...

You are such a good fuckin' writer -- it kills me that you're not actually a writer for, you know, your job.

pve design said...

They are brave and you are brave!
You should move to NY! Rickey would love it too-

franki durbin said...

what a post. I love momentous, life-changing moments. I can recall being called shy once as a child. I may have been 3 or 4. I've never been called shy since. It was such a slap in the face from a stranger (a friend of the family had stopped by) that I vowed to never have that title assigned to me again.

You are brave. I'd never have thought otherwise. And Cher would have happily been there for you to slap you anyway ;)

congrats to life's breakthrough moments.

thestamfordwife said...

wonderful post. now I miss NY.

Sucker For Marketing said...

OK, now you have me all verklempt.
Thanks!

SGM said...

I agree with Leah, except with maybe some more "fuckin'" in there.

Vivid, and inspiring.

Anonymous said...

sgm: You aren't too bad yourself!

Laura @ Shorehouse Chic. said...

What an amazing post. Really. You made me love new york just a little bit more (which I didn't think was possible!).

visual vamp said...

Great writing. Do more like this please. As a misplaced New Yorker, I appreciate the nostalgia.

Uncle Beefy said...

Um, wow. All I'm gonna say is that this is getting printed out and placed front and center in my little closet-cum-office. This is some seriously inspired and inspiring writing. Thanks for sharing...I mean REALLY.

Little Miss said...

Ah yes -- this post comes right after the SATC movie last night, and despite my mixed opinion of that latter, both your post and momments of that movie definately resonate. I am, I suppose, one of those 20-something girls attempting to make it in NYC-- and the experience of being here, even if for a brief point, is a profound lesson in survival. I figure if I managed to eek out a living and a life here, and carve out my own happiness --- hell, I can do this anywhere.

It is an incredibly tough and simultaneously magical city. (except in 102 F, 99% humidity in the subway in july)

so three cheers for life lessons, as cliche as it is.

Anonymous said...

My favorite quote has always been, "If it is to be, it is up to me."
I don't really believe in fate. I believe if you want to make something happen, you have to do it yourself.
It's not always as easy as saying, though.
Good post. Thanks.

Louryne said...

I loved your post, you're such a great writer. Decorno is my own little SATC. I'm one of the 20-somethings and as they say "If you can make it NY you can make it anywhere". And if I fall off the cliff than at least I have some great memories. No matter what, thats a win win situation.

Kwana said...

Thanks Decorno. That was wonderful to read. You took me back to a young girl at FIT for a sec. I truly enjoyed it. I'm gonna remember how it felt to lean in. I love that.

eM said...

awesome, girl
but i just want to say - i think that your nineteen year old self possessed a certain kind of wisdom. I mean you put your head up, looked around at the world and said - holy shit, I'm going to my room. So you weren't ready for the whole carpe diem thing - that's what you needed then. when I was nineteen I needed purple suede cowboy boots!

G said...

Really great essay. I am one of those born-and-raised, New Yorkers 'from Bronx to Chelsea", and this was also one of the nicest odes to my great hometime that I have read.

This was my "Guillermo-slap in the face" today. I do brave things all the time, but the events of the last few days have made beat a hasty retreat to my bed like the heroine of a 19th century novel. Sometimes that's great, but I can't stay there.

Thanks for reminding me of why I got in the game in the first place.

d.Sharp said...

Agree with Kim, something special to read. Thanks.

Richie Designs said...

totally went through a similar experience -approx the same time.

I was so overwhelmed with the things it took to be an adult. Panic attacks started then too.

My mom begged me to stay in school, take underwater basket weaving if I wanted. which I did. It was a very long process out of that hole.

luckily for me I started seeing a therapist about the same time that kept me from having a full blown breakdown.

adults and school never prepare you for that part of life.

AT said...

This made me miss New York. I was one of those YOUNG girls once. And then I got a little older. And then I left. The smell of NYC garbage (and for me, the smell coming off the east river) is something that only a person who's lived there can appreciate.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Lean into it!

Fantastic post.

katiedid said...

Having a couple of daughters that are going to be out in the world soon in a few years....I will remember to tell them: "lean into it".

Alabama Shadows said...

this was so nice to read. it is refreshing to know that we all feel that we hit rock bottom at some point in our lives (apparently many of us during our sophomore years in college -- what is that all about, anyway?) and that all we need is some annoying colombian to smack some sense into us. well done & bravo.

The Lil Bee said...

Your title pretty much sums it all up. That was really nice. And how much do you love driving home at night on FDR with the windows rolled down. There's just nothing like it.

Robin said...

Beautiful post. I worked in NYC at MoMA right after college and never managed to move there and always regretted it. Now I live in a much smaller city, but right downtown in a fab apartment and I don't regret it one bit. Better late than never.

Anonymous said...

somedays, today for example, being brave is the HARDEST thing to wrap your mind around. i want to be brave so much, and no one would ever know that while i'm showing up to work with new pretty shoes and shiny lip gloss playing the part of the overacheiver, i am litteraly crumpling inside from fear of everyone finding out that i'm not that great and this all a big hoax. be brave, i say to myself all the time, chin up girl. no tears, keep it together and get that work done...blah blah blah. today, i would give just about anything to lock the door and cry for one hour, and then maybe, maybe, it will feel better. am i at the bottom? no, this is just the grey in between.

thanks for your post d, i'm going to start leaning in.

Decor Fellow: James Saavedra said...

beautiful. wonderful.

FancyPants-design said...

That was beautiful. Amazing! All things feel possible in NY. never felt that way until I moved here 4 years ago! Thanks for your thoughts! :)

Lisa said...

I think anyone alive is brave: life is very very hard. If anyone thinks it's not, just wait, life will come for you! Thank you for your delicious post. I was born in 1961 in NY Hospital & grew up in Manhattan. I consider Manhattan my third parent as it has SO much to do with who I am. And it was GLORIOUS! (And we were poor so don't get any ideas). Woody Allen filming outside your high school? Yeah, so? Another day in NYC. I would recommend everyone reading JK Rowling's commencement speech at Harvard. Google it. And in terms of bravery, I recommend everyone writing the Texas Innocence Project and seeing what they can do for James Woodard, recently released from prison after 27 yrs for a crime he did not commit. Now that's brave! Talk about leaning into life!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Decorno said...

Thanks everyone. Life is good, huh?

what's in a name? said...

Amazingly poignant. Great title for your non-decor book, "Lean into it."

{this is glamorous} said...

Beautifully written post. Feeling quite inspired.

Ms. B said...

I know I'm quite late to the game here, but I just clicked through to this post and it seems ESPECIALLY poignant today, November 5th, 2008. I live in NY and you definitely need to be brave here, but on days like today, it seems a little easier to do!

Anonymous said...

What's with sophomore year of college being the breaking point? Mine was too. Strange.

rhepp said...

After reading this article, I reference it every time I feel scared or uncertain. It is so beautifully written, it inspires me to lean into everything coming my way.