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.