Yesterday morning was my 30th birthday and I was waking up in New York City. Even now as I am writing this, the lights of Times Square vibrate through the hotel room window to my right, and I wonder how did I get here? I mean, I know by what mode of transportation (plane obviously), but why at this point in my life, at this moment? Who can say. I wished for it, I got a lot of help to make it happen, and yet as I sit here with the city all around me, I find myself pondering over a lot of things.
I’ve always had a fairy tale version of New York in my head, as many aspiring writers have I’m sure. When I was a teenager, I imagined myself older in New York; visiting my favourite coffee shop where everyone knew me, eventually meeting the love of my life when he timidly approached me to ask me what I’m writing, romantic comedy ensues, blah blah blah. As I got older, that coffee shop came in and out of the frame, as did my profession and my achievements. What remained however, was the idea of New York being magical, inspiring and full of life; my London away from London. And in a lot of ways that is exactly what it is, but as I sat in my trendy hotel room yesterday, reading birthday messages from across the pond, I began to ponder what it was that I was trying to find here.
I have since my earliest years, been a bit of a ponderer. I’ve been told I think too much, that I don’t live in the moment, that I’m too questioning. But I mean, why do we have to accept everything as it is? What’s wrong with doing a check in with yourself to make sure everything is OK? Because that’s what my version of pondering is; just checking in with myself, making sure I’m where I want to be, thinking through how to get there if I’m not where I want to be, making peace with the fact that sometimes you just can’t know.
My first morning in New York, fighting jet lag and a busy mind, I set out to follow my ambitious itinerary, and although lethargic at first, I was energized by my movements and that of the city, the way that it flowed and literally never seemed to stop. Exploring this vast city alone has been a dream and a wake up call – a dream because it’s something I have wanted to do for so many years, and a wake up call because somehow, unexpectedly, I find myself missing London.
I pondered over why this was (I’m not one to get homesick and will rarely even claim one place as “home”, having moved around so much in my life), and noted a pattern of desperately needing to leave London to preserve my mental well-being, but feeling it pull me back after a day of being away. Perhaps it’s the US that does this to me as it’s the place I have visited most (I didn’t feel the pull whilst in Venice); with it’s American dream and hopeful attitude, or it’s air of entitlement that sometimes grates on me, and sometimes embraces me. Or perhaps it is just that I do not fit here in this big wide world of a city.
I feel myself loving it in moments, and also loving it more from afar, as if the memories of it are what make it magical, rather than the thing itself in the present. Who knows. But looking out of the window at the city, recounting it’s beauty and creativity, I like being a part of it, even if I only want to be for a short while.
One thing I know for sure though, is that turning 30 makes you philosophical as hell.
Image credit: Statue of Liberty by Yohan Quintar from the Noun Project