The other morning I woke up out of a dream, probably before or just around six. I was groggy, not sure if I was still in the dream. My eyes were half open and I could make out shapes and images and slowly I started to realize I was somewhere familiar but it took me a few more bleary seconds for it to sink in that I was at home, in my own room. The outlines of the door and the bookcase and the surroundings all were recognizable but it's like hearing your own language transformed by a heavy accent or when someone you know changes their look and you think it's them but aren't quite sure. When I finally opened my eyes and slipped completely out of dreamland I then felt a little ashamed to not have recognized the room I've lived in for twelve and a half years.
At the same time, I was away for two weeks, then was in New Jersey and DC, and am now heading off to Arizona. The new normal means that home is just another place to visit, a pit stop on my way to somewhere else. Except it's not. I may sleep better in better beds, less physically and mentally cluttered spaces, but I love it here. Little things have changed in the twelve years, both inside and outside my door. I moved here very sheltered and naïve, having barely worked, having managed three years of law school without a degree but also without pretty much retaining any legal knowledge. I was young and clueless and never could've imagined that all those years later I'd even have an accountant, let alone be meeting with one to incorporate a business. It still feels amazing, to have gone from that girl to this one, though really we are so similar. We are both flighty and impatient and don't know how to finish what we start. We are both selfish and bratty and want things to go our way. I hope that in those years I have grown up at least a little. I don't ever sit at a desk or anywhere else hungover. I am rarely up past two, although one night in Austin we we crashed on a friend's couches and I felt many years drop off.
I try not to be too attached to this home, because I am planning to leave. I don't know if it's the best decision, or rather, I will have to give up many comforts of home, of New York, to gain others, like togetherness and quiet and home-cooked meals and daily Jeopardy! watching, like making a future and, if I'm lucky, a family. Like investing in my writing in ways I am simply incapable of in New York.
For all its vastness, New York is sometimes too small. There are aspects of that I appreciate, like the woman at my dry cleaner who always chats with me, tells me I have a doppelganger, compliments my dresses, who seems so quintessentially like someone's mom, which she is. Her shop isn't fancy or hipster in any sense of the word, it's old school, family run. At the same time, my coffee shop is a hipster coffee shop, but no less family, just not an Italian one. I get to hear so many wonderful stories while sitting there for hours, from my fellow customers and the baristas. I brought them cupcakes the day after the election; I apologized for the one with the topper I would bet money they hadn't voted for, but I didn't ask. I will miss that coffee culture and community, and that is high on my list of what I want in my new town. I've never shopped for a town before, or a home. Since I was two, I've only lived in 6 apartments (1 was a dorm). I stick around a long time. I was born in New York, and it will always be a part of me. But I think this year of traveling all over, places I never imagined or thought I could figure out how to go to, has shown me that home is about love. I was so grateful to have someone I barely know open their home to me, and then extend that, when I couldn't get back here. Not being able to come back was frustrating, but it taught me a lot about what and who I miss. It wasn't my stuff or the trappings of home in this space.
While I'm here, I try to value it, to look around my city with the same awe I brought to Dupont Circle, to Penn Quarter, to Georgetown and the White House the last time I was there. I don't want to ever be over New York, to think I know it like the back of my hand because I've walked a bridge or sat in a park or eaten in a restaurant or ridden a subway line dozens or hundreds of times. There's always something new, and it will always be its own kind of home to me. I think I'm ready for an adult life, with closets (my place has none) and organization and art and love. It'll take a while to get to that new home, wherever it is, but it will happen. In the meantime, every minute I'm here, I'm watching and learning and simply savoring it.