Friday, November 1, 2013

The waiting game

New York Skyline in Ink by Lee-Ann Adendorff

Have you ever wanted something so badly you felt like everything in life-- at least at that moment-- was a prequel to that one thing you really, really wanted? 

For me, the thing I want real bad is New York City.  

My first taste of Gotham took place at the age of 16. When I found out my mother was going to New York for a business trip, I begged and begged her to take me along. I won't be a bother, I pleaded, just drop me off in the middle of Times Square. I'll figure it out. I wore her down for weeks until she finally relented and bought an extra plane ticket. 

I'm not sure why, as a teenager, I had such an attraction to New York. I had never been there before. No one else in my immediate family had the same passion for the big city. It's not like I had been influenced by The Age of Innocence, Breakfast at Tiffany's or The Great Gatsby. I had never watched a Woody Allen film. I wasn't getting a daily dose of Blondie or The Ramones and if you asked me how to find the New York Dolls I would have told you to call Toys R Us.

But I knew in my gut that New York was the place to be. It was where people went to make things happen. To make their dreams come true. And I knew, at 16, I had a lot of dreams I wanted to work on. 

Well, long story short. I pounded Manhattan pavement in the summer of 1990 and majorly fell in love. It was hot and steamy as hell but I didn't care. I was in Central Park! I was riding the subway! I was eating a questionable hot dog in the middle of Times Square!

Madonna writes about her first New York experience in an essay for the November issue of Bazaar. Reading her words was like looking into my own thoughts about my first time. 

        The tall buildings and massive scale of New York 
        took my breath away. The sizzling-hot sidewalks 
        and the noise of the traffic and the electricity 
        of the people rushing by me on the streets was a 
        shock to my neurotransmitters. I felt like I had 
        plugged into another universe. I felt like a warrior
        plunging my way through the crowds to survive. 
        Blood pumping through my veins, I was poised for 
        survival. I felt alive.

Sadly, I eventually had to return home to Orange County. Mom's business trip only lasted a week (I could have stayed in New York forever) and I wasn't too excited about going back to a life of palm trees and sunny Southern California skies (I know, it sounds so utterly bratty, but remember I was 16). I wanted skyscrapers. Honking taxis. Transvestites. Career women in power suits. The Brooklyn Bridge. Museums. Graffiti. NYPD. The Statue of Liberty. 

The following year I applied to my dream school, Columbia University. I got rejected but thankfully wasn't too crushed because I was lucky enough to have the options of Boston University, UCLA or UC Berkeley. I chose Berkeley because it seemed the most diametrically opposed to Orange County-- and the closest in vibe to New York. 

I loved every minute of my undergraduate years. In fact, one of my favorite college memories is my adorable, conservative Korean parents dropping me off at my dorm, having just witnessed the grittiness of Telegraph Avenue with its drunk and homeless, sex shops smelling of patchouli and incense, and scruffy teenage punks holding "Will work for a blow job" signs. They were terrified. I was thrilled.

Fast forward eight years and New York called. 

I had always wanted to write and try to make a living at it so I applied to journalism school. The only place I wanted to go was Columbia (I had to give my dream school another shot). If I really want to do this I want to go all the way, I told myself. And I want to do it in New York. Second time around, I got in.

In July of 2001, I held a one-way ticket bound for Manhattan-- almost exactly 11 years after my first visit. Blood pumping through my veins, I was poised for survival. I felt alive. Living in New York was everything I had hoped for. The busy-ness. The craziness. The go-go-go of everything and everybody. Running, sometimes in heels, after my next interview, my next appointment, my next opportunity. I was in my element. I embraced it all.

Then 9/11 happened and it made me love New York even more.

After graduation, I didn't want to leave. But sometimes you fall in love in other ways (this time, with a boy-- funny how that happens) and I returned to California to build a life with him. 

Fast forward 10 years, marriage and two kids later and New York is calling again.

With a career no longer bound to California and knowing how much his wife longed for New York, the husband came up with the crazy idea of transplanting our life, our family and our dreams to the one place I can't get out of my system. Now that's true love.

So we are 2,300 miles closer to our dream than we were nine months ago. We've made an extended pit stop in the great city of Cleveland (and I say that with the utmost respect and without an ounce of sarcasm-- the butt of jokes for too long, it's time Cleveland gets some respect) while we wait for the right opportunity to make our final move.

I still have that same feeling I had when I was 16. The same unexplainable draw to the grit, the grime, the glamour. I love shiny New York as much as its shitty parts. 

The hardest thing right now is waiting. I'm a very impatient person (perhaps the reason why I'd make the perfect New Yorker?). And like I said, when you want something badly, everything seems like the prequel. The meaty stuff, the really good stuff, you know is up ahead. 

In the meantime, life is a constant balancing act: keeping my eyes on the prize while savoring each moment in the present. I know it's cliche, but I'm doing a whole lotta carpe diem-ing right now.   

I just have to remember, the world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.*

*Wise words from British philosopher Bertrand Russell.