On my first day in New York City, I also hoped it would be my last. I tightly held my breath as I walked into my shoebox ground-floor apartment—a building that awkwardly stood under the BQE, across the street from an abandoned gas station with no other apartments or stores on the block.
Having sworn I would never move to the concrete jungle, I had to remind myself why I was there. Large job market, surprisingly cheap rent (an $800 room!), great roommate. Other friends in the city, family close by, lots of bagels. And sure, as stressful and grey New York can be, it's the cultural epicenter of the world with a million things to do! I could do it for a year.
That previous summer, I went on a road trip across the country with my best friend. Our first major stop (if you don't count a failed camping excursion in Iowa) was Colorado. We visited family and friends in Denver and Ft. Collins before camping in The Rockies. I remember a moment sitting on a far-off rock from Fern Lake, writing in my journal:
I feel alive as I adventure farther and farther from the norm, from what I truly understand. Colorado is different to me. I have learned to value daily interactions with others, along with a natural stunning beauty that is embedded in this community. So while I'm thousands of miles away from home, there is a comfort I cannot disregard: satisfaction, elation, and peace.
I've always been drawn to the state, and I've traveled there a handful of times since. In 2014, I went so far as to get mountain peaks tattooed on my back—sketched by the same best friend who was the first to experience The Rockies with me—a reminder that the mountains, that feeling of home and peace, is always with me.
Fast forward five years, and I'm still in New York. What was a life-decision I regretted, quickly turned into one I am extremely thankful for. In the last five years, I've grown in so many ways: from my first job which helped identify my skills and an enormously strong group of people, to my most recent career, which gave me the opportunity to see and understand another part of the world—a place that believed in my ability to do a small-share to impact others' lives. I've made and strengthened incredible friendships through the running community, work, random adventures, and my previous life. I went on a million first dates that have contributed generously to Chapter 7 of my memoir, "Why Internet Dating is the Worst: Applebees, Hot Sauce Festivals, and Cremation Centers." I ran thousands of miles, drank hundreds (?) of whiskies, and never once had to live in Manhattan.
And yet, it's never felt like home. Maybe it's the bitterness for spending my life's savings on tiny apartments that lack natural sunlight and any sense of character. Or perhaps it's from exploring rooftops, overlooking a sunset that casts brights shadows on New York's skyline—and not feeling a thing.
Maybe it's not caring about the nightlife or grilled cheese cocktails. Or the 318 Duane Reades and 283 Starbucks. Maybe it's wanting a simpler life that'll lead to a dynamic reality; with more space and less people, maybe I'll feel more like myself.
After so many subway rides back to my apartments—whether on the L, M, or 4/5—I always felt like a stranger being pulled into a temporary space. On nauseating cab rides back from JFK, I was stuck in an in-between, as if still flying over an ocean. Am I going or returning? This skyline isn't mine.
Perhaps I was never made to be a big city person. New York is hard. It's never fully rejected me, but it's never let me in, either. Or I haven't accepted it. Semantics. Swipe left.
And so we look back to Colorado. I'm not exactly sure what's there for me, but the only way I can find out is to open up myself to the opportunity, and the hope that I find that sense of grounding and purpose. Of peace.
As Mr. Muir said, "The mountains are calling and I must go." And I agree with him. I'm moving to Colorado to explore this crazy, beautiful world. I'm closing this New York City chapter and doubt I'll open it back up. I'm going west to embrace new challenges and discoveries, to experience the clean air, high altitude, and snowy summits. I'm going to search for whatever is there for me.
I'm going to go find it.
I'm going home.
-I'm moving in mid-August, so if you're in New York this summer let's make sure to hang.
-I'm buying a car (!!!!!!!!) and road tripping/camping with Nicole, my partner-in-everything.
-It'll be very tough to leave my current workplace at the end of the summer, but I have a new career opportunity that will still let me share the incredible work we're doing in Nepal. I'm grateful for how supportive this transition has been.
-New life goals include running a trail 50K, getting a dog, going to the 140+ craft breweries in Colorado, and learning how to rock climb.