A year ago exactly, I wrote a piece on going home. It was a small attempt to embrace my inner Joan Didion and try to explain why I was leaving New York.
I tried to articulate what New York did to me, and what it didn't do. It's where I also wrote that I was moving to Colorado—a calculated impulse of sorts. I had no idea what was waiting for me out west but felt like I had to at least look.
A year ago exactly I wrote that piece in my dimly lit apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I moved two months later, and have been living in Colorado for 10 months now.
Today, I'm sitting in a friend's apartment in Park Slope. The sky is burnt-orange after an unforgiving rainstorm. I'm here for a lot of reasons: to be in a wedding, to be on vacation, to be a tour guide, and to be with friends and family. It's only my second time back to the city since I left, and each time is confusing.
New York has the remarkable ability to welcome anyone with open arms while simultaneously not giving a shit about you. This time around, Queens greeted me with an endless taxi line at LaGuardia, Brooklyn said hello with a head of smashed garlic on the F train, and Manhattan received me with two huge downpours.
Like I said, it was a " Hey, Laura! You're back. Come on in! And fuck you :P. "
To be fair, I haven't thought about New York much at all since I left. When I'm trail running in the foothills, walking through the farmer's market maze in Boulder, or driving out of Denver with the mountains towering over the city skyline, there is no part of me that feels a pang of longing for New York.
It's not until I'm right in the midst of the memories do they back do they swarm me—stacking high like Jenga blocks that I know will soon topple.
but it was home
A few days ago, I ran down my old street in Crown Heights past Little Zelda's, a coffee shop I used to go to every morning on my way to the subway in Manhattan. In summers, I usually had a head of wet hair, a light dress on, and my headphones in with the volume off. I'd get a large hot coffee no matter the weather. I smelled like lavender Dr. Bronners and had beads of sweat rolling down my back. I'd hug my coffee on the 4/5 express train while juggling an open book (usually Murakami) and listening to music (usually Punch Brothers).
Those 30 or so minutes before the train spit me out into the Financial District were oddly precious: the coffee, the book, the sweating, the music.
It was nothing special, but it was home.
That's what I felt when I ran down my old street a few days ago, watching my old morning routine storm into my memory. New York City was nothing special, but it was home. The flood of past vignettes—where to stand exactly on the NRQ platform at Union Square to be right at the staircase at 23rd street, the water fountain I always stopped at for a drink on humid runs in Brooklyn, the bodega where I bought homemade fig bars after long nights out in Manhattan, the laundromat I dragged my clothes to every other Sunday, the bus stop that took me up to Greenpoint, the gyms I had memberships to in Flatiron and FiDi, the offices I worked from on 22nd, 19th, 17th st, and Broad Street, the apartments I lived in in Greenpoint, South Williamsburg, and Crown Heights—this was home.
There's also big memories of big things that happened in New York: taking a cab ride in the pouring rain to JFK for my first day at a new job, which also happened to be my first of many trips to Nepal. Or training in the dead of winter for my second marathon, running over bridges piled high with snow and ice. There were the weekday dinners at my brother's apartment, and the first Christmas Open House they hosted. The night out with Danielle when she came home from the hospital, the millions of miles pounded around the track in Williamsburg. Leaving jobs without a plan for the future, and figuring out new plans. The long nights, short rests, the cold summers and light winters. This was home.
There's the shitty stuff, too. The panic attacks on stuck subways, the track delays, the broken ACs. The obnoxious rent, the apartments with no natural light, and dirty skylines. The dog shit on the sidewalk, the garbage on the road, the steam pouring up from street vents. My heart being split open at the Ace Hotel, on Bedford Avenue, and in my apartment bedroom. Losing unlimited metro cards, security deposits never returned, and all the dull greyness. Broken down trains, breaking down on the train. The competition: never doing enough and never being enough. This, too, was home.
what bounds us together
There's some serious cognitive dissonance that occurs when you're in a place you loathe that's filled with people you love. Essentially, the people and the work kept me in New York. My friends were my life line, and my career was my anchor. I stayed put.
And when you live in a place—no matter how much you dislike it—it becomes home. I fought this idea of New York being home for so long, even after I had left. Me and the city have a huge personality clash, and we never once tried to reconcile our differences. It's like she's an evil step sister; we don't get along and we're not even related by blood! Yet there's something that bounds us together.
What bounds us together is home.
home is everywhere
Home is my tiny 2BR apartment in Greenpoint, steps from the skate park and Pete's Candy Shop. Yet home is also the basement in Maryland, the open-air dormitory in Ghana, the clay house in rural Nepal, and the tent I've used in Kentucky, Missouri, and Colorado. Home is other people's houses. It's strangers' beds, airport floors, and airplane rows.
Home is everywhere, because home is a present experience. It doesn't always exude a feeling of belonging, but it always lets you in. It doesn't always have four walls, but there is always some place to rest. Home is Colorado. Home is New York City. Home is the top of a mountain, and home is racing through the sky 489 miles per hour.
If there's anything I learned over the last year, it's that home is not singular, nor is it a mindset.
Home is quite literally a place. It's where you are. It's where I am. It's the place we leave and simultaneously return to. Home is everywhere. Home is here.