Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nobody knows where you're going; nobody cares where you've been

I grew up on Long Island, and knew even in those formative years that I wanted to go to a college in a city. Not just any city; New York City. I applied to tons of schools located in bucolic settings, with squares and quads and trees and woodsy paths. And I applied to NYU. When I got into NYU, I knew without hesitation or equivocation that that is exactly where I wanted to go. That is where I belonged. I promptly started playing “You Belong In the City” on the car radio (had to rewind it to listen on repeat!) and tried to make sense of the tangled colored spaghetti lines of a subway map, even though I was initially afraid to take the subway. I bought black jeans and black turtlenecks, because my only role model for NYC Cool was the Sprockets on Saturday Night Live. I was so sure that I made the right decision and couldn’t wait for my “real” life to begin. See ya, one-horse town, I’m off to the Big City! But that wouldn't be the first time my "instinct" was wrong.

Well, not wrong. Life is one big experiment, so to look at decisions as bad or wrong seems to undermine the whole point of life. Everything is an experience, right? We learn from the good decisions and the bad. But, looking back, I think I would have been much happier in a much smaller college setting. In a leafy place in a small town with a tight-knit community. A place where I might have bumped into my professors walking across a Quad. Where connections might have been forged by the seemingly insignificant events like getting coffee at the same time every day and the same place.

NYU is very, very big and very, very easy to get lost in. And that is exactly what I did. I sort of disappeared into the chaos of the city and a giant university, and ran away from childhood issues and all that, and let the city shape me. Passive maturation at its best, and most expensive.

While most of my friends have a cadre of friends from their college days, I have just one. It’s easy to see how that happens: While my high school friends were in their dorms in their non-city schools, making friends and finding the one bar in town that served the underaged, I was roaming aimlessly around an entire city. Dorms at NYU were mainly places you slept, not places to bond with floormates. There were no campus hangouts. No one spent time in the Student Center. And, sealing my fate in the friend department, at NYU I roomed with one of my best friends from high school. I don’t regret that, but I do see how that makes it harder to find new friends.

But this city. What a love affair. I love New York, and always have. I have lived here 21 years. I feel like it is more my home than Long Island ever was. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Until recently, that is. This morning, on the treadmill, I was thinking about life in the city vs. life in Massachusetts. I was thinking how in just over a year in Mass, I have carved out a social life there that I never had in New York. When we are there, the girls have active, fun-filled days. We go to the play group every day. They have Store School. A backyard accessed through a door, and not from a stroller walk to a park. We are starting to make friends, which will certainly lead to play dates in our future. I have never managed to do that in NYC. Here, the girls’ play dates are with my group of high school friends. (I am, if nothing, a loyal person. In fact, today I will head to Long Island to visit with one and her three little girls.)

So it all has me thinking, is this another case of thinking NYC is the best place for me, the only place for me, but it really isn’t? Am I still blinded by the lights of the Big City? Am I still fooled into thinking this is the only place to make a happy, fulfilling life? Would my life be more rounded living full time in Massachusetts? The poignant part is, it’s not about me anymore. Now we need to make decision based on what’s best for the girls, and what makes sense for Nicole’s career. I take solace in knowing that I love both places. But there is a part of me that really wants to see how this story ends.

Right now, we have the best of both worlds. The truth is, I love New York and Massachusetts. And I am working on finding that ever elusive balance between the two. I don’t like spending too much time alone with the girls in Massachusetts, with Nicole in NYC working, because that fritters away the connections of our little family of four. Next year, the girls will most likely go to preschool, but the big question is, where? We are looking into some Mass schools, and will be applying to some in the city. And then there is kindergarten. Same thing: Where will they go? Where will our primary residence be? I feel so in control of this, and not.

Yeah, I can’t stop this blog. I just can’t. Thanks for your comments and emails. I will always need a forum to work through my thoughts and I truly do like feedback and other perspectives. Oh, except for the homophobic perspective. The big dilemma: How to be truthful without infringing on other’s privacy.

I'm being beckoned to a ball. Princess is encoded in Avery's DNA.

Pictured above, Valentine’s cupcakes.


K J and the kids said...

That is what makes this whole arrangement so great. You have the best of both worlds. School ? shit, that's a tough question. but I do love that your girls experience both worlds with equal balance. Who knows, they may grow up and choose the city...just like their moms. or...love the country life...just like their moms. :)

Glad you are still blogging my friend.
I would hate for you to email me personally each and every would be blog entry. :) ha ha

RebeccaL said...

I feel like a stalker, but I have been reading your blog (it is one of my daily blogs-to-read (while I am at work) for a long time. I met you once or twice at the Center, and stumbled upon your blog, and I kept reading it because, well, you are a great writer, a great photographer, and have a lot of the same musings as I do -- only you articulate them much better than me! Also, our best friends live in Northampton, and although we now live in Westchester, we often think (hypothetically) about moving to Massachusetts.
Anyway, keep up your blog, and I agree with those who suggest keeping it private (although that would prevent folks like me from stumbling upon it by chance).

K J and the kids said...

I also wanted to add.
A friend to all is a friend to none.
As I've gotten older, I've found this to be very true.
Be friendly, but hold your close friendships tight. Anything more than that is a waste :)

Anonymous said...

I don't know how you are managing to investigate and visit preschools in two states! I am having a hard enough time with just one. What about a three-day program in NYC (T/W/TH) leaving you with four-day weekends for MA, and minimizing the time you are all away from Nicole?