She walks home in the dark, eyes watering in air so frigid it nips at her nose and cheeks. She sniffles from the sheer cold and snuggles lower into her coat. She cherishes the pain in her toes and her fingers because it reminds her that she’s alive. When she turns the key to her apartment, a blast of warm air welcomes her into her own shoe box sized closet of safety. He was so kind, she thinks to herself. Kind. But bland. She’s back in her head. He offers a nice wine, he buys the dinner. She enjoys his slight pretentious nature. She cherishes the way his chin turns up just slightly when he swirls his glass of Arneis and gives an affirming nod to the Sommelier. She thinks he talks too much. He asks a question with the motive of answering it himself, pressed with the need to impress. She smiles like she’s been trained, and her mind is a whirlwind of analysis. She assumes he acts how he does because of his upbringing. She imagines his parents, a conservative duo with their only son a shining pride and joy in their life. She also imagines the tightness of the tie his father must be wearing. It’s tied to a perfect little knot by his little wife who keeps making his dinners and shining his shoes. And the clink of their glasses brings her back to the reality in front of her. He’s nice. Nice, but bland. There is nothing expressly wrong with him, though, so the wine brings her back to his apartment and up the five-flight walk-up and into his bedroom. And the wine makes the thoughts in her head become words in her mouth and she’s simply got to say something. So she asks about his bed table books, and whether he liked Kafka, and he mumbles something about how they’re decorative, anyway, and as his clothes come off she thinks that his shirt jacket must have cost more than she pays for her apartment. So she slips off her dress. And he’s sweet, but inattentive and she thinks, well, he’s not bad. Not bad, but bland. So she puts on her gloves and her hat and she leaves him asleep in his room. And she sneaks down the stairs, and she waits for a bus, lights flashing from every direction in the bustle of the city that never sleeps. She watches the cars that zoom by in an effort get somewhere. Somewhere that must be more important than the corner on which she waits, for the same creaky bus that will take her to the same shoe-box sized place. The humble four walls she calls her home. And she thinks, this is safe. Safe, but bland.
I’m angry that I’m vulnerable.
I’m angry that I trusted.
I hate how much I think it means to me.
My heart has been so battered.
There’s wine and love around me, but I use them just to numb
everything. Because i don’t feel pain
I never feel a thing. That’s why I drink. i start to feel when
the warmth tickles my nervous system the way your attitude
tickled my thoughts. You made me feel.
And to a girl who fought her entire life to be numb?
Making me feel was irreplaceable.
I will never forget early morning coffee runs with my father. When I was in middle school, we would stop by the “Flying J” gas station on my way to school. Every morning I’d get a french vanilla coffee out of their cheap cappuccino machine. I often forget those coffee runs. But I was so proud of that gas station convenience store coffee, because I was sharing it with my dad.
The other day, I bought one of those coffees.
I hold so much resentment against my upbringing and his emotional abuse, that I often forget the redeeming qualities of his character. It’s easy to blame, much more difficult to forgive. That coffee in hand, my thoughts flashed back to a family Christmas when we discussed what would go in our parents’ will. My parents, siblings and I were all gathered around the kitchen table. The reality of death was so tangible in that moment, all of us were on edge. My dad was sitting in the middle of all of us. He felt compelled to tell us something, he said. He said that he knew he hadn’t been a good dad. He said, in the best way he could, that he wished he could have given all of us a better childhood. A better life.
And then, quietly, with tears in his eyes, he said, “I’m sorry.”
When we realize our mortality, the reality of our existence becomes more honest. We see who we are, objectively. That was the first day I began forgiving him. Forgiveness is a long term project – a journey.
With that cheap cappuccino machine coffee, I smiled as I walked down the street. The smell of it reminds me of home, of my childhood – of my dad. And each coffee brings me one step closer to forgiveness.
Tonight was one of those nights that the city sparkled. The streets were mine, and New York became one giant castle. It was the kind of night where anything was possible. My initial spark of interest in New York was rekindled. What had I been missing these past few months? Possibility. I had taken away New York’s credibility, sworn that it wasn’t good for anything, and told it that nothing was possible. I forgot that in this city, everything is possible. Because in one second, I went from comforting a friend to being interrupted by two strangers. They happened to be Italian, and I happened to speak Italian. There I was, in the middle of the street, speaking Italian to two perfect strangers. I left with two new friends.
After I granted the power of possibility back to New York, I realized that life was much more ambiguous than it ever was before. We live in the grey area. Sometimes I hate how crowded it is; how many people live here. And then I love it, because I can control my anonymity. I love the beautiful nature of anonymity. The choices we make with the power to disappear are what make us realize what we truly fear.
Tonight, I also learned to never underestimate the power of a good girl’s night with wine. Lots of wine.
I need to preface this post by stating that I am a millennial.
There are multiple posts out there about the millennial generation. They range from positive to negative and cover a broad range of topics, about how special we think we are, how entitled we are, and even how wrong our parents were. Call us what you will, albeit it GYPSY, Yuppie or narcisisstic, we may in fact be all three, because there’s nothing we do better than… well, everything.
But what I’ve recently been drawn to, is merely an observation that I’ve made for which I’m seeking more conversation. I have no studies to back my theory, and I certainly don’t have the time to research it, I’m too busy becoming successful and saving the world. No, what seems to be trending in my generation today is a prevalent obsession with commitment.
What I mean to say is that the idea of commitment captivates our thoughts. Because when we’re not thinking about what our next successful career or thrilling adventure is going to be, we’re usually committing our lives to our multiple jobs, internships, and full course loads at schools that we can’t afford. Everyone I talk to now has at least one job, an internship, and is a full-time student. (And I can’t claim exemption, because I work three part-time jobs and take 18 credits.) My time is so precious, I rejoice when I have an hourly interval free for lunch and a coffee, because it certainly doesn’t happen every day.
Because a lot of us are students or fresh to the career world, the overwhelming majority of us view this stage of our life as a “necessary but inconvenient step” toward success. School is necessary, but only because it will get us where we need to go. And that part-time job is so we can afford to live the lavish-esque lifestyle we were expected to have handed down to us from society while they were praising our skills and talents. And that internship? Networking opportunities, of course. Because we simply have to make those connections now if we want to be successful. It’s like taking off one hat to put on another.
The implications of these roles? To put it simply, we’re overcommitted, but not to things that we consider really important, because as Mark Edmundson so poignantly claims in his essay, “Dwelling in Possibilities“, we, as a generation, are deathly afraid of closure. We find happiness when we can see all our possibilities in front of us, not necessarily when we achieve them. Because we were taught to dream, to aspire, and to be the best we could be.
We were told that the world was at our disposal. So it’s not surprising to find a lack of commitment when you consider our approach to personal relationships. We’re quick to over commit to the professional world, but we like our friendships like we like our coffee. Quick, accessible when we need it, and a way to boost ourselves. And this is largely in part to the fact that we live in a fast-paced, technology driven culture that has radically changed the way we communicate.
This practice has carried over quite seamlessly into our views and practices of romantic relationships. Most interaction is done electronically – online and through each and every smart phone social media app that exists. Sociologists theorize that this is the phenomenon that has led to a prominent hookup culture. One that prizes the idea of a quick, non-committal physical encounter that doesn’t require the time or effort that a committed relationship demands. Take Tinder for example – the wildly popular dating app. Time magazine claims, “Tinder gamifies it all—dating and mating as a portable match game, with an unending succession of faces appearing on your screen, all dispatched with a swipe one way to pick the winners and a swipe the other to designate losers—and somewhere out there, your face is being swiped too.” In a way, we see dating as one big game. We’re afraid of committing to someone because that means closure, it means we have sealed off other possibilities, and we do, after all, dwell in possibilities.
While it may be technology, social trends, our upbringing, or a myriad of other reasons, it’s undeniable that the majority of all millennials are over committed, yet paradoxically remain deathly afraid of commitment. And it’s startling because I can’t explain it. I feel it, too. I am a product of this generation, and there’s very little I can do about it. And I too, am trapped between a career and a love interest that’s not a true “relationship” but also a bit more than a “one night stand”. I’m not certain how I’m supposed to feel, or how I’m supposed to act. But it’s deathly frightening. And in this I know I’m not alone.
From a millenial.
I knew there were two friends I could truly call my “best”, but they share two very different, yet equally amazing, relationships with me. I refer to both of them as my best friend, so much so, that as I talk about them in conversation, people who don’t know them can never tell which one I’m talking about. It can be confusing, seeing as one is married with a child and the other is as single as could be and loving it.
In fact, they’re almost like polar opposites. One of them has tattoos, gauged ears and at one point sported some amazing dread locks. The other looks like Taylor Swift. (I don’t lie) I met one of them in nursery and the other one in high school. But they both have had such an amazing impact on my life.
The problem I have is that I don’t think the word “best” does any justice to their level of commitment to our friendship – to me. Best is the absolute superlative of ‘good’, which somehow makes it sound like their friendship is somewhat performance based. But that’s the farthest thing from this relationship. Yet I hesitate to settle for “closest” friends, because a lot of people know me fairly well,
But when they were holding me, letting me cry with a bottle of wine because the man I thought I would marry introduced me to his fiancee, I realized two things.
Somehow, somewhere, I grew up.
And my best friends grew up with me.
It was beautiful, you know. It was one of those moments captured in a novel that rarely plays out in real life. It was the triumph of friendship, of ultimate companionship and camaraderie, and it was truly beautiful.
It was a sunny New York winter day. The kind that almost felt like it was still fall.
I was in a coffee shop, reading a novel. Romantic, right?
But then I saw him. His sparkling blue eyes met mine and I knew we were meant to be.
I shyly glanced away, but when I looked back up, his gaze met mine yet again.
I couldn’t bear it. I looked again, and I knew. It was love at first sight.
He met my eyes and his face lit up. This was a real smile.
It was almost as if he read my mind. I glanced away and so did he.
When he walked out of that coffee shop, I knew I would never see him again.
Such is the tragic state of love in New York City.
I fall out of love with New York City daily. It’s a process. When I first moved to New York, I enjoyed what may have been a normal, glamorous honeymoon phase. We were lovers for a while. We flirted, we bantered. New York captured my thoughts, evoked my imagination, and stole my heart. But now, it takes each new day for New York to win me back. And without fail, it succeeds each day. Yet somehow I know that the day I wake up and can’t seem to love New York anymore is the inevitable day when I may just leave.
But each day I’m a little more thankful that today is not that day.