I'd like to think I was fairly lighthearted when I moved to this city, but I'd be lying to you and myself if I claimed not to have become somewhat harder over the years. Maybe it's this place. Maybe it's just age and experience. Maybe it's that good-bagel-making water.
Good bagels. Hard hearts.
Still, it was gradual and not at all as extreme as it is for some. Cab drivers still remark that I'm far too sunny to have been here for the length of time I have. But there have been changes, for certain.
Travel with me to 2003.
I had been in New York for almost two years and was living in a crooked apartment in East Harlem. The place was actually pretty great, despite the visible slant, and a steal (!!) at $1350 a month. The only major issue is that I was denied that delicious luxury which is considered the borough-given right of most Manhattanites: food delivery.
The only, and I mean the ONLY place that would deliver to me was Domino's, which was tragic on multiple levels, not least because I was living right across the street from arguably the best pizza in the city and could have just got off my lazy ass and did a pick up. But it was the principle of the thing! Sure, I paid through the nose for a railroad apartment at acute angles but people would bring me shitty pizza and therefore it may as well have been Downton Abbey. "Cora! This evening we dine on thin crust pepperoni with a ranch dipping sauce! Give the staff an extra serving of cheesy bread sticks for tonight we celebrate!"
(I should also admit that it took me a while to get the guy to actually bring the pizza to my door. First he would only come up one flight of stairs, but slowly, after months of careful coaxing, I had him trekking up to the top floor. I am known in some circles as the Pizza Delivery Dude Whisperer. Truth.)
So there I am in 2003 sitting (at a slant) on my Ikea chaise watching the news and it turns out that this pizza delivery guy is missing, last seen before making a scheduled drop-off inside one of the projects in Central Harlem.
So, to review: human being missing, probably for quite sinister reasons. My first thought is: "Fuck. Now they aren't going to deliver to me anymore." First. Thought. I seriously recoiled from myself so hard I leaped sideways out of my body and gave myself one of these:
But seriously, he was fine! The guy is OK! Well, maybe not now. I have no idea how he is now. But then! Then he was fine. Trapped in a shitty elevator for 7 hours or something. But! Not stabbed! Still...the black mark on my soul is at Lady Macbeth levels of sticktoitiveness. Tenacious little bastard, that memory.
It's hard not to get hard. One of the things children are terribly useful for, I think, is a gradually softening of our psyches. Short, sticky and sometimes screechy reminders that life is actually pretty beautiful, surprising and grand. That deep down we are built on good stuff. (Until they kick the cat for fun.)
Wherefore all this introspection STL?
I met with a life coach last night - an old friend who turned her world around brilliantly and discovered that she has a knack for helping people see their own way to happiness and fulfillment and making the best use of themselves. (And she does have a knack for it - I experienced it first-hand. Knack with a capital Kna.) We got together to discuss the color of my parachute, as it were, and ended up telling horror stories about horrible bosses and the abuses they can heap on their admins - always good times. As I walked her through my career history, and meandered for the first time in a while through that narrative (which is really rather rife with disappointments and heartbreak - not on any huge scale but enough to make retreat the only viable option) I could see where and how I hardened up when it came to myself, my dreams, my wonder and belief in the world. My foray into finance doesn't seem like such a mystery today, as it often does to me each time I schlep to Midtown and sit down at a desk to do something I'm good at but in which I find not even the smallest iota of joy.
All this time I thought I had given up, or that I was hiding here, but, just maybe, I've been getting stronger, coming back to life, softening up in the all the right places. She helped me see that there is a lot about my current situation that I'm no longer willing or wanting to tolerate - that my dissatisfaction is real. That I'm not greedy to want more than a paycheck when so many people don't even have that. That I've been approaching my professional life with a cynicism I'm far too young, vibrant and full of possibility to allow.
Enough rest. Time to get soft. Time to feel. Time to find my bright-eyed optimist.
I won't get fooled again.
4 hours ago