Springtime on the Upper East Side feels like home to me; it always has, and I’m absolutely certain that it will until I’m no longer able to dress myself well dead.
When I was seventeen years old, I decided that I’d be willing to sever one of my own limbs if such an act would equate to making a successful escape from my hometown and attending an out of state university.
At my parent’s house on Long Island, my acceptance letter to Northeastern University unexpectedly arrived in the mail on an arbitrary enough weekday afternoon; upon seeing the “thick packet of acceptance,” (rather than a thin/curt/quick letter of rejection) I immediately morphed into the physical embodiment of how I feel on the inside on a bi-weekly basis a mental patient, grinning from ear to ear, sprinting through the hallways of my house, and screaming at the top of my lungs, “I’M LEAVING. YES!!! OH MY GOD, THANK YOU, THANK YOUUUUU!!!!” — eventually assuming the fetal position on the kitchen floor and clutching my acceptance letter like it was a mystery box from Harry Winston, tears streaming down my reddened face.
Today, when my mother and I have a particularly heated discussion, she reminds me of this incident, citing it as the ultimate act of betrayal.
I left for college in the most unglamorous manner possible – that is, with all of my worldly possessions compartmentalized between six of my father’s Tumi luggages and about twenty five haphazardly labeled hefty bags. They were piled into the trunk of my mom’s Hummer, a vehicle that she ordinarily used only to lug her bales of peat moss from the local nursery to our front lawn during April/May gardening season, but also, the only monster that was large enough to ensure that my entire family could pack themselves in to come along for the drive.
During the four hour trip from New York to Boston, I envisioned all of the grand plans that I had for myself coming to fruition with an orderly haste, one after the next, like dominos falling effortlessly into place. College. Graduate school. Career. Check! I would do it all, and I would do it in style. After all, my parent’s accomplished all of their goals — I would unquestionably do the same.
On that same drive, I had a casual discussion with my father about various stages of life, philosophically probing him about what he believes the fundamental difference is between being eighteen years old and being twenty eight years old. I like to ask him random questions like this one, mostly because he pauses for a moment, takes the time to ruminate over the subject at hand and then responds.
“At eighteen, you want to take over the world,” he said. “By twenty-eight, you think you already have.”
Northeastern turned out to be an idyllic experience for me.
I met my lifelong best friends, studied English Literature, lived in an apartment one block away from the largest shopping center in town (!), stayed out past midnight for the first time in my life (I had a very strict upbringing and no friends in high school, to boot, so my social life literally commenced in college), grew into myself – physically, mentally and emotionally — fell in lust, got hurt, had fun, learned how to perform “real people tasks” (i.e. checking the mailbox when it was stuffed to capacity and the postman no longer dispatched my mail out of maddening frustration/turned on the dishwasher/sent things to the dry cleaner did my own laundry), got drunk for the first time with my best friend at a BU party, thinking that this was a departure on par with running down Commonwealth Avenue in the nude, took a part-time job when my parent’s didn’t express an iota of sympathy about my non-existent bank balance, experienced life, built memories, had an appendectomy, and thrived.
I completed college in three years and then continued forward on my journey, the same one that I had asked my father about in the car on the way to Boston. I was in that “eighteen to twenty eight bracket,” and it was my time to think that I had taken over the world. As a recent graduate, I was ready to continue prospering. That’s what the world dictates that you should do — but it never factors in your potential dispassion about life in a cubicle.
Except, things changed.
I came to a standstill. I wasn’t moving in the fast-paced manner that I thought I would be. I became confused, overwhelmed, and stagnant.
In the next five years, I endured a series of either great failures or major successes — depending on how you look at life, I guess.
While continuing to live in Boston for reasons that surpass the realm of normalcy, I became a model, a financial analyst, a legal intern, and a juris doctorate in that order. That I didn’t want to pursue any of those career paths is an inconvenience that never prevented me from moving forward; I had big dreams and I was determined to fulfill them.
Unsurprisingly, my journey ended abruptly and in disaster. Ladies, take it from me — you have to live your truth, or your truth will hunt you down, foil the life you’ve told yourself that you should be enjoying, and produce a cataclysmic tsunami of change in the center of your poorly, fragilely constructed universe.
At twenty-five, I arrived back in New York in much the same manner in which I first left. After calling off my then engagement, my father picked me up one morning at 5 am.
It was messy. I was going home for good.
With all of my worldly possessions stuffed between pieces of Tumi luggage and hefty bags, we drove in silence towards Long Island. I wore blue gingerbread man pajama pants, and I was hungry, so my Dad pulled into a McDonald’s drive through off the LIE just as the sun came up. He knew my order, and as he stuffed a breakfast sandwich into my mouth, we continued to move east, wide-eyed and without words.
After all that transpired and almost a decade of being ‘gone,’ I felt as if I was in a post apocalyptic state of oblivion driving back to Long Island with my…
For the next two months, I lived in and out of hotels in New York City while I worked to find an apartment and a job. Initially, I became a celebrity personal assistant. Add that to my repertoire of… ‘life lessons.’
But, despite rapid weight loss, generalized confusion, the loss of a lot of “good friends,” and a couple of degrees that didn’t amount to much, I was happy again.
I was me – only better.
I took a position as a producer and a reporter, and I traveled to places that I was probably totally under qualified to be in while on a mission to unearth issues that mattered to me, things that I researched back in law school and throughout my stint in Boston. In Costa Rica, while reporting on the underage sex trafficking epidemic that exists in Central America (with an eighty percent American customer base — disgusting), my passport was seized by local police, and I sat on a block of concrete for three hours attempting to protect my footage and to comprehend enough Spanish to understand what my fate would be. Locked up abroad is more than just a reality television show, my friends. But, while all of this was happening, I realized that I was doing something that mattered to me.
I produced stories that I was deeply passionate about – one was about trafficking; others were about things like addiction, abuse, and preventative HIV medications.
I got an apartment, received a real paycheck, fell madly in love, met great people and traveled the world. Recently, I watched my sister go off to college, and I imagine what her personal journey will be like, as well. I can already see her changing, getting that quiet college confidence and growing into her adult self every day.
Today, the weather screamed springtime in the city, and I returned to the Upper East Side to take these photos. Now, at age twenty-seven (I have six whole months before turning twenty-eight, MIND YOU), I realize that I haven’t “made it” in the way that I once wanted to. But something about seventy degree weather and the feeling of home makes me feel like I’ve done something more than that, like I’ve finally learned how to be happy and, in a sense, that means that in the past decade, I actually have taken over the world.
Brooke[Dress] Zara [Sandals] Zara [Bag] Celine Nano [Hat] Rag & Bone [Cosmetics] Edward Bess