“I don’t know what I’m doing,” I whispered to a coworker now friend, trying and failing to hold back tears.
“You’re surviving,” She responded.
Then, we overlooked the mayhem of Midtown Manhattan from a conference room whose door couldn’t be trusted.
Now, overlooking my small cobbled street of colorful alt baus (old buildings) in my neighborhood, Kreuzberg, in Berlin, Germany, I think to myself. What am I doing here? These first three months, I have been, in many ways, surviving. But in an entirely different way than I was in New York.
In 2013, I moved to New York City, a process and period that I somewhat documented here.
When I first started working in lower Manhattan (Chelsea & then Midtown near Times Square), I remember seeing people drag themselves, unenthusiastically shuffling off trains and up stairways, to their jobs. My new to full-time working self, did not want to become that.
In New York, I had jobs that filled my days, community that filled my soul, and bills that drained my bank account every month. I had a rich and beautiful life. I engaged in work paid and unpaid that was deeply meaningful, incredibly challenging, and will ever be important to me. The work, people, and communities I was welcomed into and co-conspired in building will always be a treasure and joy to me. What I’ve learned in these years, has I am sure only begun to unfold.
I was also, at times & especially in my final year, just trying to survive. When a challenging job became toxic, I was one of those people barely dragging themselves to work. Dreading it at every step, I was hardly present to myself because presence would have meant feeling feelings of anger & hopelessness I couldn’t safely express. That job threatened to take my spirit. It almost did. And so I left it. I quit my first full-time job, the most consistent part of my life (aside from some of my first friends) for 3 of 4 years in New York, for a new host of unknowns and uncertainties. That day was the most exhilarating day I had had in months, years. I felt terrified. I felt alive.
On September 26th I (barely) got on a plane in New York and by the following morning, I had moved to Berlin, Germany to pursue a Master’s in Global History. Well, I moved my packed things & myself. And I began a process that is still ongoing of grieving, letting going, and beginning to build a new life here.
I moved with two suitcases, a backpack, my violin, and a box on its way to my new flat, as Europeans say. I moved with emotional baggage of jobs I loved and hated. I moved not wanting to leave people I loved, a city I loved (and hated), and knowing deeply that I needed to leave even if I didn’t (I still don’t) know all the reasons why.
I began, after sleeping a lot, with tears looking out my new window wondering precisely that: why I was there? What had I done? I began by making myself leave my flat that second day, walk down new streets, and utterly fail to order some food in German. I began by pointing. I began to learn German, which in my native-English speaker privilege/arrogance I did not yet know. I began getting to know a new train system, new cultural norms, a new school system, a new way of grocery shopping, new friends, new everything.
This newness was and is exhilarating and exhausting. Through this point, it is often more exhausting. And getting out of bed every day is its own struggle. Making it through each day of new everything has been its own process of figuring out how to survive. As much as I tell myself, remind myself, this was my choice and it is an incredible privilege & opportunity to be here, my body & inner self crave familiarity. Amidst all this change, my body craves rest.
But now slowly, slowly, as my route to the train becomes rote and small German phrases feel (more) natural, I am not just surviving. I am thriving. I am inspired in new ways by old passions. I am exhausted & rejuvenated. I am lonely & yet connected to communities that cross continents. And, aside from needed Netflix retreats from humanity, I am every day alive. So deeply alive.
a year of transition (amidst years of uncertainty)
For most of my 20s, I’ve felt like I’m in a state of constant uncertainty and transition from one thing (mainly places & jobs) to another. And in the last three months I’ve begun this huge transition, an upheaval of the life I knew and built in New York. So, I am moving into 2018 knowing and naming this year as one of transition. I’m transitioning from a steady full-time job (both the constraint of that schedule & freedom of its salary & PTO) to student life and the part-time hustle(s). I’m transitioning cities, countries, cultures. And I am in transition personally, coming slowly to know myself in this place with people I’ve met and will come to know.
As surely as my decision closed doors, I know too that it is opening other possibilities. And I know I need spaces to slow down, reflect, and share in order to document and fully explore those possibilities. Thus, I began a daily practice of sharing a photo & caption on Instagram/FB/Twitter. I’ve felt in the last few months that perhaps I need something more.
I’ve held on to this blog. Though my writing has been sporadic at best & almost non-existent for a while now, I haven’t been ready to let it go or to create something entirely new. So I return to my initial intent: to share my story as it emerges & the stories of those I encounter (as it is right & appropriate to do so).
So, my original intent is still my intention. And for the next year I will write & share here when I feel pulled to do so. Then, I will review what I’ve written and whether to continue on, let this space go, or create a new space.
The following is a non-exhaustive, non-sequential list of people, spaces, and organizations in New York (and beyond) that for the last four years have shaped me, held me, encouraged & demanded I continue to become who I am becoming: MarieLiz, Liz, AnneMarie, Adriana, Sharese, Michael, DS, ARTE fam, young folks incarcerated at Rikers, every young person I got to work with, Stevo, Erica, YJB, PANY, NOMADA, JVC fam, DIYLADIES, Marisol, Teresa, St. Francis Assisi, St. Francis de Sales, Ben & Leo, Charlene, Dona, Max, Medina, Lisa-Marie, Adelle, Nich, Jeri, Amy, Courtney, Christine, Hannah, CCI, YUNY, Crystal, Angela, Ife, Josy, Juan, Claudia, Betsy, NYIC, the Conservatory in Central Park, Breakneck Ridge, Gina, my block in Harlem, my roof, my room, Grace, 5F, Emily, my momma, Patrick, Michael, Peter, Theresa, my dad, PCAP, Rachel, Sara, Buzz, Mike, NADA, Suz, Anne, Dave, Kev, Elizabeth, Sarah, Jill, Maggie, and on and on and on.
I wouldn’t be me without my family and community. I write now for you. And for all of you, I am grateful. Frohes neues Jahr // happy new year to all wherever you are in the world and in your own processes of being and becoming.