Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

(Part Sixteen in my series on my six years in New York)

I moved to New York City six years ago today.  My life looked very different then.

Andrew and I arrived on a sunny day, at the start of that no-man’s month between when BarBri ends and the Bar Exam takes place.  And I had organized my entire life, to that point, around three things: moving to New York; becoming a lawyer; becoming a wife.  When my sixteen year old self had written about the New York I wanted, those were the things I had identified as being paramount — and they were all happening to me at the exact same time.

I didn’t leave our apartment that first month, I just sat inside and drank Diet Red Bull; ran contracts and marital property hypos.  For instance, I didn’t know that I lived three blocks from the Brooklyn Bridge; that my apartment overlooked where Law & Order was filmed.

Suddenly, it was July then July was over and we were off — up the Taconic to Albany.  Once the Bar Exam was done, we were off again, this time to the south of France for a few weeks, and I was (somewhat) human again.  Nights in Nice then Monaco on the terrace of the Hotel de Paris; lazy days on la Cote d’Azur; treading water in the aquamarine seas of the Mediterranean — it was all salve for my uncertainty (right?!)

We came back from France to get married.  But not before our annual trip to Rhode Island.  My first New York was like something out of an Edith Wharton book — season tickets to the Opera; stopping in at Grace Church to pray; our anniversary weekend in Newport every year…(how, then, did I become the Ellen Olenska in this story?)

This is what we looked like, then, the year I moved to New York; the week before we got married:

(Providence, Rhode Island — September 2005)

And six years later, much altered, much like I have been changed…this is what New York has done:

(Chelsea, May 2011)

By the time I returned from All of That introductory New York stuff…I was a citizen of nowhere, and had little choice but to accept New York as it had been handed to me.  Then New York crept up on me, in six years, like a rosebush or bramble suddenly sprung to life, and I was caught in its thorns.  Every time I tried to leave, or resist, or twist away, I found myself further enmeshed.

(So it was a lie, really, when Elton John sang: So now I know that rosetrees never grow in New York City.  Elton, you fool, don’t know know that the City is the rose?)

The New York I encountered when I arrived was nothing like the New York I’d dreamed up when I was young.  At first, it was hard; cold; difficult to penetrate.  If you’re born here, I suppose you have that New York survival instinct innately, and the harsh, coldness doesn’t faze you.  If you come here, you learn survival during your first year, when you are clawing your way out of the bramblebush — you’re blooded and scraped and bruised and you’re about to give in — and then you see something flowering just above/aside/behind you.

But I was taught by my tenacious father that in our family, we never give up.  And I persisted.  I found more roses in the bramble, and I survived.  And I thrived.  I began to have a relationship with New York City like it was a lover or a member of our group of friends, too.  I engaged it; I wooed it and was wooed by it.  There was little of its pleasures and dangers and joys I wouldn’t try.

Some days I think I have lived many New Yorks in my six years: The One in Which I was a Newly-Wed.  The One in Which I was a White-Shoe Law Firm Associate.  The One in Which I was a Lady-Who-Lunches.  The One in Which I was in Recovery.  The One in Which I Loved a Very Bad Man.  The One in Which I Left New York.  The One in Which I Came Back.

The One in Which I Came Back is where this bucket of dreams tipped again — where I dug back into what my sixteen year old self had imagined.  She wanted to be a lawyer; she wanted to be a wife; she wanted to be a New Yorker.  She believed in Love-with-a-capital-L.  And I can’t say that any of that has changed, really.

These New York days and experiences in The New York to Which I Came Back have given me the friends I Love; who sustain me; who are the roses on this tree of thorns in New York city.  They are the ones who appeared at my side, and cared for me when I was hit by a car.  They are the ones with whom I waded through a shitswamp and survived.  They are the women with whom I want to climb mountains; they are the men with whom I can be vulnerable.  Together, we sow these hopeful little seeds —  more roses, more brambles.

So now I’m seeing my trashcan dream come true.  Standing at the edge while people run me through.  And I thank the lord there’s people out there like you.  I thank the lord there’s people out there like you.

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(I cannot take credit for the gratuitous Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters references — those words all belong to Sir Elton John…)

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