New York City, Born Again

A guest post by my friend TenKey:

So I went to New York City to be born again.
-Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard

There’s a lot of talk in our culture about finding oneself. What’s our purpose? Who are we supposed to be? Are we leaving something meaningful behind? Was there a turning point? Americans have the luxury of gazing deep into our navels to contemplate our own insignificant legacies.

Many people go to New York with wild fantastical ambition to build those legacies and I was no different. What no one ever realizes, and what never occurred to me, is often times we’re chasing the wrong ambition. In my case, I wanted to find opportunity however I could and I thought that was going to happen as — God, this is sad — a CPA.

Told you it was sad.

Little did I realize that I was not especially talented at my chosen profession. Not in the sense that I couldn’t crunch some numbers or understand tax law — there was a bit of talent there — but more so that I didn’t want to be a good CPA; I didn’t care to be a good CPA. I couldn’t stand the conformity and normalcy of it all. I couldn’t stand the business casual and the passive aggression. I couldn’t stand the barrage of empty corporate rhetoric about success and diversity and integrity. I couldn’t stand perfunctory smiles from colleagues in the hallway. I couldn’t stand the rat race. And if you’re a CPA in New York, you’re fucking Templeton.

I know that all sounds ridiculous. What could be more conformist and normal than a CPA? What did I expect, getting into such a bourgeois profession? I admit it, I was fooling myself. I didn’t know. I was truly ignorant. But what I also didn’t know at the time was that I was on the road to becoming someone new; New York was just a fork in the road. And I took it.

So who is that someone? The details are inconsequential…Oh fine, I’ll tell you — that someone is a writer, a troublemaker, a loner who isn’t lonely, a fringe journalist, a teacher, a friend, a cyclist, a lover, someone in desperate need of a copy editor. And a New Yorker.

It just happens I don’t live there anymore.

Every time I return to New York, it’s like going to my hometown in Nebraska — I never see everyone I want to see; I end up seeing people I don’t care to see; some people have left and there are the people you know will never leave.  Everything is static and in a perpetual state of change all at the same time.

Then there’s always a brief moment of reflection and I remember, “Oh, yeah. I was born here.”

About TenKey:

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TenKey has described himself above better than I can here.  He is one of my dearest friends, and most beloved confidants — a man with whom I have gladly shared many an unbelievable adventure, and more than a few terrible American cigarettes.

(Throughout the month of June, I’ll be writing a series of New York-related posts, and/or inviting some friends to guest post about their New York experiences, to celebrate my eight years in New York City.)

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