I’m back home now, and I’m feeling something I haven’t felt since the last time I returned from a big trip.
Friday night I came in the door, dropped my bag, sat on the couch out of habit. Instead of the relief I had looked forward to from the plane, I felt an intense uneasiness. My apartment is clean, spacious, utilitarian and unlike New York City in every way, and to this moment it makes me queasy.
It’s no wonder, either, that feeling so comfortable in the crowds of Manhattan (“like a warm bath,” I kept saying) I feel quite out of place in a city that is so starkly different, even if I do call it home.
What is a surprise, though, is that I’d been enduring some measure of this restlessness all the time without recognizing it. My living situation is nearly perpendicular to my actual values, and I didn’t realize it until I fit so well in a place so dramatically different than here.
It was a revelation to me that I crave a buzzing social life, walkable shops, dinners with friends, art and art people, cafés that aren’t franchises, buildings that are older than my parents. Yet I live in a dull park of two-level apartments at the edge of the city, with nothing in its walking radius but box stores. This is not a neighborhood.
One afternoon in Manhattan I was in a museum and I had to find a way to write something. I’m sure a lot of writers feel it. It comes on with the same kind of urgency as having to pee.
I quickly ended up sitting on one of the viewing benches in a room dedicated to Kandinsky, typing on my phone.
Things I have learned in ny.
Read more. Get healthy. Get calm but stay playful.
Create something everyday. Poem, stream of consciousness, article, drawing or narrative.
Find your people. Get close to the action.
Read much more. Master the language.
Walk more. Make plans. Eat out with friends.
Let yourself be overheard. Let people react.
Read a good periodical.
Do stuff but don’t worry about what you’re not doing.
Finish more, start less.
No, nothing about being home is relieving, except that I remember feeling exactly like this when I got home from New Zealand – unsettled in a way I had never been while I was living out of a backpack. Like important parts are missing.
It does go away though, and that is worrisome. I knew early in my trip that I was going to be transforming certain aspects of my life when I got home, but it needs to continue to feel uncomfortable until I start the wheels turning, or it won’t happen.
The main offender really is the location. I’m planning to stay in Winnipeg, at least for now, but I need to get out of the suburbs. My apartment is cheap and unlovable. I generally don’t invite people here. I want a home.
None of this is to say I am not grateful overall for where I am. The people I met in New York, as much as I envy them, stirred up in me a very specific gratitude about the space and potential I have back home. For all the dazzling cultural opportunities their city offers, people generally have less personal space and less budget space in which to shift things around.
I have the makings of what I want. I’m young, well-traveled, kind of talented, unencumbered by debt, single and pretty damn handsome. I’m well-paid, I like my job and have freedom to travel in winter.
So the space for transformation is certainly there, but I have to harness this precious distaste for my “home” while it lasts. Complacency is never far off. Things get normal in a hurry, and when “not good” gets normal, time eats up the years fast.
Upon my return from New Zealand I didn’t quite know what to make of that queasy feeling. Travel does this, I see now. It shows you what you value, and when it’s over you feel certain deficits in the life you’ve built. You feel physically off balance. The inputs that nourished you while you were away — whether it’s the sight of the ocean every day, or the way strangers talk to each other so easily — leave a sharp hangover when they get cut off.
It’s a good thing though. It’s a healthy, natural impulse — a slower, calmer version of the feeling that makes you want to kick to the surface after you’ve been under too long. It moves you the right way.
Anyway, the trip was incredible, better than I could have imagined. And I have the people to thank most. Landmarks are cool, but it’s people that make it magical. Thank you everyone, especially Christopher, Allison, Susan, Leeat, Kent, Lisis, Danny, and the lovely Nicole. You don’t know the half of what you did for me.
Apologies to those I didn’t meet. I had completely overbooked myself. Originally I’d planned to visit about ten different cities in the same timeframe. Completely unreasonable, and I ended up redrawing the whole thing. I love the northeast though and I will be back. Of course, you should drop me a line if you’re going to be in Winnipeg.
And thank you all for bearing with me while I was gone. Writing gets difficult and disjointed (and maybe a little too self-reflective) while traveling. Raptitude will be back to its regular articles next week.
I love you all,
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Photo by David Cain