I have a co worker with whom I regularly discuss passions. Hers: trees, leaves and all things outdoors. Mine: beach, beach, beach (to be reductive). She asked me recently, 'Kimmy, why don't you just move to California?' My reply, 'Because I live here.'
This is a self-evident way to answer a question that often feels a lot more complicated. If my 22-year-old self had known I would be biking these same New York streets a decade gone by, how would that make me feel? Ecstatic? Relieved? Shocked? Yes, probably. And what if I said to that Kim, 'You know, you could just move to California. Year-round beach. Maybe have a career in swimwear. Open a shop with a lot lower overhead and even get your sister involved. Why not live in the very possible reality of year-round beach?' To be simple, because I have lived here.
Last Friday night, I stood on the Brooklyn rooftop of an independent record label, drinking beers, eating pizza and watching the sun set over Manhattan with a group of friends I have known for the better part of a decade. Clichés exist, because they really happen-- if we're lucky. As this one came to life, I felt a sense of security that rarely exists in New York. Apart from the year and a half when I tried to move back to the Midwest, this metropolis has been my home since college. I have lived in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, and I run into my past all over the city. Old haunts, old coworkers, old friends. Nowhere else does life feel so small, but also, New York is never familiar. Many old haunts are now new haunts. My old favorite coffee shop is now inhabited by an new favorite Bakeri. I have worked at two businesses on an unlikely strip of Upper West Side Columbus Avenue and two more within five blocks of each other on Lafayette. New York reminds me constantly that there is no holding on to the past here. There is only staying current with today.
Still, it seems a pretty obvious question: if I spend all the time in the world thinking about the beach, why not just live there? Four years ago, when I lived in an 8 x 14 foot room and the only name on a lease, packing up for the summer was embarrassingly easy. Craigslist ad up, guaranteed space in a seasonal communal house with comparable rent. Add 2 hours of van rental, and done. These days, though, life's choices involve a very real part of growing up: Love.
Living in Brooklyn is a complicated thing. I love my boyfriend, my boyfriend lives in Brooklyn, I live with my boyfriend. I love Brooklyn, I live in Brooklyn. Sure, I could throw a fit and demand to move to Rockaway full time, but truth be told, it still wouldn't work for me- not for him + me. I crave the city, and Rockaway is, by its own choice, decidedly not that. Kimmy Bikini is one part city, one part ocean. She may inhabit the sea by day, but she sleeps in a bed at night. And she wants him there. Perhaps someday, perhaps soon, we will shift around. We will pack up our UHaul again and drive it not across the borough but across the country. We will have help from old New York friends packing up and ex-New York friends loading out (LA, you forgiving refuge). In this new place, I won't wear slippers, socks, a sweatshirt and a beanie in April, but New York will always represent Home.