3 min read

Leaving New York

Thoughts on letting go.
Leaving New York

You're playing on the swings at the playground. You're swinging high. You feel the pump in your arms and a calm sense of accomplishment every time you reach the top of your arc.

But you keep looking over at the merry-go-round.

It's the fastest, most crowded merry-go-round you've ever seen. It's so loud. There's a big crowd around it. Every few seconds someone from the crowd runs as fast as they can, jumps, and tries to find a grip. Every few seconds, someone is thrown off.

You think to yourself, "I bet I could get on that thing."

So you plot, plan, pick your spot, and then run as fast as you can. You jump, reach, and get just enough of a grip to hang on.

Immediately you're going faster than you've ever gone before. Round and round and round. It's absolutely dizzying and out of control.

And it's exhilarating.

You're stepping on someone's foot. A stranger's elbow is in your side. Someone vomits and you catch a bit of the spray with your face. All the while, centrifugal force rips at your grip and it takes every bit you've got to keep clinging to your handhold.

But you're holding on.

You look at everyone around you – men, women, old, young, big, small, rich, poor, black, white, and every shade in-between – and realize that you all have one thing in common: you're all holding on.

A few of the folks are clearly the strongest people on the playground. Seeing their bulging forearms up-close inspires you to grip even tighter. Others hold on with effortless grace. They look so cool, and you feel pretty cool yourself just being on this thing with them. Others simply look exhausted and seem bound to be bounced at any moment.

But in this moment – you are all holding on, together.

You occasionally catch a glimpse of the swings. And with all due respect to the swingers, no one over there understands what this merry-go-round feels like. No one over there is going this fast or working this hard just to avoid getting thrown to the ground. The only ones who understand are the ones holding on with you.

Then a kid jumps on your back.

At first it's kind of cool – a new way of experiencing the merry-go-round. A new challenge. And that's what this is all about right? Challenging yourself? You elbow your way into a different spot where you can stand straighter. You tighten your grip, and keep holding on.

You tell yourself, not only can you keep holding on, but it's actually better for the kid if you do. Can you imagine how strong and cool she'll be if she starts holding on this young?

Then a second kid jumps on you.

And now your back's starting to hurt.

Carrying them is quite a challenge of its own. Holding on is starting to feel a bit excessive. Masochistic even.

It's not just the extra weight though. The merry-go-round seems to have sped up. You notice rust and creaking sounds that didn't bother you before. More folks are falling off. Others want to get off, but their foot is stuck, and they can't. The stranger's elbow in your side is no longer endearing. Occasionally your kid catches some vomit spray and you wonder if "exhilarating" might not be best for them after all.

And so – eight years to the day that you hopped on – you say your goodbyes to the folks who have been holding on around you.

And you let go.

Not far away, you find a small patch of grass on a hill overlooking the water where you can spread out a blanket, kick a ball with the girls... and lay down.

You know it'll be quieter. And cleaner. And easier.

So much easier.

You just hope it'll also be better.

If you enjoyed this, you'll probably also enjoy this post with less metaphorical reflection on why I loved living in New York so much.