I traveled not to be moved by adventure, per say, but to slow down. It was one of those trips that responsible, established people take with their partners when all they really want is a short break from reality. A time to holiday in the company of loved ones and enjoy a nice meal in a quiet town. Noto, Sicily, where people relax into themselves. But, like always, I was alone in the safety of my own company. Enjoying a nice meal in a quiet town, looking out into the streets of Italy and resting my eyes out at the world in front of me.
I returned home from my vacation and lost my job, along with some part of my identity that got swept up with it. With 15 other employees, I sat in a stuffy conference room in the Financial District and got laid off. No more money, honey. It was mid-June and humid and raining outside. Our finance department handed me a manila envelope with a note that said there would be no severance package, but I could file for unemployment. I would collect my final paycheck the next day.
I played music while I packed up my desk, swimming through old creative documents that had once inspired me and had recently weighed me down. I suddenly felt lighter. Weightless. Gravity unattaching so I could float back into myself. It was extraordinary.
I carried 2.5 years worth of things home on the subway. A thick cardboard box filled desk trinkets, culture magazines, yellow journalism notepads and a side bag of gym clothes. It wasn’t much for the energy I had invested in the company, but it wasn’t nothing. 6 train up to 14th street; L train to Bedford Avenue. It was 2:00 PM and I could feel the eyes of strangers on the train watching me. Looking down at my box and up at me. Curious about the smile on my face.
I immediately cleaned up my house. Tided my closet, swept the floors, loaded the dishwasher. I called my parents, texted with friends, bought a computer, read the news and took a nap. The next day, I did the same. There was no restlessness or sudden urge to do something. I had been doing and going with the speed of New York, and now something inside me had opened and I could slow completely. The world I found myself in was full of color and hope.
Sometime in the previous year, I applied to a Journalism Masters. I had written my application essay, polished my resume and found three mentors to contribute letters of recommendation within one week. I told myself if I was accepted to a prestigious institution that I was still on the right path regardless of if I pursued it. I had an interview with the admissions department and told Janice, Head of Admissions, that if I could do anything in my life I would become a journalist for T Magazine. I also told her how I would go about getting sources for a story, where I studied professional writing as an undergraduate and why now — why a Journalism Masters — when I could be doing anything, or be anyone, in the world. I was accepted. I denied. I went on vacation.
Recently my friend Coco called me, and I sat on my bed while we spoke for a long time. She said she was happy that I was so empathic and compassionate toward the situation, but it was really unfortunate what had happened. I know, but it’s okay, I said. It’s a gift — a creative mind needs freedom. A zone of freedom had opened up to me. She whispered into the phone: “keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.”
Friday became Sunday became Tuesday, and each day I read and wrote and walked. I walked to my coffee shop and drank a macchiato in the corner seat where the sunlight pours into the cafe. I walked the familiar streets of Williamsburg where street vendors line up selling cheap books and cheap necklaces and unremarkable artwork. Where tourists roam in herds and trendy clothing. I circled a 15 minute radius of my house, noticing everything that had become a familiar backdrop to my life with fresh eyes. The world continued to move around me as I moved through it. Floating. Weightless.
I worried what all of this transition and newness would mean for my everyday life and its myriad demands, but also enjoyed how my life suddenly felt laden with meaning. That all of the time I ‘didn’t have enough of,’ was now in front of me, illuminated, and this feeling of uncertainty and of spontaneity actually felt more familiar than routine. And I was all at once happy and I was lonely and my heart ached, and there was something deep and immense flowing out of me. I was ready to create something that could touch others in the way my father’s music touched me, something that was joyful and turbulent and filled with hope.
So I did what I knew in my heart to be true. I sat down and I started writing.