I was 17 when I got my first addicting taste of New York City.
I had recently seen the movie rendition of Rent and had fallen in love. I’d seen the film at least a handful of times, sung every single word to the soundtrack out loud, and just became generally consumed with the music, the story, and the meaning of living your best life right now, as portrayed by the story of Rent and its wildly diverse cast. To this day, it remains my number one favorite musical and movie and I’ve been fortunate enough to see the live production at least five times now, with my next viewing in May. For my 17th birthday though, my parents decided to take me to New York City to see it for my very first time, in its original theater. We stayed with our cousins in Staten Island and spent a short but sweet couple of days in the city. Not only was I mesmerized by the production itself, but the city got its hooks in me and became my next obsession.
My teenage years and early 20s found me obsessed with all things New York City. I was enchanted by the lights, the noise, the constant buzz of activity. I remember, clear as day, standing in the middle of Times Square at 17 years old, with all the activity surrounding me, and exclaiming to my father: “I have never felt so alive.” There’s just something about that city that is intoxicating, and standing in the midst of it all brings your senses to life and sets your body buzzing. No other place in the world has made me feel quite the same way. Though I’ve only been back two more times since that inaugural visit, and for just brief stays (once for the BEA conference and once for the Racheal Ray show), for the longest time, it was my dream and goal in life to live there and find success, someway, somehow. We see all the movies and shows set in fabulous New York, and it’s nearly as wonderful as it’s portrayed to be. I wanted to belong there.
Flash forward a few years, and my dreams have shifted in the opposite direction. While I still love New York, still feel electrified by the thought of it, and still want to visit as much as possible, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not what I want, or who I am, any longer. The older I get (a ripe old 28 now!), the more I long for silence. For stillness. For the quiet and peace we so often miss these days. Now, even my suburban hometown of 95,000 feels too big, when it used to feel too SMALL after dreaming of New York for so long.
I wanted the glitz and glamour. I wanted the success story. I wanted to feel alive every time I looked out my window and saw thousands of people swarming below. I wanted the studio apartment. I wanted it all, but now I want none of that. Now I want the simple things. My family. My books. My people. My writing. Afternoons outside on the porch. Watching the dogs play in the yard. Trying my hand in the kitchen as I whip up dessert. Trees and land and grass all around me, instead of the people, people, people! I want quiet afternoons. I want lazy weekends. I want movie nights in with my son and my husband as dogs sleep at our feet. I want rocking chairs on the porch. A huge country kitchen with wood trim. I want game nights with my friends in a house that’s big enough to hold them all. I want vintage. I want charm. I want oodles of history wrapped up in a single home.
I’ve never left my suburban hometown, but lately all I can think about is leaving. Not far. Close enough to keep our jobs, to see our family and friends as we please. Not far enough to leave civilization, but far enough to find some peace and solitude that’s hard to find in my growing town. I want that small town feeling, one that doesn’t come with this town of nearly 100,000 and 4 high schools.
The idea of leaving all that you know behind is scary and daunting. But I’m craving a different and better lifestyle, one that matches my quiet and introverted personality better than the one we’re currently living. I already have the town in mind that I’d like to go (still in the same county but about 30 minutes away), and a tentative plan to try and move in about three years or so. It’s tiny and quiet with lots of land. We’d feel less like strangers and more like neighbors to the people residing there. Caleb would go to a smaller school and not get lost in the shuffle. Jerry is mostly on board with my plans, but with some apprehensions about selling our house. I think we’ll get there, though. When I dream about what could be, where we could go, and what we could do… I feel more than ever that we’ve got to make a move and a change.
I want a big old farmhouse with creaky stairs and a wrap around porch. I want a kitchen with an island and enough counter space to cook on. I want people to know me when I go in the store, instead of being just another nameless shopper. I want open fields. I want land and a deck and a place to sit outside and just take it all in. Maybe I’ll read while I sip Diet Coke. Maybe I’ll watch Caleb run around with the dogs and listen to his laughter. Maybe I’ll just look out into the distance and enjoy the peace and quiet, and feel happy that I’m alive. Maybe it will be dark enough to see the fireflies shining where I want to go. Maybe it will be quiet enough to hear the cicadas singing. Maybe it will be slow enough to feel like I’m living, instead of just running in place all the time. Maybe it will be simple enough to feel like home.
I feel it, so strongly in my bones, that I am meant for that quiet life. I know that there is more to life than the way we’re currently living it here. It doesn’t have to be so busy, so fast, so loud, so crowded. There is a freedom in deciding what you want and going after it. There is a joy in realizing there is beauty in solitude, in silence, in slowing down — and knowing that you will find it, chase after, get to it — someway, somehow.