After Me, A Flood of Regrets?

In this life, we’re coming in from the coldWhy do you look so sad and forsaken? When one door is closed, don’t you know another is open? –Bob Marley (Coming in from the Cold)

Years ago, my friend TD and I would constantly discuss moving from New York to Europe. Anywhere in Europe. The dream was to bid adieu to NY where we both felt we had been for too long, say goodbye to NY’s over familiarity, NY’s staleness (the staleness that comes with being somewhere for too long), NY’s run of the mill-ness, and to allow another city, over time, to become home. We craved change.

New York can be cold, not in temperature, although that too, but in attitude. NY’s easy to adore, to worship, to love (I should note here that when I say NY, I mean NYC and Brooklyn only– the other boroughs, Upstate, and Long Island, don’t make the cut); it’s easy to love her grandiosity, energy, vibrancy, twenty-four hour subway system, the opportunity to have whatever whenever (funds allowing of course); but, NY doesn’t give as much as she receives. NY is selfish. She takes and takes until your energy is depleted, and you’re physically cold and angry on a hard subway seat. NY is abusive; you give her your love and she slaps you in the face with dirty winds.

I’ve been thinking alot about NY lately, because many of my students are businessmen who’re taking trips to the Big Apple. They want to know everything about NY, and what can I tell them? Eat a slice of pizza at Ray’s. Go to a jazz club in the West Village. Eat some Indian food in the East Village. See The Lion King on Broadway. NY is amazing. She is; but, I don’t tell them that New York forces you to work harder than you would anywhere else in the world, forces you to have more energy than you’d need anywhere else, forces you to give her every dollar to live in small places with bigger ideas; and soon, your ideas grow down.

First, TD left. He flew to Barcelona, then Berlin. One day, I looked around and all my close friends had fled to L.A, Frankfurt, London. It was just me and NY, but the sad part was that NY had kicked me out and the only resting place was in New Jersey (NY’s ugly stepsister). Let’s not even mention Jersey, as there’s nothing to say about that state (admittedly, I’ve heard there’re nice places in Jersey, but they eluded me the entire time I was there). Over Skype, TD would ask me, “Why’re you still there? Why don’t you leave?” At the time, I thought I had a reasonable answer, a good answer even. However, for the last few days, I’ve been thinking so much about why I stayed and why I didn’t leave. Now, I have no answers. Up until today, in reflection, I was filled with regret. My friends were bold, took chances, left the familiar, decided to start anew, and I stayed finishing another degree that I don’t use. I kept wondering how things might have been different if I’d left the States in 2009. Should I have moved to Europe then; should I have walked with the degree that I’d already earned; should I have cashed out my retirement funds then, and not two years later? Couldn’t and wouldn’t I have wound up exactly where I am now?

All I can say is thank heavens for Tlee who put things in perspective. To summarize, she told me that my regrets weren’t serving me, and it’s straight up futile to linger and obsess over, “What ifs?” She told me that time doesn’t come back, it’s “gone gone gone, bye bye, now now now,” and everything that has happened in the past has led to this moment, this conversation, these reflections. She couldn’t have been more right; why be filled with regrets about things that I thought were right at the time? That time’s gone gone gone, but it’s never too late to get it right… or better yet, keep trying to get it right.