Our deadline is quickly approaching. The expiration date we hastily scribbled on this adventure is just around the corner. We promised ourselves three years. Three years in New York City, and then we would reevaluate. If I’m honest, there were moments before we arrived that I didn’t even think we would last one full year.
Yet here we are – approaching three years with a renewed lease on our apartment, a child enrolled in Kindergarten, a career with roots, friends who easily became family, and a church we are certain we are called to grow with and help grow. And for me? Well, there are stories hovering in the air of this city just waiting to be written.
That three year expiration date felt forced only a few months into this adventure. It was a warm spring evening around six months after we moved that we both realized how we had forced that three year deadline. We were walking home from church that evening when one of us – my memory doesn’t seem to care who said it first, but we both agreed – stated that we needed to let go of the deadline.
Brett (or maybe me): “I think we need to stop saying we’re going to reevaluate after three years. This is where we live now, and we’ll live here differently if we’re not living under a deadline.”
Me (or maybe Brett): “I’ve been feeling the same way. No more three year deadline. New York City is our home.”
Home is such a tricky word though, isn’t it? We say we’re going home any time we go back to Montana too. Although Norah quickly corrects us when we use that word for the place where we grew up. Home to her is different languages, hailing a taxi and confidently stating where she wants to go, logging several miles on her sneakers or on her scooter every day, a backyard that doesn’t spill from her back door but rather stretches itself over 843 acres in the middle of the city. We are country-raised parents bringing up city kids.
We have been making a home away from Montana for close to half our lives now, yet this quote remains true:
I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.
It is almost impossible not to love Montana. I’m sure some people would say it’s just because I grew up there, and yes, the nostalgia of my childhood certainly plays a role in my deep love for the place. But it is so much more than “the place I grew up”. It has become the place I long for, the mountains I miss, the pace that refreshes me, the people who nourish my soul. The sunsets and snow falls I see posted by friends on Facebook sometimes feel like love letters coaxing me back home.
But New York.
New York came in with a surprise and wooed me. My affection for Montana has not changed, but my desire to spend all my time with her has. There is a sidewalk chalk artist in this city that decorates the cement with quotes, Scripture, or sometimes just encouraging words. In our first year or so I saw one quote about living in New York written in rainbow colored chalk over and over in our neighborhood. I couldn’t remember it exactly but the words seemed completely at odds with the quote from John Steinbeck about loving Montana. I identified so much with both and I wanted to remember the words to help me reconcile these feelings of having two drastically different places feel so much like home. So I Googled it. Imagine my surprise when I realized both quotes were uttered from the same man’s lips.
Once you’ve lived in New York and made it your home, no place else is good enough.
So it seems Mr. Steinbeck and I may be kindred spirits. I don’t know how else to explain that Montana is still home, but I can’t imagine leaving New York other than to read these two quotes and nod. They both ring so very true to me.
Sometimes my love affair with New York feels a bit scandalous. Like I’m cheating on the good, pure, beautiful, faithful state with the city that is a bit dirty and rough around the edges. And that’s just not me. I have always been the good girl. What am I doing here? (I actually ask myself that question while walking around this city at least once a week.)
We’ve been talking to Norah a lot lately about having conflicting emotions. This is a pretty common occurrence for a four-year-old. Sometimes the emotions are really big – like the deep love she feels for her brother mixing with the pangs of jealousy that she’s not the only one getting attention anymore. Those are the kind of emotions that culminate in big tears and yelling. Sometimes the emotions are more subtle – like being totally in love with the freedom of summer but still saying the worst part of the day is that she didn’t get to go to school. I would never know that ache to be in the classroom is living in her as she’s skipping through the splash pads or scootering as fast as she can along the river only stopping to pick a few flowers every so often. But that ache has wedged itself into her heart.
She’s missing one thing while soaking up every joy of the other.
I get it.
For the past three years we have referred to our time in NYC as an adventure. I think I allowed myself to use that word because of the three-year deadline we gave ourselves. We would have this brief adventure in a magical place and then go back to our real life, whatever that means. So now that we’re settling in and the adventure deadline is over, what do we call it? Home? Can you have two places that claim that title? It seems too sacred a word to be shared. It is just that to our children, though.
For me, this New York City life is still my adventure. And there is something so thrilling about an adventure without a deadline.
We said that living with a time stamp made us live differently, and I still believe that to be true. We have cultivated deeper friendships, committed more names to memory, and fallen more in love with our neighborhood because of the lack of a deadline. I think, though, that living life as an adventure makes me live differently too. I am more likely to try new places, venture to unexplored neighborhoods, and seek out new ways of doing things if I’m approaching life as an adventure instead of viewing our time here as settling in.
So, as we roll right past our three year deadline next month and neglect to give ourselves a new one, we’ll just let this adventure continue.