I returned to New York City almost two months ago. After moving back into the apartment I share, starting a new hospital job, and celebrating my birthday, I have found myself finally falling into a routine. Working three nights a week, practicing yoga or running on all of my days off, having dinner or lunch with friends. Riding the subway. Eating grapefruits. Ridingthesubway. Planning meals for my night shifts. Riding the subway.
I have found myself feeling more a part of a community than I ever thought was real. An affordable yoga studio opened in the neighborhood I live in and is owned/managed by a Black woman who takes time to get to know people, listens to my needs, and with whom I can rant about the yoga establishment. I started participating in CopWatch, which is a community-organized group that films police encounters. This has been one of the most empowering things I’ve done upon return, and has helped me feel useful and engaged while #BlackLivesMatter has been growing as a movement across the country and world.
While I’ve been pleasantly surprised at my own ability to participate in what feels like meaningful community, submitting to this city routine feels like defeat.
I’m constantly connected. I have information at my fingertips. I have instant access to the friends I love and who support me. I’m close to my family. I have a job that is satisfying and stimulating without being constantly stressful. That job also provides me with financial security, and then some. I am finding ways to challenge myself, by reaching out to community organizations for ways that I can engage and support local projects.
It’s so good, right? But in the back of my mind, I know. I know what it’s like to wake up on the California coast and crawl out of a driftwood fort on a magnificent beach. I know what it’s like to bike 117 miles out of the Rockies and into the dry, dry heat of Eastern Wyoming, where “even the jackrabbits carry canteens of water.” I know getting ready for bed while watching a lightning storm play out across the Great Plains. I know eating ice cream every single day and relying on strangers to provide a home.
So while this return to routine has been comforting, full of love and support, and a much needed physical break from bike life, I’m constantly trying to figure out how I can do more. How can I exercise those same mind-muscles of problem solving, satisfying interpersonal interactions, receiving and giving kindness where I can, when I am working full-time night shift and spending hours on the subway every day? How can I feel as physically alive as when I spent upwards of ten hours with the wind against my face, or propelling me forward? How can my daily city challenges compare to the challenges I face while biking, like climbing a mountain pass every day for a week?
Is this just the plight of those of us who choose to leave that comforting, supported, love-filled routine for any length of time? Once we know what it’s like to live on the other side of that routine, there’s no more idealization about how great it is to “live your dreams”. I lived my dream. One of my dreams. It’s not an idealization–now I know how incredible, empowering, life-affirming…just great…it was. For those six months, I was so fully engaged and enamoured with my present.
Can my city life compare?
I’m working on it.