A year ago today, I was busy beating myself up for preferring white pasta. I was working at what you might call a dead-end job, and I was living at home. I had no self-esteem to speak of, and the way I often acted — it’s a miracle I didn’t drive everyone around me to drink.
It wasn’t an easy time (for any of us). When I wasn’t hyperventilating about being late to the gym or compulsively weighing every single thing I ate, I was preoccupied with berating myself for not feeling more ready. I felt sure that at 21 (and then at 22, all too soon), I should have felt beyond ready to move out and get a “real” job.
I didn’t. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even feel ready to drive myself into the city, because I was afraid to park. “The city” was Portland, Maine.
My world was so small. I went to the same four or five places: the restaurant, the library, the gym, the mall, the grocery store. I hardly had any friends. I didn’t know the first thing about being a friend. I had a boyfriend, even though it was beginning to feel like we were oceans and oceans and oceans apart. Once I’d held his hand across a tiny table on a cobblestoned street and told him I loved him. In all the languages, in all the time zones.
How could I have loved him? Or loved him well, at least. I was so unhappy — that was all I could think about. That, and all the baked goods I wasn’t letting myself have.
I wish I could go back and give that girl a great big hug. I wish I could whisk away all of her self-doubt and self-disgust and self-recrimination. I wish I could tell her, as gently as possible, there’s so much more than just you. I wish I could convince her to chuck her calorie counter out the window. I wish I could persuade her to have an ice cream with me. I wish I could get her to laugh and say twist my arm. I wish I could say oh but sweetie, there’s so much to love.
I’m much more like the girl I want to be now. And although I’m comfortable taking some of the credit, I owe NYC a lot too. Do you remember when I first moved here? When I decided that getting out of bed and holding a spoon would not be the most daunting task of the day?
Yesterday I got on the subway and didn’t get off until I felt sufficiently far away from my little bubble on the Upper West Side. I didn’t bring a map and I didn’t go with a plan. I went alone, and I went to explore. To explore. So says the girl who ran in a straight line up and down Central Park West for six weeks because she was too anxious about getting lost in the park!
I walked something like 75 blocks, and thought about how far I’ve come.
You haven’t been all bad, NYC.