I opened two plastic bins this morning, bins I had packed four months ago when leaving Crown Heights. I stood there staring down at them, all sorts of unexpected feelings rushing into my head. I stared at that pink sweater with a broken draw string; that bag I never used; that box with a gold lid that I still liked. My heart racing, I knelt and sorted them quickly…books over there, clothes over there, random plastic bags of who-knows-what over there. I stuffed most of the clothes in a plastic bag and threw it out the door.
This unpacking is a good thing. It means I’ve found a home, a place to put down roots. But it is also painful. It marks the end to a long, relentless summer. I moved five times. I worked four different jobs in four different neighborhoods and still struggled to make ends meet. I asked for help more times in three months than I have in years. I watched my family go through pain. There were some days where I worked all day, others where I didn’t do anything but think about doing laundry and mostly just cry for a while. I tried writing but it was as though my voice had been packed away like my fall boots.
The summer was not what I planned, but it was also full of surprises. Every time I asked for help, someone was there. People who barely knew me helped carry my bags, listened, made me coffee. I started dating again for the first time in two years, a man who helped me move every single time and invited me to be with his friends all over Brooklyn. When I wasn’t working I was with them listening to music in the Park, watching movies, sharing meals. I watched a lot of 90’s movies and read a lot too. I finished East of Eden and cried when it ended on the F train. Having temp jobs all over town gave me a chance to see more of Brooklyn. I worked in Greenpoint, biked through Flatbush and Redhook, lived in South Slope, and took walks around Fort Greene. I finally have a place to call home in Boerum Hill.
It has been a year since I moved back to New York City. For most of the three years before that, I was on the road, a traveling girl with lots of ideas, just a few bags, and a job as a writer. Coming home was rocky. I finished my third year of college and worked as much as possible. Most of that ended in May. I chose not to leave Brooklyn. Not leaving meant stillness. And in that stillness, I’ve discovered that I am so glad I traveled and left college and worked as a writer. I know I have grown immeasurably. I have made so many friends. I am glad I am back in school. But in the most quiet moments, I have found that through my heart run rivers of pain, of fatigue. A lot has changed in me and in my family over the past five years. I’m 27 now, grieving some of those changes, living in a new neighborhood, trying to build a new community, and a new home.
I’m sitting here in my new room, trying to put together a clothing rack. The room is full of boxes and plastic wrap. There’s a mattress on the floor. There’s a light that needs a lightbulb. There are books that need shelving. I decided to close the door on it all and go drink coffee. I sat at a high table and after an hour of reading, I opened my blog for the first time in over one hundred days.
I heard someone a week ago in church suggest an idea that talents (SEE PASSAGE) are not just money, job sills and time. Talents can be our story, our pain, even our feelings. I’ve been so busy, I never thought that I had much to contribute. I didn’t write a lot this summer, mostly because my computer broke but also because I couldn’t figure out how to start. But what if I could come back to that. What if, right now, in the middle of grieving changes in my family, in the middle of dealing with anxiety, in the middle of pursuing counseling, in the middle of finishing college, in the middle of a room filled with boxes and plastic wrap and a clothes rack that won’t stand straight, I still have something to offer.
I have my story.
My story is about fighting fear. I worry that I won’t be able to break patterns and habits that have shaped my life for years. I worry that anxiety will creep up and depression too. I worry that I will spiral out of control. That life will just be too much. That I will always be unstable and unpredictable, that my mind will break under the pressure, that my heart will harden from bitterness. I am afraid that I will always been two steps away from losing it. And I know what it looks like to lose it, to have a mind so engulfed by anxiety that you can’t even eat.
I am fighting to flourish and writing is my offensive strategy. Life is a battle. I must constantly choose between hope and despair. My story and this blog is about choosing hope. Making a new home and building a new life, a new community will take work, but I will show up. I don’t know what the next year holds. But I do know that every gesture between now and then will mark for me one step away fear and one step towards flourishing. Together, they will craft one courageous pivot from barely coping to fully thriving.