Sunday, March 21, 2010

What If I Had Said Yes?

Summer 2003.

The four of us had planned a night out starting with dinner at Hickory Park in Ames before heading to Des Moines for dancing at Crush. That was how we often spent our weekend nights back then.

But it turns out this night would be different.

I can no longer recall all of the details about that night, but bits and pieces are still so clear, including the last words we spoke to one another.

"Can I go with you?" he asked.
"I'm not that kind of girl," I replied.
"I can respect that. I'll call you the next time I'm in town," he said and kissed me on the forehead before I stood up to leave.


A few hours earlier we were finishing up dinner when one of the girls with us said she wasn't feeling well and wanted to head home. Elli and I often went to Crush but we had specifically planned to go that night because our friend wanted to go. We decided to stay in Ames instead of going without her. Our other friend mentioned her fiancee and his friends were at a bar in campustown. We headed in that direction and ended up at Paddy's. We walked in and I began introducing myself to the people in the group. After a few short conversations with others, I introduced myself to him.

Most of the rest of that evening is a blur. I don't recall all of the conversation, but I do remember we never ran out of things to say. Elli would later tell me that she had tried to get my attention more than once that night and I had been completely oblivious to all around me.

All too soon the bar was closing and the group of us decided to go back to our friend's apartment for after hours. The conversation continued and soon it was 4 am.

Elli and I decided we should leave. I told him goodbye and he asked for my number before asking the question I have never forgotten.

"Can I go with you?"

I still clearly remember arriving home and walking in as the sun was coming up. I climbed into bed feeling happy and a bit sad. I laid there with his question still echoing in my mind:

"Can I go with you?"

Why hadn't I just said yes? I hadn't wanted to leave, yet I had just met him and wasn't sure I should agree. What if he had come with me? Would we have had enough in common to have had something that would last?

We texted back and forth a few times after that night, but never actually talked again. A few months later I heard through my friend's fiancee that he had started dating someone else. I stopped communicating with him and it wasn't until my friend's wedding two years later that I saw him again. I literally ran into his fiancee coming around a corner and couldn't bring myself to go over later in the night and introduce myself.

I can never get that moment back and I am a believer in the everything happens for a reason theory, but I have to admit that I've often wondered what would have happened had I said yes to him that night.

"And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more."
- Erica Jong

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rebuilding a Support Network

Lately I've been struggling a lot with the loss of having a really great circle of friends and family around me. I have now been in NYC for almost two years and I'm frustrated with the fact that I am still very much lonely here.

I know that it takes time and effort to build these relationships, and believe me, I try. I've attended college alumni events, I've gone to parties where I knew no one and have even contacted people in the city I haven't talked to in years in an attempt to build myself a support network here. I work in such a small office that I have made no extracurricular friends through work. And, none of my coworkers are single or even my age either.

I spend my workdays interacting with very few people besides my coworkers and often come home to evenings full of roommates consumed with Blackberries and online chatting.

It's starting to break me.

I miss having people in my life who ask how my day was and those that care about the small daily details. I miss having friends that I can call to come over at any time of the day or night. I miss having something exciting to look forward to doing after work on a Friday night. I miss hugs. And I'm starting to wonder if maybe the ties of home win out over the city.

“We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.” - Orson Wells

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Any Real City, You Walk

I've always enjoyed walking and, living in a city, I do a lot of it. So when my friend suggested I read the book The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson, I was immediately intrigued.

"Walking had certainly always been a pleasure, but it was more than that. For me walking has to do with exploration, a way of accommodating myself, of feeling at home. When I find myself in a new place I explore it on foot. It's the way I get to know that place. Maybe it's a way of marking territory. Setting foot on a street makes it yours in a way that driving down it never does."

I've never understood the aversion some people have towards walking. To me, walking has always been a calming activity and a way to really orient myself within an environment. The first thing I do whenever I move to a new city is walk.

I walk to get places, I walk to get lost and discover new places, and I walk to understand a place.

I walk to feel a part of something. I walk to forget things. I walk to feel good physically and I walk when I'm feeling bad.

I've spent hours walking the streets of London, Boston and New York. Given the opportunity to take public transportation or walking, I will chose walking every time - well, unless it's raining in the city..I hate that. I've discovered unexpected things and encountered some interesting characters in these walks.

But the thing I enjoy the most about walking in a city is the feeling of being a part of it.

Yesterday I was taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the city when I became acutely aware of all the people walking with me down Broadway. There were people everywhere. Passing me in all directions, each of us lost in our own little world, yet we all choose to be a part of the same city.

Sometimes this annoys me.

"During the busiest part of the day, I wasn't so much looking at people, as looking out for them, trying to avoid being bumped into, knocked aside, trampled underfoot."

But yesterday, it exhilarated me. I felt so alive among the crowd of people and didn't mind having to sidestep others along the way. The diversity surrounding me was striking. We are all a part of the same city and even though we all experience it in very different ways, we all just want to feel those ties - to the city and to each other.

Walking gives me a very real connection to the present. It allows me to develop a different type of relationship with my surroundings and, in a weird way, it allows me to feel less lonely in a city of millions where I know so few.