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On Leaving

2014 January 14

ny skyline

Sunday afternoon and Chief was restless. The sun was slanting through the window of my apartment in the way I love and I’d spent the majority of the day sleeping, watching tv, and reading. Even though I knew I had to go grocery shopping, I grabbed Chief’s leash and set out toward the dog park. We walked the familiar route, the one I’ve run and walked in stinging cold and breathtaking heat, along the waterfront on Columbia Street. One of the best things about my apartment here is the location–just a 20 minute walk from Red Hook, from the Brooklyn Bridge, from Prospect Park.

The New York skyline is visible throughout the walk, the needle of the Chrysler Building etched in relief against the horizon, the towers of lower Manhattan dappled in late afternoon sun. It was more brisk than I’d anticipated so I hadn’t worn a hat or gloves. The wind whipped at us but the sun was shining and the air was fresh, bracing. There was a lively crowd at the dog park, a tiny French bulldog puppy named Rue, a howling bloodhound, a chubby cocker spaniel that Chief befriended. I’d never taken Chief to the dog park alone before, but it felt good to be outside, to be surrounded by playing, barking dogs, the wind and the sun.

Even though my hands were freezing, after we were done playing we walked out to the pier so I could look over the skyline, the arches of the Brooklyn Bridge superimposed over the skyscrapers like those opening shots of movies about New York. And I reminded myself again that I am leaving all of this in less than three weeks, that my time in this place is limited, that I need to keep going out and spending time with it.

I’m moving to Boston on February 1. In many ways, Boston always felt more like home than New York did. My apartment, my neighborhood, Chief–those were my oasis, my tiny island of peace on a larger island, too frenetic and fast-paced for me. Without those things, I would feel unmoored and alone in this vast city, so alive with memories of a life both familiar and distant now. My husband has left me and without him, the city feels alien, like a dream I had once.

Nonetheless, New York was a time in my life that I loved. I’ve lived here for three and a half years. I have beautiful memories and I’ve met some of my favorite people in the world here. It is difficult to revisit those places we once loved together, but I go anyway, because they are part of the fabric of my life and I need to reclaim these things for myself, to not allow this time and these places to serve as symbols of unhappiness. Because I was happy here. And even now, learning to navigate this city alone, I am happy, most of the time. I am optimistic about the future, and as much as I’m looking forward to my new chapter in Boston, I will miss so many things about this city, this time.

A friend asked if I had a New York Bucket List. I think everyone who moves away from here has one, that list of things they must do before they leave. I don’t have one. There is too much to do to prepare, too many people to say goodbye to. I have a few places I’d like to visit one more time before leaving. I’ve gone to a few new places in the last few weeks. I may treat myself this weekend to some museum time, some wandering the city time. But I don’t have a bucket list. What I have is a list of memories, of favorite places and faces. That’s what I want to remember. That’s the list I will carry with me for the coming days–not the things I haven’t done, but all of the things I have done.



14 Responses Post a comment
  1. Rebekah permalink
    January 14, 2014

    this is really beautiful and sad.

  2. kyley permalink
    January 14, 2014

    Thank you for sharing. This is a really beautiful post. It can be so hard to remember that the list we care about should be what we have done, rather than what we have not.

  3. January 14, 2014

    Beautiful, touching post. I’m sorry this has been such a hard time for you, but I know that there are many in New York who will welcome you with open arms whenever you return, and there are many in Boston who are excited to see you back and share in your new adventures.

  4. January 14, 2014

    Jill, I’m so sorry for everything you’ve been going through. I hope your future in Boston holds great things for you. Best wishes.

  5. Melissa permalink
    January 14, 2014

    Eloquently and beautifully stated, as usual. Very inspiring, too

  6. Amy permalink
    January 14, 2014

    We should all stop listing the things we haven’t done. It’s a recipe for unhappiness. Thanks for sharing what you’re feeling at this sad moment, Jill. You’ve said it well and honestly, and you will be glad for it when you look back in years to come.

    This will sound, I don’t know, lame? But I’ve really enjoyed being connected to you via social media in the years you’ve been in NYC. In some ways I feel like I’ve gotten to know you a bit more, and not just because I love everything you post to Pinterest. :) But of course social media is not a substitute for real life, and I hope our paths will cross when you’re back in Boston!

  7. Meghan permalink
    January 14, 2014

    Powerful stuff, Jill. Reclaiming things for you– that is an admirable project, and one you are carrying out with grace and aplomb. I am rooting for you.

  8. January 14, 2014

    “they are part of the fabric of my life and I need to reclaim these things for myself, to not allow this time and these places to serve as symbols of unhappiness. Because I was happy here. And even now, learning to navigate this city alone, I am happy, most of the time. I am optimistic about the future, and as much as I’m looking forward to my new chapter in Boston, I will miss so many things about this city, this time.”

    First – don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t write.

    This seems like a silly analogy but here goes – I remember owning this sweater, a perfect shade of that bright blue I love, a flattering and comfortable fit, always. It was a sweater that someone I once loved adored too..and when we were together I’d wear it often, knowing it was one of his favorites. Once we broke up, the sweater sat abandoned in one of my dresser drawers; seeing it – let alone wearing it – stirred too many memories.
    Until one day, when packing for a trip out to CA to visit my brother, I decided to include said sweater in my luggage. When I wore it out there, I thought to myself…this will no longer be known as the sweater that the ex likes…instead, it’s the sweater I’m wearing out in San Diego with my brother. I’m making new memories with it, seeing new things. You don’t disregard the old ones completely…you just consciously make space for all the other new experiences that await. It sounds like that’s the way you’re looking at both NYC and your return to Boston. Which, well, that makes me proud of you.

    Enjoy your last few weeks in New York. I was both heartbroken and relieved when I moved away myself…and I find those are usually the two emotions that surface whenever I return to NYC. The good news, of course, is that it will always be there for you…and the new memories that await. (Just as Boston is now, starting 2/1.)


  9. Raquel permalink
    January 14, 2014

    This is a gorgeous post full of gorgeous sentiments by a gorgeous person. I hope your last days living in the city will be full of beauty and light and lovely memories, and may your arrival in Boston be a comforting homecoming for you. XOXO

  10. nancy permalink
    January 14, 2014

    impressive post! impressive child of mine. your grace and syrength of character are truly inspiring. beantown awaits with family (closer at least) old and new friends, opportunities to make a new start, find new favorite places and make lasting memories. boston’s best awaits…
    YOU! we love you!

  11. Lauren S permalink
    January 14, 2014

    Wow. This is so great. I’m glad you wrote and shared this with us.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in New York. It will always be special for the part it has played in your life and the joy it will give you again when you return to visit.

    You’re pretty awesome, Miss Thing. Continuing to send you well wishes and affection from afar.

    PS Keep writing.

  12. Jess permalink
    January 15, 2014

    My heart goes out to you. I have been there too, and it gets better, I promise. Wishing you many fun new adventures in Boston. =)

  13. Justina permalink
    January 16, 2014

    Good luck Jill, and best wishes with your return to Boston. I look forward to following your writing in this next chapter of life. You are in my thoughts and know that many people, both near and far, are behind you.

  14. Kirsten permalink
    January 22, 2014

    Beautifully written, and so bittersweet. You have a spare bedroom and parking spot with us any time you want to come back to brooklyn!

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