“You know you can come home.”
“Really. You can always come back here. Regroup. Go out again when you feel ready.”
“Dad. There’s nothing for me at home.” I said the word home because, to my dad, home meant Utah. To me, I still hadn’t found my definition of home yet. Home felt like an empty word when I used it, and yet it had so much weight to him.
“You have been in New York City for a week now. You can mark it off your list. You did it. Now look, all I’m saying is that you have nothing to be ashamed about if you do want to come back. Okay?”
Nothing to be ashamed about.
Those words rang in constant echoes even after the phone call ended. I continued to hear this attempt at comfort from my worried and distant father as I walked up and down the streets of New York City. I had come to the city on a whim. I wasn’t having much luck finding a place to sleep that I could actually afford, and the search for jobs was like a never ending Easter egg hunt. I could just leave, say, “Okay, New York City, this week was fun,” and fly back to St. George, Utah. Why didn’t I just save the last few dollars I had and go back home? As my father had said, I had nothing to be ashamed about.
But that was just it. I had nothing to be ashamed about. I hadn’t made any mistakes. I hadn’t grown at all. I realized that I needed to give New York City enough time to take me in, chew me up, and spit me out.
I looked up at the crowded sidewalks. It was easy to tell who was a New Yorker and who wasn’t. The ice was slippery, but that didn’t slow any of the New Yorkers down. The tourists would get pushed over to a corner of a building where they would pull out a guide book (people still use those?) or their phones. That was them stopping, regrouping, preparing, and then eventually finding a subway stop. New York City sidewalks had no patience for gawkers. It showed mercy to no one, but was loyal to those who accepted the fact that the city owed them nothing.
I realized then, for the first time in my twenty-two years of living, that I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to take leaps…and fall. I wanted to make decisions… and mistakes. I wanted something to be ashamed about. I wanted to cross the line and get my hand slapped for it. I wanted to float away on a balloon and have that balloon pop when I had inconveniently reached an altitude of ten thousand feet.
Somehow I knew—some how the city told me through its groaning railways, its expensive coffee and chocolate croissants, and the way it never stopped moving and never turned its lights off—that New York would give me my mistakes.
Ask any New Yorker riding the subway and they will tell you, with a flicker in their eyes from the forbidden warmth of a mistress, that this city is about the struggle. They will laugh and quote the rest of the locals and say “The. Struggle. Is. Real.”
Despite the warnings of a ruthless and frosty February and March approaching New York City, I’m set on staying. All of my hopes and dreams here come down to this favor I ask of the city: Be good to me in that you let me make the biggest mistakes of my life. Don’t sugarcoat my twenties. Let me fall. Let me have something to be ashamed about—and let that shame neither hold me in one place nor push me away. Dear city that knows no sleep, no rest, and no boundaries, let 2015 be the year of the most beautiful mistakes of my life.