This time 10 years ago, I was in the process of uprooting my life completely and making a move that I never thought possible, a move back to my hometown in Florida. Tampa is a place I long held dear to my heart, but after 12 years in New York City, I had become a different person, one accustomed to a fast-paced, hustle culture, and I had made it, seeing my bylines in some of the biggest legacy newspapers in the world.
But I was not happy.
I knew it was time to leave the city when I found myself crying uncontrollably for days on end. When the din of sirens was no longer endearing, but a nuisance. And one day, I stepped over a man lying face-down on the subway platform without a second thought until I heard an MTA employee asking, “Sir, are you OK?” — I knew then I had become a person I didn’t recognize, one I did not want to be.
Ten years ago, I made a rare trip to see my parents in Florida. We made a long drive to one of the closet beaches, some of the most stunning coastline in the world. It was March, sunny, balmy. In New York, it was cold, cloudy, snowy. I looked around me, at the ocean, at the palm trees. I felt the breeze on my face, whipping through my hair. I let the smell of salt linger.
I thought to myself, “What am I doing in that city?”
That visit with my parents also solidified how much I missed my family, how lonely I really was in New York. At one point, I had not seen my parents for two years. In 2011, we traveled to India together, and on our last day in Bombay, I told my father how miserable I was. Less than a year after that trip and about a month after my beach visit in Florida, my last-surviving grandparent, my maternal grandmother, passed away in India. I knew then that I needed to be closer to my family. My extended family is scattered all over the world, and those circumstances (and family politics) meant I never became close to any of them. I only met my grandparents a handful of times in my life, and I did not want my relationship with my parents to dim.
So, less than a month after my grandmother’s death and less than two months after my visit to the beach, I locked the door to my Manhattan condo and took a one-way flight home to Florida. I only returned to the city to pack up my belongings and bid my the Big Apple farewell.
I was 29 at the time, just weeks away from turning 30, and I thought my life was over.
Expectations were such that I should already be married, even having children, or that I should be continuing my education and BECOMING SOMETHING. Fleeing New York (and it really did feel like fleeing) to step into the unknown felt shameful. The uncertainty bore down on me, burying me, drowning me.
Today, though, when I step into the Slice of Now that is my 29-on-the-verge-of-30 self, I tell her to enjoy that uncertainty, to take one step at a time, that so many surprises will come her way. Not all of them will be pleasant, of course, but they are experiences, lessons. And there are rewards, too, such lovely rewards, like repaired relationships with family, the removal of people who have – unbeknownst to her – held her back, and the arrival of new friends, including a partner and a lovely, playful dog.
Now, at 39-about-to-turn-40, there is so much to be joyful about. I’m doing things my way. There is more uncertainty, mystery, and MAGIC ahead. I’m open to it – all of it, both trials and triumphs.
And I face them like the Warrior I AM.