Posted by: emjb | June 15, 2006

Being the person in the place that you are

Over on les-cadeaux, Molly, a NY acquaintance of mine, asked about whether anyone knew the city and loved or hated it, whether there were city and non-city people.

I used to think, yes, there are city and non-city people, but now I think, there are those who don’t fit either category so neatly. It depends on your circumstances, for one thing. Being poor in the city is a different life than being comfortable. Being single, being married, having children or not, all these things affect what you want out of life and what a city can or can’t give you. If I had gone to NY single and younger, I might still be there. I wouldn’t necessarily be happier. But it would have been a place I would have made more effort to be at home in. But I went to NY married, in my 30s, with my habits and my self more decided, and that self was formed in bigger, greener spaces, for good or for bad. For four years I wrested out a life there that worked, mostly, but it never really fit. It never stopped being hard. And when Nathan came along, it was time to give up that fight. I couldn’t run the race and carry him too. And he came first.

I felt relief when I came back to Texas, despite how eager I was to leave it. It wasn’t the richest soil in the world, but it was the one I’d done most of my growing in. I know how to live here, mostly. I never felt that way in NY.

But where am I now? With Nathan’s traumatic birth and its aftermath, I went down so far I barely saw daylight. After coming through that, you find that your questions about your life are different. Things that once bothered you don’t so much, because you’ve got enough else to worry about. I’m not all that happy with the change, to be honest; most days I’d rather be a little less wise if it would make me a lot more happy. Suffering brings you insight, sure enough, but it still sucks ass, and unless I’m going to become an advice columnist, I’m not at all sure what the use is for whatever wisdom I’ve gained. If I’ve really gained any at all.

So I work, I raise my son. I kiss my husband good morning and good night. I write on my blog. I write my own stuff, now and then, waiting for something good to rise up out of it. I drive to my job on the noisy, polluted, freeways through a blighted part of town that dried up when the layoffs came at the local plants, and wonder what will happen to this place in 10 years or 15. I wonder if we’ll stay or go when our lease is up in 12 months. I wonder if it’ll get any better.

The future remains a blank; all my plans and schemes have been tried, and I haven’t come up with any new ones in a while. I’m wandering the desert, which isn’t a bad place so much as a non-place. Not much happening here. All the landscape runs together until you feel like you’re walking in circles. You don’t know when or if you’ll find the way out. You just keep walking.



  1. It’s impossible for me to separate my feelings about the city from my feelings about who I am at any given point in my life, while living in the city — this is where I live, and it’s completely intertwined with who I am, as an adult experiencing her 20’s (now 30’s). But I have no idea how the next stages of my life (kids, career change — all Maybes still) will fit with the city — I don’t have a sense of me being City or Non City person, it’s just where I fit now. It’s hard to know what makes the fit comfortable, and this could all change in a year or a month or a decade. It feels right, and it feels easy, now. But I don’t take anything for granted, certainly not comfort or ease.

  2. And I think it’s cool that you do fit there. I envy everyone who does know where they fit, even if it’s for a short time. There have been a few times in my life that I did; from 3-6th grade I lived in a great neighborhood, in a house I loved, with lots of kids around and it was HOME in a way no other place was as a kid. And when I first had my own place, making my own money, I was just happy in a way that was very simple and satisfying, so I felt at home there too.

    It’ll happen again. Maybe when we get around to building our geodesic dome house (no really…)

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