Since I graduated college, I’ve made a point to visit New York City once a summer.
This past weekend was the fourth such journey I’ve taken. Whenever I arrive and walk up the steps of Penn Station onto 7th Avenue, I immediately fall right back into the rhythm of the hustle and bustle of the city I once was lucky enough to call home for a summer.
Sometimes I take the subway over to Emma’s apartment, but this past Friday I decided to walk. I had the time, and I wanted to walk past my favorite city spots in solitude—the Flat Iron building, that weird Union Square clock no one seems to understand, my former NYU dorm above a Trader Joes wine shop.
During my walk, I thought about a lot of things. I thought about how the route that once looked so familiar was somewhat foreign as the years have done a number on my memory of the city blocks between 34th and 14th Streets. I thought about what my life might have been like if I made a different choice on where to live. And I thought about how this time last year, I was so anxious, and sad, and confused about a boy I could barely stay present in what was happening right in front of me, whereas now I have peace.
Time really does heal all wounds, but I think sometimes we don’t really notice how healed we are when going about our day-to-day lives.
I know for me, it took venturing back to a place I hadn’t been since I was in the throes of an anxiety-inducing situation to realize I conquered it, moved on, and came out stronger on the other side. Instead of wondering about someone else as I was singing country tunes at 2 am at a dive bar in Alphabet City like I did last year, this year my only wonder was when the songs we picked on the jukebox were finally going to be played.
(2:04 am, Eric Church’s Springsteen, Zac Brown Band’s Toes, Alabama’s Song of the South, and a few Randy Houser songs thrown in for good measure for those of you curious at home.)
But I don’t think I am unique in my dealings with those kinds of anxiety-inducing situations. Loss of love, of friendship, of stability, of clarity, of worth.
There’s no way to get through them but to go through them, and trust me, I know going through them is hard. I’m in the throes of something different, but still equally painful, now.
But as my Amtrak pulled out of New York’s Penn Station Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t help but think about what a difference a year makes.