A Walk Through Times Square

The air was cool and a breeze swirled around that smelled like garbage and still-to-be-realized dreams. New York City. A city I love and have spent a considerable amount of time in over the past eight years.

As I walked to the train station after dinner with a friend, I took in the city one more time as it glowed in the nighttime. I thought about how I used to think this city held the answers during a time when I was lost and uncertain about where I wanted my life to go and who I was supposed to be. Despite my best efforts, though, the universe knew better and played out carefully choreographed circumstances out of my control that kept me from taking that leap. My path didn’t lead east.

I took one more deep breath of the SoHo air before ducking underground to head back to my hotel. The uptown 1 train pulled in, almost cosmically, right as I stepped down the stairs to the platform and I slid inside the nearest car. It wasn’t very full and I took a seat near the door. An empty mini bottle of wine clinked as it rolled around on the floor, abandoned, as the air condition-deprived car barreled in line with the others towards midtown. We all sat in silence, lost in our own heads. An old man in a tired suit, looking tired himself, slumped down into a seat across from me and rested his head on the hand rail. I found myself wondering what his story was.

Christopher Street, 14th Street, 18th Street, 23rd Street, 28th Street, Penn Station, Times Square. I had the stops along the 1 memorized.

The air was unseasonably cool as I climbed the stairs into the chaos of 42nd street. I sighed as I headed into the mess of tourists, peddlers, street performers, lights and excess.

People herded up the street like cattle, walking slowly and erratically past the chain restaurants and knickknack stores, or just stopping abruptly altogether in the middle of the sidewalk. I looked around as lights flashed, people posed to snap a photo of their moment in the “center of the world” and pushy men shouted about comedy shows while shoving pieces of paper in the faces of pedestrians that flowed by. I hoped the people who surrounded me knew there was more to New York than Times Square. The real New York wasn’t… this.

I had walked through Times Square every night that week and every night I was in a hurry to get through the crowd; I got frustrated when things slowed down. This night, though, was different. I had buds in my ears and one of my favorite songs filled them, creating a sense of calm among the crazy. It was like everything still hustled and swirled around me at the speed of light in a whirlwind of noise, yet I was gliding quietly through it in a tranquil bubble of sorts.

I buried my hands in my pockets with my bag slung across my back and smiled as I made my way through the pandemonium. There was a sense of finality about it that was scary, yet calming. The smile I couldn’t hide was instigated by the complete realization that I knew without question that my future and my life was in Minneapolis… and I couldn’t wait to get back there and start the next episode.

We all have a journey that is meant specifically for us. It might be daunting; it’s going to be hard. But it’s worth it. The key is letting your true life reveal itself naturally at the pace it’s supposed to. I write a lot about that and it’s taken me 33 years to fully understand what that means exactly, at least for now. I know there’s more for me to understand and uncover. There always will be.

I used to be in a huge hurry to find that next step or do the next thing; often times quitting because it didn’t happen fast enough or ignoring the beauty in the path that leads to that next stage. Now, I’ve learned to savor each moment, yet keenly anticipate what’s ahead.

Life is short, as they say, so why hurry through the crowds and chaos? Take a stroll through it instead. You never know what you might discover.

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Undiscovered Paths

Radio silence.

That’s what you’ve found here at The Awkward Dancer lately. At first I blamed my travel schedule, but really, I think I had (temporarily) just lost the motivation to write. I felt like I’d run out of things to say. Or I was becoming redundant. Or… I don’t know what.

While writing may have stopped for a bit, life certainly hasn’t. Workouts are getting done. Nutrition is being tracked. New experiences are being had.

Three years ago, I was in New York with friends from Minneapolis, celebrating the arrival of my 30th birthday. After spending the better part of a decade essentially standing still in my life, I was shaken awake by a photo that appeared on Facebook. You guys know that story.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the past three years and the amazing journey I’ve been on… and continue to chase. I feel humbled and thankful. I feel motivated. And while it’s not always cherries and roses… I feel happy.

(This is the part where I knock on wood.)

I have big ideas for what my next step on this road is, although I’m not going to proclaim them here. Not yet.  For life has a funny way of changing our best laid plans, hasn’t it? All I can do is chase my passions and follow them to what life has in store for me.

That can be scary because the path is unknown. But our better self is always up ahead on the unfamiliar road. We can choose to pace back and forth in place (see also: familiarity), wanting to get there… or we can sprint ahead on faith and determination and actually go get it.

This afternoon I went for a walk around my favorite urban lake. Towards the end of the jaunt, a little girl who looked to be about six or seven was running up ahead on the path from where the rest of her family was walking. She’d slow down, then run ahead, slow down, then run ahead. I noticed she looked a LOT like I did at that age. The resemblance was uncanny. For a while she walked along beside me and it felt a lot like I was walking with my younger self. It was a bit haunting, but in a stirring way.

I thought about who I was at that age. The things I used to think about as I looked ahead to my future. I was always thinking about my future. I had big ideas back then, too. Some have been realized; some have stayed as just ideas. But all of it happened the way it was supposed to… and I believe whole-heartedly that what lies ahead of me now will unfold exactly as it’s meant to. I just have to let it.