It was dusk and the day about to disappear. The traffic signal glowed bright red, then green. I remember my parents’ silver station wagon double-parked at the corner of 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, the four-ways flashing. All of my worldly possessions were stuffed into trash bags and packed into the car.
I was leaving New York City.
A betting man would not have wagered on my fleeing like this as I’d spent my youth sacrificing to get to and be in this city.
In New York I would make my mark—become an actress—escape my small hometown, be free of the hills that enclosed our valley.
The summer I was fifteen, I rode the Bieber Bus from Pennsylvania to NYC everyday for auditions and casting calls. When school started that year, I kept at it, going to class in the morning, hopping a bus each afternoon to the Big Apple, and then suffering through homeschooling at night. By the holiday break of my senior year, I’d completed enough credits to graduate early from high school.
I moved to Manhattan after Christmas, first living in Queens, then relocating to Stuyvesant Town on the Lower East Side, and finally settling at The Hotel Lucerne (Fordham University’s ramshackle dormitory) on the Upper West Side.
My days were full.
Small soap opera roles.
The flash of a message on my answering machine.
A waitressing job.
Near-miss big film screen tests.
Half-price Broadway tickets.
And the sense of a dream.
This was my city and I would never leave.
Young love has a funny way of changing things.
Like getting hit by a Mack truck.
Suddenly, the life I wanted was different.
My mom pulled the car onto 79th street. I sat shotgun and watched the city twinkle with the coming darkness. We’d hit the Lincoln Tunnel before rush hour. I was headed south. Next stop, Dallas, Texas.
First I’d take a quick detour in Pennsylvania for a misty New Year’s Eve wedding. My husband-to-be flew into Philadelphia from the West Coast. We met at an old red brick church where I walked down the aisle and we said our vows.
I was nineteen-years-old.
In my new, hotter city, I was the only married college student I knew at the University of Texas—an unusual status, for sure.
I did some petite modeling, but I forgot about those show business aspirations. The funny thing is I didn’t miss those dreams for a long time.
Fast-forward two decades. Four cities. Two children. And a real estate career later.
At age forty, my younger self came calling, wanting to know what had happened to the person I had set out to be. How had I ended up where I had promised to never return—small town Pennsylvania.
I felt a little lost.
It wasn’t as if I wanted to start acting again. When I walked away from the stage, I did it sincerely. Show biz wasn’t me. I was too quiet, too introverted—being the center of attention made me comfortable (still does).
But deep in my soul an artistic spark flickered.
So, I tried knitting. After making twenty scarves and buying too much expensive yarn, I still wasn’t satiated.
Maybe writing would quell my creative hunger. I’d always kept a journal and I’d secretly written bad poetry for years. Plus, I loved to read. My undergraduate degree is in Literary Studies.
Slowly, one word at a time, I came back to myself.
Six years later, I have an MFA (Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing), this blog, an agented novel (that God-willing will find a publisher), the start of a second novel, several published articles, a heart filled with hope, and big dreams.
The pull toward New York has resurfaced.
But it would be too hard and too expensive to live there now. The weight of children, a home, and a life have tethered me to the suburbs.
Bloom where you’re planted, my mom says.
What I realize is that this longing is for more than a place. It’s a moment in time I’m trying to recapture—to revisit an instant when anything seemed possible, when the future was wide open. It didn’t matter if I left New York City. I could always go back. There would always be more time. But that’s the folly of youth. The misconception that, “I can do that later.”
So before it’s too late, I am trying to do this now.
My kids think I’m a little crazy and fear how they might show up in my writing. As their mother, I’m trying to facilitate their passions and dreams. My son, a high school junior, flip-flops from soccer to lacrosse, insisting that he wants to play one of these sports at a Division I college.
He doesn’t understand the slippery nature of time—that he doesn’t have forever to figure this out.
Adulthood is closing in.
Two sport athletes are a rarity. I tell him to focus, to stay true to himself. Time is limited. Mysterious. And it just might trick you.
Mark Twain wrote, “Twenty years from now you will be most disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbors. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
While my husband and I are still in a child-rearing-holding-pattern, there is a sense of a reshuffling underfoot. We want to manifest our passions. As our children near their launch into the great big world, we will have the space to dream, to explore, and to discover.
My writing seeds are sown. I fertilize them and wait for sprouts.
Still the committee in my head drives me crazy (and my family, too). It’s a battleground.
One voice says, It’s too late.
The other says, The journey has just begun. Let’s go. The time is now.
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Midlife: when the Universe grabs your shoulders and tells you, “I’m not f@#ing around, use the gifts you were given.”
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