I grew up in a small town in central Wisconsin, population 1,000. I left it like a stone from a slingshot, skittering through a dizzying number of cities and schools before pausing to collect myself, if only for a moment, when I met Mary Cate in Austin, Texas. In typical fashion, I was toying with the idea of moving somewhere else by the time I reached the sixth or seventh month of my lease. She was interested in trying New York. The thought appealed to me – the city is as opposite to home as I could ever dream, an itch I’d been waiting to scratch. A few months later, I was sitting in a tin can moving truck, hurtling down the road towards a tiny apartment in a whole new world.
If we can make it there, we can make it anywhere.
It was not an easy move. Our relationship – so recently perfect, and still so new – showed signs of strain. Communication issues and financial stress compounded one another, threatening to roll us up into a ball of snow and ice. We began to interact through panes of defensive glass, warping and refracting one another as we retreated into ourselves. It took months for us to break our way through again, and the occasional shard nicks us still.
They say that love conquers all, and the decision to push through the pain was an easy one. We’re growing together again, on our way to the things we want. Have we made it in this most difficult of cities? It depends on how you define the phrase. We’ve made it through 2016, certainly, a small victory in and of itself. It was a stressful year. Yet it was also packed with an impressive array of happy memories. We earn enough income to move into a bigger apartment in our favorite part of town; both of us strain against the creative limitations of our day jobs. “Bigger” here means “over 250 square feet.” Then again, we’ve seen more art and read more books in the last twelve months than I ever would have guessed. It would be nice to own a couch. The culture here is amazing. The city gives and it takes.
Right now, I’d err on the side of “give.” There are ideas here. They are frozen in the architecture, placed into gilt frames at the museums, set down on the page, and sent marching through the streets. History winks from an unexpected corner. A chorus of voices dares you to rise above, break through. New York is indifferent to us, but we haven’t finished with it yet. And after a year, we know some of its tricks.
More importantly, we’ve learned some of our own, too. We’ve faced down fear and insecurity, tripped all our triggers, and come out with a better understanding of who we are. Of what we want. We’re still working out how to get there, but we’re hopeful that we will.
Ultimately, our journey may take us away from here. Neither of us would be surprised if 2017 were our last year in New York. In some ways, we expect it. It’s a strange sensation: We’re happy to stay, we’ll be happy to leave. So many of our dreams are here, waving to us just from the other side of attainability – a publisher here, a theater there, bookstores and museums around every corner. We’re surrounded by constant reminders of what we’d like to become. It’s aspirational. But sometimes art needs space. Or lower rents. Or room in the back for a dog. We’re not really sure what kind of environment best suits our creative designs. After a year struggling to find our footing, we’re willing to give New York a try. And if we can’t make art here, we’ll make it somewhere else.