It didn’t take long until the tall skyscrapers of London disappeared behind us; the vast open country was a welcomed respite from the liveliness of the city. London isn’t too different than the New York I remembered but it is noticeably less chaotic. Five years ago, you would have heard me say how much I love New York and how I can’t see myself living anywhere else – how can you not love 24 hour bodegas and halal stands on every corner, right?
Fresh out of college with a film degree, I was fortunate to have continued my internship with NBC until they hired me. For the first five months, I lived with three other girls in a cramped apartment three blocks away from Union Square until I got involved with Jameson. He was, for the lack of a better word, charming and mysterious. He made me question a better part of myself which I foolishly thought was a good thing. I loved challenges and being with him was one, for many reasons; he didn’t believe in commitment and marriage but believed in love and intimacy. I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of life so I dove right into the ambiguous and called myself brave.
Our nights are often a blur of marijuana smoke and liquor. We worked in the day and spent all those money at nights, going to festivals, taking last-minute trips to Montauk high out of our minds. The sex, well, it was more than good, amazing even, and I didn’t think that it could get any better than Jameson. There were a lot of girls before me, during me, and after me. He cheated constantly and had wrought me to feel as though I have no right to be indignant.
With all his talk of being free-spirited, I felt trapped.
The disconcerting awareness came on the night of my twenty-fifth birthday. After a night of drinks and celebration, surrounded by people who are supposedly my friends, I left the bar by myself. I felt tired and it wasn’t the kind that a good sleep can remedy and, more importantly, I felt alone. I remembered thinking during that walk to my apartment that I’ve never really felt that way since my dad died.
I have always been independent, not out of choice but more out of necessity. My father died when I was thirteen and I was taken care off by the people whom my father worked for for almost all of his life. Wealthy and coming from old money, they didn’t think it’d be too much to take in the orphan of one of their most trusted employee. I grew up with the Spencers but I never knew that one day I’d be going to the same private school they went to, enjoying the luxuries they enjoy and getting the perks that they get, even as big as having the opportunity to get into a school as prestigious as Columbia University.
My father wouldn’t have given me the same opportunities, sure, but I’d take a community college over any prestigious universities any day if it meant he lives. Rarely do I ever mention him now, it was just easier to accept the change that way.
Over the years, the image of him in my mind had dulled. I used to close my eyes and remember every detail of his face; the lines that had started to form on his forehead and the specks of white in his ashy hair, I would the see the same hue in his eyes as though I’m looking at my own reflection and how his mouth moves slightly asymmetrical when he talked. It used to frustrate me how fast I had forgotten how his voice sounded. I don’t pretend that the man in my head would have been the same man had he not gotten into a fatal car accident but I’m sure he’d have one look at Mitch and will love the man like his own.
Honestly, I wouldn’t be in a car bound to Edinburgh with him right now if he isn’t special. He is resolute yet unassuming, quiet but funny (in the most surprising way) and he is the kind of person who tirelessly got to know me, put up with my need to be freewheeling and accepted the ugly bits that would have made someone turn the other way.
As for many people, I tried to show my best self to people. It isn’t about what people think of me but rather what I want people to think of me. While the Spencers treated me like family, I was always aware that they weren’t my family and I’ve felt as though I needed to forge my own identity from scratch with no mother and father to look up and aspire to be. I’ve gauged my self-worth through shallow friendships and complicated relationships and sought validation through other people. I wasn’t broken, I understood that these things didn’t really matter in the larger scale of things, but I put importance in it anyway. Smoking had become a habit to feel complacent and partying had become an escape.
Leaving New York was that decision that I hoped would make me a better person. It culminated to the displeasure that I feel every time I see my reflection, I didn’t like who I was. Not at all. I’m not sure when it happened or how, it wasn’t something that dawned on me one night as I sat on the fire escape in one of the many late night smoking sessions I had nor something that had slapped me with sense across the face. I just sort of woke up one day and realized I’m a different person than I was a few years ago and it is a bit sickening how time flew by. I learned to validate myself through my accomplishment no matter how small and learned that is more than okay to let a few people into my life.
I used to love the city – I still do – but I’ve never felt more at peace as I do now, sitting on the passenger seat of a rental car, three hours into the country side with a weekend worth of clothes and newly bought white dress. The mountainside will make the perfect backdrop when I hold his hand and promise to be his person, forever.
A few years ago, that would’ve been a loaded sentiment and I would have ran as fast as I could for as far as I can at the feet of it. For a very long time, the notion of committing myself to another person, someone who is essentially a stranger, was always met with dread and a feeling akin to remand.
I thought I understood it but I didn’t; only the speckle of it, the insincerity and bullheadedness idea of it. That happiness is something that can’t be found and can’t be possessed entirely, that one can’t never truly promise to be someone’s anchor for the rest of your life.
I’ve come to a different conclusion with many reasons… one being that I found a best friend in Mitch and being with him felt a lot like coming home.