Self and the City is a column intended to increase visibility and dialogue surrounding mental health, relationships, harmful stereotypes, and the necessity for self-care and vulnerability. Self and the City will be headlined by Jessa Chargois on a bi-weekly basis. Submissions and guest columnists are welcomed to send work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I believe there is no one correct answer right now. While uncertainty can be frustrating for those of us who find comfort in control, there is a twisted sense of beauty in the limitless possibilities of today. Your solution may be different than the answer for others. Although I may be idealizing the possible outcomes of the current turbulence, what else is there to do but remain cautiously optimistic?
I have always been extremely emotionally attached to my apartments, my nests, my safe havens I have built, and meticulously decorated to protect me from the outside world. In the Lower East Side, my roommate and I built a space where we celebrated countless birthdays, new relationships, job promotions, and personal accomplishments. We mourned the loss of loved ones, nursed heartbreaks, and recovered from an embarrassing amount of deathly hangovers. Together, our two styles came together to create an apartment that welcomed an array of visitors, from our childhood friends and fellow Cornell graduates to our newly formed friendships brought together by the chaos of New York City. We hosted coworkers and fell harder in love with ourselves and our significant others on our blue velvet couch. Within the four walls of our Essex Street apartment, we grew as two young women who strive for success in all facets of our lives.
So is it just me, or does the exchanging of apartment keys always feel less ceremonious than it should?
Like many young professionals who have recently found themselves on a reduced paycheck, furloughed, or even without a job, I have had to reconsider my financial situation. Swallowing my pride and surrendering my independence, I have traded my MetroCard for the keys to my childhood home. I acknowledge the innate privilege exemplified within this sentiment. While I have found comfort knowing that I am not alone in this reverse pilgrimage back to the place that shaped me, I have also become aware of the lack of diversity of socio-economic representation my inner circle represents, something I am actively working on reassessing. Although many of my friends are able to move back home, I understand many young professionals are at a loss for answers. Whether it be from health reasons or financial predicaments, many are unable to move back to their childhood home. I am continuously trying to interpret these feelings of guilt, and utilize these feelings to lend my hand to others, as well as abiding by the guidelines set forth; wear a mask, stay socially distanced, due diligently monitoring the health of myself and those around me, and selflessly foregoing all desires that may endanger those around me.
Over the past month, I have felt extreme shame and guilt while packing up boxes of my beloved treasures previously hung on the walls of my Lower East Side nest. I am overcome with waves of guilt associated with abandoning our beloved city when the going got tough. I have felt intense shame in moving back to my hometown, something I never envisioned for myself. And while I may question my choice, I know the power in making the correct decision, even when it may not be the easy option.
New York City will be there for me, and you, and us, when we are all individually ready. There is no shame in understanding your limits, despite what anyone says. And while I may yearn for the days spent on my fire escape in the heart of downtown chaos, there is something special, calming, and rejuvenating about waking up to the smell of coffee brewing and the soft pitter-patter of the family dog sneaking up to the foot of my bed. There is no correct answer, no universal truth, or magic remedy for the turbulence 2020 has brought many of us. You are not alone in these difficult decisions. Coming to terms with our choices is a process, one we will continue to understand. I am far from familiar or comfortable with this phase of my young adult life, however, the unceremonious exchange of apartment keys will usher in a new chapter, one filled with new memories to be made on the blue velvet couch.
Feature Image via Jessica Golightly