The moment came on a warm day in July. My weekend trip plans had gone awry and I was taking public transit to get back into the city to go home and unpack my bag. As I slid through downtown on the MAX, the city that I loved felt like it was choking me. The afternoon was still early, so I dropped my bag on my bed and jumped in my car to head to the coast. I love the drive to the coast, and felt a sort of numb peace driving through the thick green of the mountain pass in the Coast Range. I was headed to Manzanita, which would take me past the beautiful viewpoint on the way to its comforting small town and beautiful beach.
Driving south on 101, I read all the familiar signs along the highway. It struck me how many times I’d made that same drive in similar moments of heartache. I’d also driven that highway in moments of happiness, friendship, contentment, and euphoric freedom. I’d driven that stretch of road at least once a year every year of my life, and many years I had driven it several times over. I was thinking of this when I parked in the town and walked out onto the beach. I sat on a driftwood log that was still warm from lounging in the sun all day and wrote in my journal about the roller coaster I hoped I was stepping off of. When I looked up at the ocean, and to my right at the cliffs stretching up to the clouds, it struck me how small my beloved state felt. I was in the place where the sea and the sky and the land stretched up and out until I couldn’t see them anymore, but it still felt like I was pushing against the borders, like Alice growing impossibly bigger in the White Rabbit’s house. In that moment I knew, without a doubt, that it was time to move. To continue to grow, I needed to plug my nose and jump.
…by the way, the poetry of sitting in Manzanita, which translates to “little apple,” and deciding to move to the Big Apple, did not escape me. The sun was setting so I packed up my stuff and started heading back to my car. I came off of the beach to a small clearing of paving rocks in the dune grass at the same time that a boy who looked to be about 12 in a plaid shirt with faded red and blue colored hair arrived from the opposite direction in the town and put his backpack down. I sat to the side to put my shoes and socks back on and watched him unpack some things from his bag while looking furtively around. At this point I was curious, so I lingered while trying to look like I wasn’t paying attention to him. As I watched out of the corner of my eye, he took off his glasses, pulled on a horse head mask, turned toward the setting sun, and played “Rhapsody in Blue” on a melodica. I was no longer trying to be nonchalant; I stared in complete wonder. When he stopped, he shyly but unhurriedly pulled off the mask, put his glasses back on, and packed it away with his melodica. I couldn’t think of a better sign to take risks and seek all of the possibilities life could offer. Before he could leave, I hurried up to him and told him to please never stop doing things like that, because the world needs more people doing unique, weird and wonderful art. He shrugged, blushed, and said he did it every night and didn’t plan on stopping.
It took me another nine months to get my things in order, squirrel away enough money, and finish up my theatrical commitments. But right now, at this moment, I am sitting at coffee shop in Midtown. I at times love and hate this city. My heart hurts when I see photos of my friends’ hikes back home, and then soars when I look across the river at lunch and see the Manhattan skyline. I am challenged and surprised by the mundanity as much as by the difficulties. I am learning that I am whoever I am no matter where I live, but changing the location has put that image into a much starker relief, whether I like it or not. But liking it or not isn’t really the point. Growth by definition is not static, and it doesn’t necessarily come from happiness. It often doesn’t come steadily, and it is usually happening unseen. Whether or not this city feels like home, I know that without a doubt I will be changed by moving here. And that is the point.