A Different Kind of Life.
I’ve heard people refer to New York City as the center of the universe. I disagree. Respectfully, of course.
City life can be a lot of fun, but I certainly don’t thumb my nose at smaller towns or slower paces. I don’t think I lead a more interesting life simply by virtue of a New York address. In fact, I daydream about a different life in other places all the time. So do my friends here. I think it’s only natural after a winter like ours, housing prices like these, and subway rides that evoke nostalgia for singing alone in a car.
My facebook feed has become a portal through which I’m allowed a tiny glimpse into other ways of living. I’ve got relatives on ranches, whose status updates include tagging calves and plowing land for harvest, who spend days in open fields and nights haloed by pinky-orange sunsets. I have friends reporting from my charming Texan hometown, where they throw fancy balls for Mardi Gras and eat shrimp po’boys on wooden decks overlooking the gulf. My best friend Callie in Santa Monica walks her dog between palm trees and sandy bike paths. And then there’s my college writing buddy Ty, who posts pictures of a pretty sweet life in Portland. Lazy Sundays with friends relaxing on front porches, strumming guitars in bare feet, babies curled in mamas’ laps.
It all sounds wonderful. I could live very happily in any of those scenarios. I think…
If I had 1,000 different lifetimes, I would live them all a different way. I don’t know if this makes me wildly curious and open-minded or notoriously fickle and perennially unsure. I’m sure it explains why I moved from Texas to New York to Colorado and back again. But really, who hasn’t fantasized about a different kind of life?
I could move to a tiny town in the Berkshires and open a little bakery, the kind with a striped awning out front and the scent of warm sugar drifting out the windows. I’d wake up early to dust rolls with cinnamon and shake flour from my apron. I’d spend my afternoons wresting cookies from big glass jars, gossiping with locals and telling folks to have a good day.
We could settle on the coast somewhere in California. We’d cruise around with the windows down and the radio up, a life of blinding sunrises and windblown hair. On weekends we could hike through hills, or drag soft blankets and wicker picnic baskets to the beach. We’d drive home with sand on the floorboards, Vin’s left hand perched like a hummingbird on the rooftop, my right arm waving out the window like a pageant queen, sharing a slow-dance with the cool, salty breeze.
We could fritter around Europe, hopping trains, taking pictures. A life of cobblestone streets and flower stands. Writing and reading in tiny cafes. Walking for hours, exploring museums and churches and neighborhoods until our feet ached. Espresso shots and buttery pastries after long lunches and late dinners.
We could move to Austin or Dallas or Houston, so I could share Sunday barbecue with my parents, and watch my niece continue to grow into a strong and graceful young woman.
There are about a million different ways to live a very wonderful life. I try not to torture myself with this knowledge.
Trying to picture one ideal life feels like the long running scene from Forrest Gump, where he keeps an even pace as he moves from coast to coast across the country, starting under a banner of willow trees in Mississippi before traveling along flat lands and high plains, through main streets in small midwestern towns and painted mountains of the southwest. He runs down open roads that seem to stretch on forever, past long yellow fields of wheat and dry patches of brown desert, all the way to the ocean and back again. No place is more beautiful than the other, and at the end of his journey all he really wants to do is go home.
And I guess that’s how you decide where home is–the place that yanks you out of your daydreams. The place where you are always remembered by the people who sell you your eggs and your coffee. Where your friends embrace you like family and your memories stack on top of one another like playing cards. It’s where you feel like you belong. Where you feel like yourself. Where you feel both a thrill and a comfort to look around at the life you’ve chosen and realize that the grass–though perhaps not literally–is pretty damn green exactly where you are.