I know life is too hectic when returning a friend’s phone call or e-mail feels like a chore. After work it seems there is always something to do or someone new to see. Most nights, I return home with just enough energy to flop on the couch before dragging myself to bed and planning out the next 24 hours. What am I going to eat for lunch? My weekends too are filled with movies and parties and new bars to try. I’m spending money left and right, quite the opposite of my traveling days.
Today, my boss informed me that they extended my contract for another month. The full 90 days. And that feels like a step in the right direction. A step toward permanence. And here in this city–when the R train switches to express or doesn’t run at all, when the cloudless sky turns instantly to snow or rain, and when finding time to do your laundry is the hardest task of the month–permanence isn’t all that easy to come by.
Not that I’ve always been a fan of permanence. Traveling abroad felt quite the opposite. Every day it seemed like I was staying in a different hostel, eating meals with different people, and learning to say hello in different tongues. As travelers, my new friends and I would laugh in the face in permanence and in those sad souls who had to go to the same job and sit in the same room with the same people each day. How did they survive with such a steady routine? Their lives seemed so small, devoid of color and true adventure that we proudly displayed as badges on our backpacks and in our journaled words. But in the month and a half since I’ve moved to New York, I’ve begun to understand what I scoffed at on the road. I realize how much I’ve craved some kind of rhythm and familiarity. A place to hang my clothes. A neighborhood I can navigate alone. I cling to my friends and can’t imagine my transition would have been possible without them. Small moments have become so important–dinner with my boyfriend once a week, hugs from my roommates after a particularly long day, the stranger who picked up my glove as I got on the subway– all bringing life’s blurriness back into focus. Small moments and a library card.
During my first week in Astoria, I walked to the Queens Library to get a set of books and dive headfirst into reading again. It felt like the right place to start. I had a grocery store, a pharmacy and now, a library. But when I arrived, the kind grandmother-ly woman at the front desk informed me that I needed to have verification of my name and address. No such luck. I left dejected and empty handed. Since then, I’ve been reading books that the former roommate had left and honestly don’t know if I can handle another young love romance novel. Sorry Nick Sparks.
But this evening weeks later, I returned to the library with my paycheck stub in hand and barely containable excitement. I handed my paperwork over with a flourish and I signed my name on the dotted line. Holding my prized possession tightly, I walked up and down the shelves and smiled as if I was greeting long lost friends. Here were the stories I’d been waiting to read. Here was the knowledge, in plays and travel books, that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. And here, in this small piece of plastic, was another small sign that I was finally proving my residence in a place that still feels so very new.
Another step toward permanence. Not forever perhaps. But at least for a couple weeks. Then I can always renew.