New York is the kitchen and you are the recipe. And you can add any- and as many – ingredients to your personal dish as you like! And only you know the extra spices you add and what’s great is, nobody else cares. This is NEW YORK CITY!
By Hallie Smith
We moved to New York for all sorts of reasons. But if we have one thing in common, it’s a desire to reinvent our lives. And ultimately, reinvention is not about becoming someone else: it’s about becoming one’s self– expressing desires and dreams in new ways that for one reason or another we could not, or did not, do before. That takes guts, strength and most of all independence.
They say if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. But that infamous “it” is a pretty big thing; its not just money, or career or image. That “it” is an entirely new life. It’s more than material, it’s a new you, which happens to be the real you. There’s a great line in a Jeanette Winterson novel: “What you risk reveals what you value.” Well, you value independence and you’ve risked the comforts of the past in order to achieve it. Knowing you can do this is its own reward and you are all the stronger for it. You’ve learned the risk of being alone is less than being with the wrong person, and you realize being single at 30, while old friends are married and raising families, has its rewards.
Reinvention, after all, is rooted in intuition, trusting your own voice (which at times might be all you have to rely on) and following it. Reinvention also means breaking with convention. You’ve decided to follow your own path and there’s no turning back now. Soon you realize you are changing and old insecurities and habits begin to fade. You are becoming a new person, more confident, and your independent life reflects that.
So it’s all going well until the holidays arrive and suddenly you realize your reinvented self has no plans.
Even the strongest of us can begin to compare our newly emerging independent lives against the Hallmark card notion that being alone in December is a sign of an incomplete life. By spending the holidays alone, you are somehow missing out on middle-America’s dream of security and convention—the very state of mind you thought you’d left behind in order to pursue your own kind of life.
There can even be a strange desire for hauling a Christmas tree into a Manhattan apartment that was never designed for such a thing. There is also the state of self pity: pacing around a cramped and conspicuously tree-less apartment instead of walking the snowy sidewalks of a city you love or spending a day at a museum. Instead of appreciating the progress you’ve made over the past year, you berate yourself, feeling like Bridget Jones, a woman you never would’ve likened yourself to before you entered this state. Perspective askew, you no longer feel like the new you. Where is she? A sense of inadequacy takes over and you start thinking about how things have not turned out the way you planned and maybe the whole quest for independence wasn’t such a good idea. But wait a minute, this mindset is just that—and it is putting the reinvented you, who’s learned to take pleasure in her new life, the one who is making it in New York, a city full of open and creative individuals, with chance meetings possible at any given moment.
Besides, reinvention will never work when trying to fit a mold that doesn’t really suit you. Reinvention is about improvement, but it’s also about self acceptance. Maybe you are where you want to be in your life, maybe not, but reinvention is a project that’s never finished. The point is that you’re following the path that you have chosen. That’s what a friend of mine calls a luxury problem. It’s not a matter of food or shelter; it’s a matter of what to do and how to spend your time–decisions a lot of people never have the opportunity, or responsibility, to make. Reinvention, you find, requires perspective and instead of feeling lonely you are excited. You lighten up a little. Solitude can be a great teacher and you find it doesn’t have to be so solemn.
So Christmas passes and along comes New Year’s Eve and again you revert. The thought: “but everyone else has a date!” repeats itself one too many times. But what about an alternative to desperately seeing a kiss; what about thinking about what we’re really seeking? What really excites us? The point of reinvention is to lead a more satisfying life. And creating that life doesn’t depend on the social calendar. It depends on visualization, not the “what if I only had?” mentality. The trick of it is better than Prozac: act as if you already have what you want, that you are the person you want to be. This might be the secret of those who are happy and those who are not, and perspective does alter reality. That might sound abstract, but physics has found that the way we look at an object actually changes its essence. So, if we look at our life, ourselves, even our time alone differently, these things will be affected accordingly. Who would’ve thought Einstein would be easier than pop-psych?
So, the holidays came and loneliness rang the doorbell and remembering your over-accommodating manners of days gone by, you not only answered, but let it in. But was the visit really that interesting? Is that the kind of company you want to hang around for days on end? Was there anything new to talk about or was it the same, tired out conversation: reruns of dissatisfaction?
Reinvention is about the new. It is malleable and adapts to challenge. Loneliness is ultimately an obsession with what we lack and a way for us to hold ourselves back. It’s seductive, the great distracter inside us, keeping us from seeing what’s out there– pulling our attention and energy away from the world we are creating, from what we have accomplished, or what we will. It’s like the old friend who doesn’t want us to change. Misery loves company, but we’d decided to dump it and move on. Isn’t that why we decided to reinvent in the first place? Isn’t that why we came from wherever we were to New York, to move our paths forward—to get what we deserve? And if we’re going to obsess, we might as well obsess over what we want, who we want to become.
At the heart of reinvention is a desire to change, and loneliness is fear in disguise. The first wants to create and the latter wants to block that creativity. Reinvention is about seeking the open road—or sidewalk—and trusting it will get you where you want to be.
In her essay titled Imagination and Reality, Jeanette Winterson’s words apply again: “There is no limit to new territory. The gate is open. Whether or not we go through is up to us, but to stand mockingly on the threshold, claiming that nothing lies beyond, is something of a flat earth theory.” And she’s not talking only about the physical path. The new territory originates from within and imagination is the starting point. Over the past several years there’s been talk of a new class of people: the creative class. It’s not limited to writers or artists; it’s comprised of all types who are unified in their pursuit of lifestyles that better suit them.
They’ve followed their own visions and succeeded. Their qualities: guts, strength and most of all independence. Sound familiar?
Those who reinvent themselves also reinvent society. They not only create better lives for themselves; they create culture. They create diversity. They raise questions about how we should live and find there is never one answer. They induce change. Imagine what would happen if they were afraid to stand on their own, if they were distracted by what they felt they didn’t have, if they jumped into the sack with loneliness.
And then there’s the tried and true reality check: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Reinvention is ultimately a collective thing. Individual change is essential for personal fulfillment, but it also works on a larger scale. When people become who they really are, they not only evolve personally; they create great communities. And this island is documented proof of that. People don’t only “make it” in New York, they also make New York what it is. Despite the pressures of tradition, and its tendency to make us shift into reverse gear, we are moving forward, each of us doing our part.
There’s nothing wrong with Christmas trees and New Year kisses– but there’s nothing wrong with lighting a candle just for yourself or planting something new under a grow light in your windowsill either. Personally, I go to The Strand on Broadway and look for new literature.