In early April of this year I was faced with a personal crisis: my time in New York, which had been my home for the last seven years, was suddenly at risk of coming to an end. I’d applied to grad school the previous fall, mostly out of curiosity, and had received an offer from the only school I looked at outside of New York: Northwestern University. And while I got into New York schools as well, Northwestern was giving me an offer I almost couldn’t refuse. A great program, two years, great funding, and an opportunity to teach.
“I’m not ready,” I thought. I could defer a year, spend some more time in the city. But the closer I got to that fateful date (April 15th, the date I was required to send my response by) the more I realized how unique this opportunity was. On the night before I confirmed, I called my parents. My dad said “Right now you’re healthy, young, and you have time. You don’t know what’s going to happen a year from now. If you can take it, you should.” That stuck with me.
So I prepared for one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do: leave behind a great life, job, and friends in one of my favorite cities in the world and go someplace new entirely. In some ways it was very exciting. New York had worn on me a lot, as the subway deteriorated and it’s almost absurd cost of living forced me into frenzy most of the time. I had no time, money, or energy to experience this great city I was supposedly living in. On the other hand, I was living in the best roommate situation I had, close to some of my best friends in the world, and performing and making stuff every day of the week.
But. That was always going to end. In some ways I think I jumped the gun but I’m also glad it was on my terms. And I’m glad that in two short years I’ll have the opportunity to see where I want to go next. It’s incredibly privileged and unbelievably lucky. Still, I cried when I left. I cried so hard I couldn’t even believe it. I had so much doubt, I still do. About what I’m doing, about who I am and where I should be. I’m lucky to have Sarah with me. She’s been a light in my increasingly dark outlook on the world.
Six months after that fateful April, I’m in my apartment in Evanston, enjoying a quiet evening over Thanksgiving break. I’m playing Red Dead Redemption 2, a video game I’ve been waiting for since I played it’s prequel my junior year of high school. In one of the game’s more shocking twists (and please be warned of this impending spoiler if you want to experience it for yourself) the character you’re playing as gets diagnosed with Tuberculosis. In 1899, the game’s setting, it’s a death sentence. I thought: how interesting for a game to defy it’s very nature. The idea that you get unlimited tries, and unlimited chances is so entranced to video games and here’s an aspect that makes a permanent irreversible change (or as much as a game can, you can always delete your save data and start over). At the end of Red Dead 2, your character dies, and you continue playing as another character. Life goes on without the character you just spent nearly 60 hours playing as. It’s deeply moving. After I turned off the game for the night, I got a call. A dear friend from high school had passed away from complications of cancer. Suddenly the game’s portrayal seemed very trivial.
In a year full of changes and life decisions, I feel remorsefully attached to the aspects of my life I can no longer access. 8 years ago, when I was playing that first version of Red Dead Redemption in my basement in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, I had no idea how much would disappear or be replaced before I played the sequel. In that time, I’ve lost contact with some close friends, others (certainly more than I could have ever imagined) have passed away. My family left New Jersey altogether, and I see the people I love less and less often. I lay awake at night, looking back on what has transpired over the past ten years and wondering what will be lost ten years from now. Who will I miss then, that I’m not appreciating now?
That night after Thanksgiving, I had a dream about that friend I’d lost. It was 2010, and in both our minds the world was entirely ahead of us. We didn’t foresee the nightmare world that is the current decade. We didn’t know what challenges were going to occur. We were just trying to get Chipotle, and find a place to hang out unsupervised. Also I was late for Football practice, but that’s usually in my dreams.
It’s not so much that I want to go back, or even that I have regrets. I just wish I could’ve known, those times I saw people for the last time. So I could have said something more meaningful, told them how much they meant to me. How sorry I was that they got a shitty hand while I get to continue being my underachieving self.
I doubt it, but if you’re reading this, and we haven’t spoken in a long time, just know that I miss you and I’d love to talk to you again. I might try sometime, but who knows, it might be awkward.
I just thought he had more time. That’s really it for a lot of things these days. I thought there was more time. In New York. With Max, with Mike, with Griffin. I can’t get over it. But hopefully I’m on some kind of path. Where this will all be worth it. Until then. I’m sorry. Thank you for everything we had, while we had it.