Why New York City Is Kind Of A Big Deal

In four days, I’m headed back to New York City.

It will be the first time I’ve been there with my husband, and only the second time I’ve been there at all. By the end of the weekend I will have logged a grand total of six days in Manhattan in my lifetime.

And yet, in so many ways, going there means going home.

I went to highschool in Parkersburg, Iowa. I graduated with a class of 69 people whose first, middle and last names I knew. I also knew where everyone lived, where their grandparents lived, and who gave them their first kiss in so and so’s backyard.

It was the kind of place that parents love and teenage girls vow to escape.

I started planning my own escape my freshman year. I was 14 years old and determined to Get Out and See The World. I began making lists of colleges on the east coast, because it doesn’t get any more Out than the east coast.

My junior year, I was accepted for early decision to NYU and Georgetown – the two schools I applied to days after getting my ACT scores back. I ultimately chose NYU and New York City, and began building my life in my head.

The scholarships were set up. The housing assignments mailed out. Deposits, transcripts, official this and that was in place as my senior year flew by. My friends and I would laugh and hug and cry over a bottle of Boone’s on the weekends about how fabulous my life was going to be next year, and how much we would all miss each other. I was Getting Out, just like I’d always planned.

And then, a few weeks before graduation, I…

I don’t know what. I choked? Panicked, maybe. To this day I can’t tell you exactly what the hell was going through my defiant little 18 year old brain. I looked around at my friends and my on again off again boyfriend and decided… screw it. I made a few phone calls and informed my mom I’d be attending the local state university my freshman year.

What about New York?

I’m not ready. I can always go next year.

I was 18 and had plenty of time. I was reveling in my friendships with the people who really get me. I had forever to get to New York City. I would still grow up to be a raging success in the big city – but I was miles away from Real Life.

Two months after my 19th birthday I found out I was pregnant. The on again off again boyfriend was the father, and the friends who really got me had scattered like rats on a sinking ship.

I do not regret my son. Or my husband. I don’t regret who I am or what I’ve spent the last ten years doing. But I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t always feel like some part of me was… off. It was more than wondering “what if”. It was knowing that part of me was always missing.

I know that sounds crazy. I know it makes no sense. I know it sounds like good old fashion, run of the mill, approaching 30 and wondering where her youth went regret. And I know that it was more, she was more. She – that me – was still out there, somewhere.

I found her in June when I stepped into New York City for the first time.

I couldn’t explain it, but I breathed more easily than I had in a decade. I wasn’t overwhelmed by crowds or disoriented by row after row of unfamiliar street. I was comforted by an eerie familiarity that made no sense.

And then I stood in front of the buildings that NYU uses for dorms.

In that instant I understood the phrase “walking over my own grave”. My blood ran cold, my breathing suddenly shallow. The City became silent – the whole world stood still as I came face to face with the tangible What If.

It took me a few minutes to physically steady myself. I thought I should be fighting back tears, but it was more complicated than that. I forced the air back into my lungs, closed my eyes, and let it wash over me.

And in that moment I made peace with it. With all of it. With everything I’d sworn I didn’t miss and secretly been longing for. With the fantasy I’d built up in my mind, the reality I’d been living, and a knew confidence in my soul that I was meant for this place. Neither time nor new circumstances could change what I had known all along.

Of course, I live in Florida now. Ironically, it’s the place I chose once I realized that my family and I could live anywhere. I picked beaches and climate control over skyscrapers and urban insomnia. And I continue to choose, every day, to stay here. Because right now this is where I – where we – need to be.

But it is a testament to where I am in my life that I am going back to New York City. The fact that she can be a part of my life, a part of this life, is a reminder that dreams do not die. They change, they adjust, they grow up. But they are always there, waiting to be put to use.

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  1. avitable says:

    I hope you guys have an awesome time!

    While I sit here, sad and crying. Alone.

  2. B.E. Earl says:

    You ARE going to have a great time.

    Did you decide on any of the recommendations you got last week?

  3. kateanon says:

    I walked away from NYU as well. Small world.

  4. oh britt, i am thrilled that you have another opportunity to play in nyc so quickly after the june adventure. you are so right, the city can be yours any time you want her. she is just a short plane ride away.

    i hope you and jared have a spectacular time. show him around, explore new places together. let nyc wrap its never sleeping arms around you.

    and then go back again when i can join you!


  5. Robin says:

    We all “regret” things and think about things that we “should have done.” Then again, is it really regret, or the universe’s way of showing us we belong right where it dumped us?

    Jesus, Britt. Get out of my head, already! Shit! ::wink::

  6. Maria says:

    That last paragraph is beautiful. She will always welcome you because you embrace her and feel her.

  7. Jason says:

    This is good writing. My favorite part?

    “The fact that she can be a part of my life, a part of this life, is a reminder that dreams do not die. They change, they adjust, they grow up. But they are always there, waiting to be put to use.”

    So true.

  8. Dawn says:

    Heavy stuff. I wonder if we all regret taking the left road when we think we should have taken the right, but then realize that if we didn’t take the left, we wouldn’t have THIS. At least you can still enjoy the right, even if it’s in a different way. That made sense, right? Left.

    Enjoy every moment in NYC. Of course you will.

  9. Lisa says:

    I think it’s awesome that you have another opportunity to see NYC again so soon after your first trip. AND this time Jared gets to go with you.

    At age 18 we all thought we all the time in the world to do what we wanted. At least I had the same thoughts you did. The next thing you know life steps in and takes over. The fact that you don’t have any regrets is what I find remarkable.

    If you did have regrets it would eat you alive.

  10. Poppy says:

    I understand. I was supposed to be here 10 years ago too but life had a different direction for a while. And I’m really glad I didn’t make it here for 10 years because I’m pretty sure I would have missed out on a great thing if I’d been here too soon.

    Maybe that’s why you didn’t make it here until this year, and why you won’t live here until Emma is independent.

  11. Kimberly says:

    I had that same sort of past meets present in your face now what do you do experience when I went to NYC in March. It was the first time I had been back since I got married. Before then, it was where I lived and considered myself an actress.

  12. thedemigod says:


    Need Kleenex. This was so poignant.

    Then again I lived in Alphabet city for a wee bit so I’m all like “she took my money and hit me in the head a coupla times. meh” :banghead:

    Have fun in the city that never sleeps! :martini:

  13. whall says:

    Hey, I didn’t kiss ANY of those girls in “their backyards”. I’m not that kind of guy.

  14. I just got chills reading that. It feels really really good when you finally let go of the “what if” and you embrace the “because.” Good for you for having the strength to do that.
    Enjoy your trip to NY!

  15. We all have so many dreams growing up. I don’t think many acquire them all if any. Life can change in the blink of an eye and take you completely in a different direction. It’s not a bad direction, just a different one.

  16. RW says:

    Life’s what you make it. I will swear that is true until I am in my grave and still try to write it on the inside of the coffin. It’s a simple phrase – but I think it’s the only real truth there is.

  17. NYCWD says:

    I had wanted to go to NYU as well. I didn’t have scholarships or anything, and I applied to a very specific program which rejected me. I figured two years in the local college with a killer GPA and a revolutionary celluloid idea would get me in. Alas it just wasn’t to be. :dunno:

    I really just want a fucking sweatshirt. :cheese:

  18. Catherine says:

    No way! I grew up 8 miles from you in N.H. Wow! Small world. I can so relate to your post. Have a great time in NYC. Can’t wait to hear about your trip.

  19. I think you must be a mind reader. Pretty much my whole blog has focused on this finding myself stuff. Kinda melancholy, but like I said in one post…I’m not having a mid-life crisis. I’m having a mid-life discovery. And it is never too late for that! Thanks for sharing!

  20. Sybil Law says:

    I know exactly what you mean, because I have that same pull to NY. I feel it an awful lot, and it’s a shame my husband would never live there, because I would in a second. I’ve been, many times, and oh, how I miss it!
    I hope you guys have a fabulous time!

  21. Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful post, hon. Thanks for that, for letting me know that I can embrace my “what ifs” and not be scared or bitter of them. Thanks. :kiss:

  22. Crys says:

    you scream Manhattan, my dear. have a blast. A BLAST!

  23. Turnbaby says:

    I think it’s wonderful that you are getting to grab that dream again and make it some real. And I think it’s wonderful that you are going with Jared so he can see that and you can share it.

  24. hoatzin says:

    That is some wonderful writing, well done!

  25. anna says:

    New York is fantastic, but it’s so so small. It’s hard to go there after living places with a lot of space. And also, unless you’re in the top 3% of wealth, it’s harder to live there than probably most places on earth.

    But it’s fantastic to visit! Have fun.

  26. Summer says:

    I’ll wave if I see you in NYC. I’m staying at the Grand Hyatt near Grand Central Terminal.

  27. Selma says:

    I love the Big Apple too. An unforgettable city. Hope you have a fabulous time!

  28. I can relate – except I was looking for an “escape” so much as a tangible Plan B since moving away from home with a baby in tow at 18 wasn’t a very realistic plan.

    In the end, I ditched the scholarships to Plan B school, accepted the scholarships to Plan C and wound up getting a superfantastic job with mcuh better pay than I was making then.

    There are no regrets but when trying to convince my little brother to check out my Plan B, I cried for what might’ve been.

    Have a blast in NYC!

  29. Faiqa says:

    I identified with this post, a lot. For different reasons, I didn’t go off to the “big city” for university despite acceptances to some very awesome schools. I went to NYC with my friends in March and I remember walking through Manhattan feeling the *exact* same way you are feeling.

  30. martymankins says:

    Major jealous. Looking forward to seeing blog posts and pictures.

  31. I can’t wait to hear about your trip and to see what mark you left on NY.

  32. ::Sylvia:: says:

    Love the pics! You’re so funny! Where are you in Florida? We should get together for coffee!

  33. Sarah says:

    Have an awesome time in New York.

    And have a bagel for me. (although considering how late I am getting this comment to you, it’s totally okay to lie and say you’ve had said bagel.)

  34. Anything about NYC cathces my eye. I could relate a lot to this. The difference: my college plan was UCLA because that was the furthest from Ohio I could get. ;) I opted for the local community college to focus on dance. I also was admitted to NYU! Tuition was high so I stayed and danced locally. Then, I was accepted to the Joffrey Ballet School in NYC. I went for 8 weeks and NYC felt like home, but I got homesick (I was 19). I went back the following year and choked. My life took a completely different direction then I’d planned, but I don’t think I would change a thing. :) Sorry for the novella. Just felt a connection. :D

  35. karen meg says:

    It’s crazy the life decisions one makes while you’re still a teenager! But you know, it sounds like you’re in a really, really good place now. With a big place in your heart for the big Apple.

    I love Manhattan, I totally get your adoration for it. And though I’ve gone there with work and before kids, I’ll tell you that my best trip there was with my little ones in tow.

    Not to say that I wouldn’t hop on the plane solo or with hubs in a heartbeat either ;). Have fun!

  36. NYC Ticket says:

    I actually “stumbled” onto your blog while I was looking for something else completely out of topic with what you discussed. I have to say that I was honestly moved by what you were saying because I can relate to you. I was in an opposite situation because I grew up less than 90 minutes north of downtown Manhattan, but I was far enough that I lived in a town that had less than 1,000 population (although it was close to the city of Kingston). I was accepted back in 1989 to University of Colorado/Boulder on a full ride. A month after high school graduation, I saw myself calling up UC/Boulder and saying that I needed to postpone my education for 1 year (the maximum that my acceptance/scholarships would hold) because of family reasons (meaning me). I took that 1st semester off, but Spring of 1990 I wound up going to a State University of New York at Albany. I never really traveled far until much later in my life. My older brother moved to Denver in the mid-90′s with his family and has stayed there ever since. I was there for the 1st time in ’97 where he took me to US/Boulder. I went over to the dorm I was supposed to live in and the tears just automatically started running down my face. No real emotion that I showed externally (no wailing or what not) except for that, but it was enough for my 6 year old niece to come up, hold my hand, and tell me “It’s OK, I still love you.” That brought me down to Earth as I picked her up and gave her a big kiss and hug.

    I’m glad you were able to come back to New York the beginning of this month. Were you able to catch any Broadway shows or see the season opening of Carnegie Hall? Anyway must shove off for now: It’s almost time to make dinner. All the best and enjoy the rest of your weekend – Tamara

  37. Iron Fist says:

    I remember being in high school and reporting my ACT and SAT scores to Columbia University, not knowing anything about it other than that it was in New York City, and I wanted to go there and start over. Instead? I panicked my senior year, my grades dropped so I forfeited the top ranking I’d held for two years, and ended up not applying to any schools.

    This was a really great post. Hi, Britt. Sorry I’m so late in getting around to all these.

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