Apartment 53

Apartment 53 was my first apartment in NYC where I lived on my own, and thus, where I really think of my life as a Manhattan woman beginning. I've always been fascinated by NYC apartments. Giant buildings filled with people, each with their own story. Windows everywhere. And I always wonder: what's behind them? What do people see when they look in from the outside? What is the real story of the person who lives behind that glass? This is my blog. A real story from a Manhattan apartment.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Simple Plan

The other day, a friend of mine asked me a seemingly simple question. One that I would imagine for most people, would be rather easy to answer. The question was not meant to be thought-provoking, prying, or even remotely blog-worthy. It was one I’ve been asked and have answered many times in the past in some variation or another. But this particular question, at this particular time in my particular life, has awakened a sleeping fear in me that I have resisted facing for some time now.

He asked me about my five-year plan.

Five years ago I would have had an obvious answer to this question. I’d have wanted to be married, for sure. Maybe have a baby or two. A lucrative career, of course, and the fulfilling charity work on the side would just be gravy.

Piece of cake.

The thing is, I have none of the things now that I thought I would have five years ago. No husband – not even a promising prospect. I have no children. And honestly, sometimes I even question whether or not they are even a possibility at this point. Not because I don't want them... But because I don't know if I have a life that would be good for them. A career? Yes, but one that is prone to peaks and valleys financially. And volunteer work? Very, very little. I am also none of the things now I thought I would be five years ago: settled, content, emotionally committed...

Have I failed myself from five years ago? Will I fail myself again five years from now?

What I didn’t count on when I was younger, back when I had big dreams and made big proclamations and expected big things of myself, was how many external factors there were that could take me off my course. In work, a boss that stunted my growth. In love, a man who didn’t love me for who I really was. In life, there is illness and pain and worse, but also just plain old rainy days that mean pushing a trip to the supermarket to the following week. In life, there is also laughter and lust and days that are so bright and warm and wonderful that to enjoy them and the brilliance they bring is really the only thing you can do at the moment, thus pushing you off course once again.

When I was a teenager, my mother would constantly remind me that life was a series of forks in the road symbolizing our choices. Depending on which fork I chose at that moment, that decision and the road it brought me down, would then lead me to another fork in the road. And that one, of course, would be much different than the fork I would have encountered had I made a different choice originally, and so on, and so on. And this is what life is, she would say. A constantly changing map of forks that you determine by the choices you make.

I hesitated when I had to answer him, my friend who asked me this question about my five-year plan. What I have learned in the past five years since the last time I thought I knew the answer, is that perhaps the worst thing I can do for myself is plan. Because when you spend so much time planning for a life that you expect to live, I’ve realized how disappointing it can be when it doesn’t actually happen. And because of all of the plans that never came to fruition, the reality of what actually has occurred is somehow slighted in the end.

I am a person who thrives on the unexpected moments that arise day to day. An old friend I see on the street because I’ve chosen to walk home instead of taking the subway. A last-minute trip or visit from someone I love because a job that I had been counting on just happened to fall through. I love the prospect of laughing unabashedly on a day that I thought would just be a bore. Or the idea of jetting off to someplace sunny on a day that I thought I would be covered in blankets to stay warm. These are the things that make the unplanned so special. I love that I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or next week, or five years from now. I love that I don’t have control over it, and I love that I finally realize that. My life is mine to live. And the fork that I will choose today and likely tomorrow and the day after that will be to live wholly and with passion and with conviction and expect that everything is going to work out the way it’s supposed to.

My five-year plan is nothing if not a bit ambiguous and ambitious too. In five years I want to be loved. I want to still be excited by the idea of the unexpected. I want to be supported and give support. I want to feel deeper and live wiser than ever before. I want to have traveled to many places and met many people and learned many things I don’t know now. I want to have read many books and given many hugs. I want to have learned from the mistakes that I will inevitably make and heal from the pain that I will inevitably encounter. I want my loved-ones safe and happy. I want my work to be satisfying and I want my body to look great. I want to be more beautiful than ever before, but mostly on the inside. I want to be stronger. I want to be able, in five years, to look back on that span of time, from the moment I am writing this to the moment I remember that I did, to be able to smile at the accomplishments I’ve made and realize how lucky I am. I can’t wait for the next five years. The opportunities they will hold, the joy they will bring, and the clarity they will provide. I will live passionately and love without shame. I will work hard and relish in the unexpected obstacles that are mine to conquer. My plan is very simple, really. To cherish the small surprises and little lessons life brings us, since we never know when it will end. My plan is to live my life as it comes, instead of planning it too far ahead.