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A Visit to New York at 38 Years of Age

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I love New York. I’ve been there twice before but it didn’t have the same effect on me then as this most recent visit did. I don’t know–it could possibly have something to do with age and sobriety. I have considerably more of both now than I had then. This time, instead of partying all night, I explored Brooklyn and Manhattan in the daylight hours and attended a college graduation. Both activities caused me to reflect about my younger years and some of the paths not taken in my life.

I went to college at The University of Miami, a school filled with people from the northeast, especially New Yorkers. I had 5 roommates from New York over the course of my 4 years at UM. When it was getting close to graduation, a few of my roommates suggested that we move to “The City” and rent a brownstone together. I never seriously entertained the idea though. New York just seemed too big and unfamiliar and I couldn’t picture that life for myself. The sad thing is that I had a secret dream of being on Saturday Night Live. But I never so much as tried doing an open-mic night at a comedy club, so that dream didn’t stand much of a chance of coming true.  Also, you might not be shocked to hear that refusing to entertain the notion of living in the city where the show is filmed tends to throw a wrench in the plan. Squelching the dream! That was my motto.

On this trip, I was inspired–with just a dash of regret. Not for what my life is now, but regret for my younger self, that I didn’t have the confidence to challenge myself back then. New York is where stuff happens and I was surrounded by people that were going for it, no matter what their particular “it” was. I saw all sorts of people from all walks of life, and so many of them were filled with the swagger of youth. Homosexual, young black men played double-dutch in combat boots and tight shorts. The requisite religious nut offered all of us pamphlets that detailed our impending fiery deaths. A group of young guys started a friendly match of “slap fighting” (The cops broke that up pretty quick). Women with business suits and sneakers dodged the clumps of tourists who jammed up the sidewalks. And there were countless interesting fashion choices; things we won’t see in Florida for at least another year. I’m not just talking about glossy magazine fashion. I mean that people took the time to create a “look” for themselves, something that spoke about who they were, or who they wanted to be.

I was humbled by it all. I was struck by the (rather obvious) realization that, unless something incredibly bizarre happens, I am never going to live in New York and try to start a career as a comic. That moment passed a long time ago. Obviously I never truly planned on doing that, but there is something poignant about the flashes when you realize you have moved from one phase of life to another without even noticing. Like the time when I was watching a college football game and realized that I was at least 5 years older than any of the players on the field. Or a few years later, when I discovered that I had moved into the age group where I needed to check guys’ hands to see if they were wearing a wedding ring (that one was especially disheartening).

Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful to be where I am. I have a beautiful daughter and a wonderful fiancé and I’m surrounded by friends and family. I love my life exactly as it is. But did being in New York make me want to kick my younger self’s ass for not moving there with my friends and at least trying to chase that impossible dream when I was in the appropriate phase of life to do something like that? Yes, it did.

The experience reignited something in me though. I remembered that what I really love to do is to make people laugh, that’s been at the core of who I am since I was a little girl. For the past several years I have focused all my energy on attempting to make a career in health care because it was just my daughter and me and I was determined to find the most stable way to provide for her. But thanks to the support of my fiance, I’m now able to work from home, which also means that I have the time to pursue the things that I love to do. So, though I’m probably not ever going to be on Saturday Night Live, I can still try to live my dream in other ways. I can blog and try to make people laugh through my writing. I can try. “Trying” was really the point all along.


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One Response to “A Visit to New York at 38 Years of Age”

  1. Stephanie, your writing enthralls…I know why. It is because you allow us to listen as you think out loud.

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