42. James Says Goodbye to Home (Again)

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Tomorrow I’m saying goodbye to another of my best friends as they depart New York. Last Saturday, I had to say goodbye to one of my all-time ride-or-die homies: Kelley. She moved from New York to Dallas a couple days ago, and tomorrow morning I’m helping Katie and Alex load their U-Haul as they make the big trek to Chicago. I’m a Cancer, so we all know I’ve cried about this a little bit. A little bit times ten.

Let’s go back to when I found out they were moving.

About two weeks ago, Kelley told me she was moving. We were talking about it on the phone while I was sitting in a theater waiting for the show to start so I had to awkwardly hang up on her when we were both choked up. But I tried not to be too self-centered about it. I know that she’s going to be much happier in Texas. So I cried a little on the train, but Kelley said, “You’ll still have Katie and Alex.” “You’re right,” I said.

The next day I’m with Katie, and she tells me she has news: she and Alex are moving to Chicago! This is so exciting for them! They’re going to be so much closer to their families, and they’ll be back in the Midwest where price tags make more sense and people are kinder. Yay! Not the greatest news for me, but this is awesome news for them. And I’m not going to make this about me either, so I smile and we talk about how fun Chicago is gonna be.

Later that night, I’m walking home from the grocery store, both arms fully laden with plastic bags of food that I surely don’t need, but maybe I can use them to caulk my tear ducts. And I finally let myself have a moment to be sad. I didn’t want to be sad in front of them, and here’s why: Yes, moving to New York is really, really hard, because you’re learning a new subway system, you’re so far away from home, everything is so expensive, it’s dangerous, and everything is foreign. But moving away from New York…that’s so hard for different reasons. When anyone considers moving away from New York after making the Big Move out here, I’m positive that their first thought is, ‘What will people think of me?’ There’s that fear that people will judge us, or laugh at us, as if we’ve given up. In our head, we hear all the nasty things we think people will say about us. But FUCK ALL THOSE PEOPLE. Most of them probably don’t even exist, they’re just manifestations of the rude things we say to ourselves in our insecure moments. But ANYONE who has lived in New York after moving here from somewhere else can empathize with how fucking difficult it is out here. And leaving New York is a success of it’s own; you’re escaping all the shenanigans of equity calls, the OBSCENE rent for a cockroach-infested watercloset and the subway cars that decide to randomly unleash a trickle of dirty water on your face at the end of the day just when you think to yourself, ‘Well, at least today is over.’ At one point, we ALL have had it with New York. And leaving this Bitch takes a lot of courage. So take solace in that in your moments of uncertainty and self-doubt.

I know Katie & Alex and Kelley will all be much happier. And they definitely won’t be lonely. But as I was walking home from the grocery store, I realized that my life wasn’t going to get better by them leaving, and I was going to be lonely for a little bit. As I trudged home, I allowed myself to just be sad. I didn’t have to be Strong, Supportive Friend for a few minutes. I didn’t want to cry in front of my friends and make it more difficult for them to leave; I don’t need to make their move any harder. But the thought of not seeing them every day makes me really, really sad.

The hardest part of moving away from home to New York City is that I lost my sense of belonging. I moved to New York away from my family and everything I’ve ever known to a huge city where it’s easy to be forgotten. It’s hard for me to find a sense of “home” here. I don’t really feel at home when I come to my apartment at the end of the night. I don’t really feel at home when I’m hanging out with new friends (not to discount my relationships with them AT ALL; it’s just that they haven’t been through SO MUCH with me like my old friends have). And whenever I stop moving for a few seconds, I’m overwhelmed with how lost I feel. But when I hang out with Kelley or Katie/Alex, I stop feeling lost for a few hours. I forget about New York kicking my ass, and I laugh. And I feel at home. Those friends are my home, and it’s ldifficult to say goodbye to them. Because not only will I miss them, but I know that I’m going to feel lost more often without seeing their faces every other day.

I don’t know how to create a home. I haven’t the knack for designing a comfy apartment, and I can’t keep my room clean. I don’t know how to make a home-cooked meal without using the microwave. But if there’s one thing I know how to do it’s to look into my friend’s eyes and think, ‘Home, sweet home.’

It will be extremely difficult to say goodbye to Katie and Alex after saying goodbye to Kelley last weekend. I’ve already felt myself trying to fill the approaching emptiness with new friends, bad food and humor. But I will put on my best warrior face tomorrow to be Strong, Supportive Friend again.

Katie, Alex, Kelley: I don’t know how to express to you the immense difference you’ve made in my life. So just know that you’ve taken some of my worst days and made them so tolerable and so significantly insignificant. You’ve altered my New York life, and I am so grateful for you.

This is my sendoff to you.
Don’t be strangers.

I love you,
James

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