I remember when I arrived on this eye-opening Island of Manhattan two decades ago—
yes, I am old enough to count in tens instead of singles—just how wide open my eyes
were. I believe it was a dominant factor in why I moved here. I was a child with a wild
imagination that was not as tame as my surroundings. Coming from a quaint New
England town and a large family around me, I aspired to be a strong, independent
woman who could survive in a more challenging environment. I was determined to prove
to myself and my family that it was possible.
I had been exposed to cities often, as my father loved to travel. I am most grateful to
him for exposing me to the many roads we explored, literally “showing the way”. My
mind, body and soul absorbed these journeys. There was something [special?] about
New York City that always piqued my interest. It was dynamic, extremely different from
what I knew, and incredibly faceted. The paths you could take were limitless. I wanted
something that would challenge me, something to fine-tune me, something to evolve me.
A place with perpetual options, so much life to study, so much to learn from; very much
like our own existence.
New York would take care of that purpose for me. I wanted to know how a city
functioned, how others functioned in it, and how I would function within it. Who I would
be within the depths of a complex environment. I went from a safe, secure, loving
environment, to diving into the dark unknown with curiosity, optimism, faith, a fresh
outlook and excitement (and perhaps a splash of fear—okay, lots of fear, but I was ready
and that was part of the process) for where this journey might lead. My creative nature
wanted to explore, expand, play, discover, and connect with the world.
You never know what pitch this town may throw you, so you have to be ready to
swing at anything (pretty much what life itself is like, no?). I decided to take a vow upon
committing to this city (essentially marrying it): that the second I found myself lacking in
the virtues I brought here, it would be time for me to go.
There were certainly numerous hardships I faced that pulverized me, times when I
thought of packing up and moving to a more simple life. It’s hard to cite a specific
instance, since they all had the same feelings of despair, pessimism and doubt
surrounding them. With “rent so damn high” it never seems worth it to sacrifice so much
for so little. It does seem to happen in a domino effect. I recall when the friends I thought
would be there for me during a flurry of loss in my life and weren’t anywhere to be
accessed. I felt so far from home with no support network, no one to connect with, no
one who could relate. But every time I seriously considered the option of fleeing, an
offering would surface to entice me to stay. By paying close attention, I recognized these
gifts presented to me and sought comfort in them. The offerings would come in various
forms: my perspective, people, careers, communities, housing situations, faith in the
human condition. You may not believe the amount of times it was the “strangers,” or
“Urban Sages” if you will, who would utter the wisest most insightful phrases. They
come in many forms, a door person, someone sitting next to you, a receptionist at an
office. A favorite of mine, are cab drivers, yes, I said it, cab drivers. Think about it, they
navigate through this wild town, and encounter an array of personalities.
Some may be observing, absorbing, connecting, finding compassion, and sharing. One
of the few times I had broken out in tears in a taxi, I was asked what was wrong and if I’d
be o.k. He then reminded me that it wasn’t so bad and all would be all right. A friendly
reminder. There will definitely be a follow up story on “Urban Sages” When friends or
jobs, weren’t working out, it was because they weren’t what was real in my life. This
opened more room for what was true to stay close, sifting what wasn’t serving a
purpose. This pattern would repeat itself many times. With each pummeling, I found the
meaning in it. The gift that it actually is. The reason I knew NYC would be a good
teacher. Without struggle, there is no growth. The seed buried deep under the earth's
heavy soil in darkness works its way through and breaks the surface with strength,
beauty and wisdom.
When you are scraped by life, you are left with the wounds to investigate. It is within
that investigation that you get the answers, resurrect your faith, discover your true self,
and re-build upon the foundation you are born with. We do not only grow from these
difficult situations; I certainly don't wait for the unexpected smack in the face for the
opportunity to discover something new about myself or remind myself of my true nature.
There are times we choose to challenge ourselves, with what we want to accomplish and
learn: finding the strength within to live our lives to the fullest experience, in the fashion
we are content with.
I share this story as a metaphor for what life is like, no matter where we live or what
situation it may be. Ever since I was young, I always wanted to get to the heart, the
source, to find the meaning in everything in order to take those experiences and shape
them for the better.
I was the sort that would disassemble material items, separating all the pieces, seeing
them as the individual components that make a whole. (Rubik's cube was one of them...
no, it wasn't cheating...it was a whole different puzzle to figure out how it was made.) I
thrive off puzzles. Life is one gigantic puzzle with infinite and complex pieces that are
ever changing. With awareness and thought, these pieces can be put together to make
the connection, to make it whole, even when we feel that we've been unraveled, exposed,
There is so much truth and beauty in coming apart, even "falling apart"—you can see
all the pieces of your SELF laid out in front you, functional, dysfunctional, and
otherwise. The ones that need repairs, the ones that are in good condition, the ones that
are the pillars. You are now the artist, mathematician, and architect, utilizing all these
resources wisely to reassemble. Life is sometimes uneasy, but it doesn't mean we have
to make it difficult. The common denominators of our truth help ease the pain of the
more uncomfortable moments, and magnify the glorious moments. There are times we
feel that our life is unrecognizable, those are the times we have an all access pass to
rediscover it all over again. Like the Phoenix from the ashes, or the Lotus flower that
blooms out of the mud, we have the strength to do the same.
"We are all sculptors and painters,
and our material is our own flesh and bones.
Be a Columbus to whole new continents an worlds within you,
opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought."- Thoreau
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|Disassemble to Reassemble
By Jeanne Gigi