Don’t Look Back (July U.B.C. Day 3)

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Learning recently that a settlement had been reached between the Central Park 5 and the city of New York, I was transported back in time to my senior year of high school and the fights I had with my mother over where I would attend college.

I desperately wanted to go to Barnard College, but my mother wanted me to stay local where, presumably, she thought I might be safer. She wanted me to go to Wellesley College, and I was defiant in my determination to be in the city, in the heart of the action and “life!” I thought Wellesley, set in its bucolic namesake suburb, was in the country, something my mother finds infinitely amusing now that I live a scant mile or so down the road.

I was adamant that there was no difference between being in Boston and New York City as relating to safety. Both cities were at that time teeming with minimally, if at all, concealed tensions. Boston was still reeling from the violence of school desegregation during the 1970s and Whitey Bulger dominated. New York City was still gritty and urban with high crime rates and greed was good; urbanization and gentrification were yet unheard of in either city.

The internet didn’t exist in 1985, and 200 miles away was an awfully long way from home. Unlike today, when the usual phone call home is via FaceTime or some other video chatting platform, in the mid-1980s, phone calls were made on a rotary dial telephone attached to the wall by a cord and only happened once a week due to the expense. There was no such thing as flat rate phone charges to call anywhere in the country; it was all about long-distance carriers.

The fights between my mother and I about where I would spend my college years were epic. We still reference the topic gingerly, me only half-joking when I tell her that I’ll never forgive her for forbidding me from going to Barnard and keeping me from the life I was meant to have. I was convinced that where I went to college would be where I settled permanently.

For many years, I believed but for my mother putting down her foot on the college issue, I would have gone to New York at 17 and never looked back, taking the world by storm. I left for college intent on getting my degree in writing, moving on to law school, and then taking the world by storm. I wanted to practice family law with a focus on helping children who had been taken advantage of by either their parents or the system.

I did all those things, I just did them in Boston, and for a long time I remained convinced I could have done them bigger and better in New York.

The truth is that before I could even begin planning to look for a job after law school, a boy came along and love squashed my relocation intentions. When I graduated from law school and got my first job, it wasn’t in a firm practicing family law; it was with a multinational footwear company and my focus was international intellectual property. I put in two years there and then moved on to a small firm practicing divorce law. I was in heaven, doing what I wanted and loving it.

Reality intruded; I received a job offer to move to a large firm at triple my salary. I couldn’t turn it down; who could? While keeping track of my hours and putting in 14-16 hour days, I still kept a photo of New York on my bulletin board as a reminder of where I wanted to go.

My marriage ended and although I continued to yearn for New York, two things kept me in Boston: September 11 and the bursting of the dot com bubble. By the time the economy had recovered sufficiently to make New York a real possibility, another man had come along and once again, love squashed my budding plans.  I didn’t mind quite so much the second time love derailed my plans.  In short order, my reality became a new husband, step-children, and a new baby. Moving away from my family as we all aged no longer seemed like a good thing, and even as many of my closest friends relocated to New York, the city drifted further into the distance.

During my twenties and early thirties, I told myself that I would get to New York and that then my life would really begin. The truth is that my life was happening during all those years. It wasn’t until my son was born that I realized I belonged in Boston.

Someday in the future I will live in New York, but since the moment I set eyes on The Boy, I have known that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

New York may be where my heart lives and beats, and where I feel most comfortable, but Boston is the center of my universe. I never left because my world revolves around Boston. My history is here. I like that comfort.  It gives me strength to be who I am and to fulfill my destiny.  I open up and my heart soars when I am in New York, and I love the rhythms and nuances of New York, but Boston is my winter afternoon curled up on the couch with a glass of wine and a satisfying book. Boston is comfort, New York is excitement.  Boston pushes me to live my dreams and be the best of myself, while New York awaits whoever that new creature may become after her dreams are fulfilled.

I love knowing Boston, the neighborhoods, the restaurants and all the fun things to do. I also thrill to explore New York, learning from my walks and trying out new places where is best to be and go. However, I can finally admit that whether I attended college in New York or Boston is irrelevant. I would have ended up back in Boston regardless.

Don’t look back. Don’t stress over things that don’t matter. Don’t worry about things you can’t control. Life works out in the end, and if it doesn’t turn out the way you intended, it’s because that wasn’t what the universe planned for you.

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