I’m on a flight from New York City to San Diego. You guys might be sick of me talking about and posting Instagram stories about the fact that I’m moving out of my Brooklyn apartment, but hey, when you write every day, you write about what’s really going on in your life. And people get to see you every day. That part of daily writing is weird. Blogs become less of “articles” and more of life snippets.
I’m feeling pretty – well – exhausted after the day we had today. Someone came to pick up my bed as soon as I opened my eyes, and we spent the day packing up my apartment while the new tenants simultaneously moved in.
Once we did get everything finished, we didn’t make it to the airport in time to check bags, so we got moved to a later flight. We’ll get to San Diego around midnight. Whew. That was my 7th apartment in my 10+ years in NYC, so moving is not a new thing, but it’s never really quite a cakewalk of a day, is it?
The part where we missed our flight was actually nice. I got to sit and stare at the New York City skyline out the window of the lounge and think about what an incredible city it is, filled with so many people I love. And I got to think about what today felt like to me.
Tearing down to rebuild.
I first moved to Brooklyn in early 2009 after a short stint in Manhattan and an even shorter stint in Queens. Brooklyn, I fell in love with immediately. I lived in Williamsburg then, long before there was a Duane Reade and a Whole Foods there. That’s when the long stretch of Kent between North 10th and South 5th where all the luxury high rise buildings are was still “sketchy” to walk down alone at night. I lived on South 3rd between Berry and Wythe and then Grand between Roebling and Havemeyer. I stayed there until the summer of 2012, when I fled the city for 6 months in favor of California. Which I guess I’m doing again now.
After a few months in LA, I forgot what the city streets smelled like and I forgot how close people get to you on the subway and I forgot how fast and ambitious the NYC energy is all-the-time and I only remembered the magic – and there’s a lot of magic – so I moved back, this time for another 5 years. But to the other part of Brooklyn. Fort Greene and then Boerum Hill.
And I do remember the pure magic of my first morning back living in New York. I moved back on New Year’s Eve, and I woke up early on January 1 and walked through the morning snow down South Portland Ave (which I consider to be the prettiest block in Brooklyn). Everything was covered in a blanket of white, like a canvas, fresh with possibility. I listened to “Anything Could Happen” on repeat and smiled at the sky. Time to rebuild.
Yesterday, my last errand before moving out of my little Bergen Street apartment was to go pick up some pottery in Williamsburg that I made a few weeks ago at a pottery studio. It was my first real piece of pottery and I didn’t want to leave New York without it.
I walked by one of my old apartments on the way to the pottery studio. It felt like another lifetime, when I lived there. It was another lifetime. Every year in New York City has felt like a lifetime. Which means I haven’t lived in Williamsburg for 5 entire lifetimes. And it feels that way.
Standing across the street and looking up at the balcony, I remembered how it felt to move out of that apartment. How it seemed so impossible to do so, how I spent so many hours sitting in the middle of the floor staring at my belongings. How it seemed like there were so many steps needed to disassemble the life I had created there (and to disassemble it fully, which was required). How my best friend Jeanne peeled me off the floor and helped me pack my bags and fed me juice. I was so scared to let go then, to tear down what I had built. But what followed when I fled to California was one of the most exciting phases of my life. Because after the tearing down always comes the rebuild.
I guess what I’m saying in my exhaustion-induced slumber-airplane-writing is that today felt like a tearing down again. (Why my transitions don’t ever feel more gentle to me, I really can’t say. It’s always this enormous thing. I think about things a lot. Or maybe everyone feels transition this hugely…?!)
I gave all my books away today. Books that have shaped me as a person. Books that have filled my shelves for a long time. Books written by all my best friends. Books I used to keep under my pillow as I slept so I wouldn’t feel alone.
Yesterday, I had a HUGE box of books I was going to have shipped to San Diego. I don’t even want to think about what it would have cost to ship that box – it must have had at least 60 books in it.
But today, I put ALL of them on my stoop.
I taped a little note that said “free books” to the stoop, and then I secretly sat inside and watched people walk by and saw what books they took. I would pretend to be looking through non-existent mail in my mailbox so I could watch what they picked. It made me so incredibly happy. I saw a woman with a stroller take a book about adrenal and thyroid healing. I saw a couple walk by holding hands and take my Rumi poetry book. I saw one of the movers who moved my new tenants in grab The 48 Laws of Power as he walked back to the moving truck.
If I happened to be outside while someone was looking at the books, I would recommend some or answer questions. One woman asked me to point out my favorite health book and I handed her Dr. Lipman’s The New Health Rules, another woman told me her sister struggles with digestion and I handed her Go With Your Gut.
In one of my favorite moments, I looked out the window and saw Joel, stopping between furniture-carrying trips to talk to the person peeking at the book collection, pointing out and explaining the books he thought the person might enjoy.
It was the most joyful part of my day, and I’m willing to bet it was Joel’s too. Moving is hard and we were rushing and exhausted, but watching someone walk away with a new book from the stoop made us smile. We would squeeze each other’s hand each time it happened when we were both outside, knowing that we were giving people unexpected gifts. We knew I didn’t need to bring these books with me in a huge box to San Diego as a symbol of who I am. These people might be experiencing this information for the first time. It felt important.
One of the best moments of the day was near the end, when we were scrambling to get to the airport, trying to get the last few things out of the apartment, and things were a bit tense. I had just put a piece of art outside that Gabby gave me. It said “Keep Calm And Expect Miracles.” We watched a woman in a post office uniform walk by and exclaim “Is this free!? I LOVE THIS!” and we said, “yes, yes, take it!” and her smile seemed to light up the whole street.
Every single one of my books was taken by a passer-by on the street by the time I actually left the apartment. It was an incredible feeling knowing that while I can and will always buy my friends books again, these people may have picked up a book from my stoop today that will change their perspective on life or heal something for them. That makes me feel exuberant. And kinda makes me feel like I want to work at a bookstore. Books are so special.
I did end up keeping a small pile of books for myself. The only books I kept were ones where the EXACT COPY of that book meant something to me, emotionally. These were mainly books I’ve received as gifts from dear friends. Any book that I could easily obtain another copy of later if I wanted to — and that particular copy wasn’t the part that was meaningful to me – I gave it to a wonderful Brooklyn neighbor.
I never would have guessed that the most meaningful part of my move would be giving my belongings to others and seeing their reactions. I drop books and clothes to donate all the time, but it’s a much different experience when you see the person who receives it.
I sold my beloved Vitamix the other day. (I know, how could I?) But that thing is heavy – really heavy – and I bought it during a very different lifetime. So I thought it should have a new life and a new home just like I’m getting.
I sold it to a sweet girl from Brooklyn Heights. When she came to pick it up, she seemed so happy to be getting it. We chatted about recipes for a bit and then I sent my blender on a path with its new mom. A few minutes after she left, I realized I forgot to give her the tamper (if you have a Vitamix you know how important the tamper is). I texted her and she asked me to meet her at Trader Joe’s a couple blocks away. When I got there, her cart was filled with smoothie ingredients. I saw greens and fruit and a bag of maca in her cart. My heart swelled and I almost cried. Yes. My blender was going somewhere good.
These are the best parts about moving, and especially moving in New York. So many people walk by your stoop all day long (especially if you’re like me and you live on a block with a subway entrance on it). It’s so cool how generosity can connect us. By letting go of all my “stuff,” rather than taking it all with me, I’m now able to rebuild in a new way – and all of my neighbors are able to build something totally new from the rubble of my goodbye.
Humans are magical.
Time to rebuild.