I had an incredible run today. It was incredible not because of the dirt roads or the farmland, not because of the breathtaking views or scenic waterways, not because of the cool breeze blowing my hair or the cacophony of bird noises filling my ears. It was incredible because of the way I witnessed and relived my own story of coming into adulthood in New York City.
Today I started out at the home that my husband and I own in upper Manhattan (well, technically the bank still owns most of it), the home where we are raising our two kiddos and figuring out what it is to be a family of four, living in THE City. I headed north, passing the playground where we took Jacob the day Hannah Grace was born and the swings that I rocked gently on that morning, wondering if that day would be the day that our lives would be forever changed – again. I turned around at the lighthouse that was my first “big destination” when I started running again after Hannah Grace was born, and ran beneath “our bridge,” as our toddler calls the GW.
Heading south, I entered such familiar territory. The miles I ran during our early marriage, sometimes staring blindly out at the water, wondering what I had gotten myself into as I tried to figure out how to bend my life to meet and embrace someone else’s. The miles I ran the morning I found out we were expecting Jacob, plotting how to tell Harrison and practically sprinting the entire distance in elated joy. The miles I walked when eight months pregnant with Jacob and I could run no more, and the loops I ran with our stroller when I first started running again after he was born.
I left the Hudson River at the same intersection I’ve run through so may times before, heading towards that first apartment Harrison and I shared, where we were newlyweds and new parents, where we threw parties and hosted holiday meals, played bluegrass and string quartets together for the first time. I ran past the hospital where both our children were born, and I ran past the emergency entrance, trying to remember entering those doors the night my life would change (but to no effect: I can recall the walk from our home, but I guess the pain was too intense to remember actually entering the hospital). I ran past Harrison’s first-favorite taco truck, and I ran past the restaurant where I had dinner with my three closest friends the evening of the very first day of my very first job. I ran past my old boss’ beautiful one-bedroom where I used to cat-sit and where Harrison and I choreographed our first dance one Saturday afternoon in her tiny, sun-filled living room.
And then I entered Central Park, the jewel of Manhattan and a place where I’ve logged more miles than I could possibly count. (But also a place I don’t think I’ve run in a year or more.) I ran there when I first moved to the city and was trying to find my place in it, wondering what exactly I was doing in New York and whether the move was the right decision. Looking back, I seemed so young then – so unaware of what the city would hold for me or the myriad of opportunities, experiences, and people New York would show me. As I ran today, I remembered early morning runs and times I watched the sunset, times I’ve run (or walked) there in the snow and runs in the beginning of spring, when the cherry blossoms were first coming back to life. I’ve run in that park during times of great joy, of deep sadness, and of fierce anger. I’ve pounded out fast, ferocious miles, and I’ve loped around the 6.2 mile loop at an easy pace, just taking in the scenery. I’ve prayed, pleaded, thanked, confessed, and sung through more miles on those roads than I could count.
I’ve run there plenty alone, but also with so many friends – some only once and others too many times to count. I’ve run there with my sister and I’ve run there with my dad. I’ve run there on a first date (the “date” was the run) and I’ve run there through the heartbreak of break-up. I ran up the hill that my best friend always made me talk to her during and remembered the miles we’ve shared there – first as single women in New York, catching up a few mornings a week and sharing workplace frustrations and friendship dramas. I remembered how she ran her first race in that park (with me by her side), and how the guy she had maybe just started dating came out to take pictures as we ran. As time marched on and we both met our “someone’s,” we then navigated dating, engagement, and finally, planning our weddings while running in that park.
So today I realized something monumental – New York really is my city. For all the hardship and the hatred, all the things I dislike and the complaints I have – it’s my city. This is the place where I came into myself. College years were so unique and so precious, so unbelievable and utterly irreplaceable – and they will always, always be hidden in my heart and memory in a deep and special way – but I didn’t “come into my own” there. I didn’t “find myself” or “define myself.” I came out a bit older, a bit wiser, a bit more jaded, a bit more optimistic, but every bit as green and young as I was when I started. And after college – there were really important things that happened then, too – important friendships and lessons learned and experiences that I won’t forget.
But it’s here, in New York, that I’ve had the most formative years of my adulthood. It’s here, in New York, that I’ve had my first job, lived on my own, loved and lost and then loved again – and learned to stick it out. It’s here, in New York, that I came back to my faith and was baptized, that I learned again what it is to love God and question what I believe and face my doubts and fears (over and over again) and just keep praying through it all. It’s here, in New York, that the man who is my best friend, best half, and best partner asked me to marry him, and it’s here, in New York, that we had our first two children and are raising them up in the way they should go.
New York City, I might not always like you, but you are my city. You are my home. And, I suppose, therefore, it’s only appropriate that here, in New York, I will run my first marathon. (November 1st, bring it on.)