Ever since I moved back to NY, I feel like I’m walking inside of an old photo album… and it kind of smells funny.
I’m currently living about half a mile away from the neighborhood in which I grew up in Manhattan, Inwood. It has stirred up more memories, nostalgia and lost feelings than ever a time I can remember. I first moved away from this neighborhood 15 years ago- wow. The gym I just joined is on the same street where I grew up. To get to it, I run past the elementary school I attended, my childhood favorite pizza shop, the apartment building I grew up in, and the mailbox I stood by with my grandma every morning to wait for the school bus. Its all very meaningful yet strange. A part of me feels… out of place.
Disconnect: Things have changed. There is a CVS where Young World used to be, local mom and pop shops have been replaced with trendy restaurants and velvet-roped off lounges, and my favorite convenience store, Joan & Carol, where my childhood crush worked, is gone. A part of this transition to being back home (whatever that means,) has involved mourning the loss of a place I once knew and kind of forgot about. There are these bittersweet moments that make me feel like I somehow don’t belong to this new iteration of my old stomping grounds. The newness of everything around me also amplifies the fact that I am so different now. I barely remember the little girl I was when I lived here. Since then I have lived in three countries and six cities, gotten two degrees, fallen in love, fallen out, failed, succeeded and grown up. I’m simply not the same person I was when I loved this place so I want to be excited but I don’t; it feels mismatched.
Nostalgia: Even the fact that I am living with an old friend from grade school seems surreal at times; as if we must revert back to our 9 year-old selves in order for carrying on to work. We’re both very different now yet something there hasn’t changed at all. This sense of distant familiarity has been common here. Despite new appearances in Inwood and Washington Heights, concrete streets seem to have somehow preserved pieces of my childhood the way grandma’s pots would trap flavors in them, making anything cooked in them taste just like home. Today’s modern version of my old ‘hood still tastes of the culture of old; Merengue music blasts from apartment windows and cars, aromas of delicious classic meals follow passer-bys from restaurants and homes, bold cat-calling men congregate along walkways, and seductively-clad women confidently strut across streets in a rush. Pieces of yesteryear are stuck in the fabric of this community and while the reunion with these memories is exciting, having it all back in my life is… weird.
Today: Right now, this feels like just a business move. A part of me feels guilty for that- like I should be feeling more; some profound connection with my roots or sense of joy because of a reunion with memories from my past. But I don’t.
It is definitely great to see my family and childhood friends more often than I have in years but admittedly, I am having more of a blast making connections and growing my business. I guess there is still a lot I am getting used to in order for this to feel like anything more than a career change.
Honestly: Like encountering an old t-shirt or teddy bear while looking through a childhood trunk, I am reliving memories and recalling fondness and love that I once felt. However, I have not yet experienced any desire to incorporate this shirt into my current wardrobe because… well… I’ve outgrown it.
Is that wrong?
Maybe I’ll appreciate this all more with time