New York State of Mind

“New York is a diamond iceberg floating in river water.” ~ Truman Capote

As is sit on my back patio soaking in a lazy Saturday morning…a moment I have no business slowing down to relish or ponder…I cannot help but think about where I was a week ago. When I put the hectic schedule on hold, let my to-do list sit idle, and just basked in the moment. Soaking in every nuance of a city that touched my soul in a way that I never expected.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep passion for the city of Charleston, S.C. There is something about her that resides in the depth of my soul…she has gripped me and her spirit mingles beautifully with mine. Yes, I am talking about a city. But Charleston is so much more…she speaks to me, refreshes me, gives my worn down self rest. I have to confess, last weekend I feel as though I was unfaithful to Charleston. I discovered that this indescribable feeling that lures me back to the Holy City is not reserved solely for her.

I can still hear it…the din of activity…taxi cabs mingled with the subway, combined with sirens, playing out a like a grand symphony. I was absolutely captivated by the fluidity of movement and the grandeur of bricks and mortar, steel and concrete, pavement and rail tracks springing to life with a vitality and vibrancy I didn’t even know existed.

“One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” ~ Thomas Wolfe

From the moment the plane descended into La Guardia the excitement bubbled up in me. A glance at the skyline, a sighting of the Brooklyn Bridge. There is something so magical about New York City. It almost mythical, can a fairy tale really be set in a concrete jungle?!?! It’s as if the city has a life of its own, if gives off an energy like I have never before experienced and like a highly addictive drug I found myself wanting more.

From the lights on Broadway, to the grandeur of the Plaza hotel, the hustle of the city streets, and the serenity of Central Park. There were frantic walks to the theater and quiet strolls through TriBeCa. Art is everywhere…people are the art in New York. They play and they display…in formal institutions and in quiet, sleepy basement style jazz clubs in the West Village. In local restaurants you taste a flavor of the eclectic crowd that calls Gotham their home. Like vibrant colors on a canvas they create the beautiful masterpiece that I couldn’t help wanting to be a part of. I didn’t want to be a visitor, I wanted to be one of the charmed ones who understood the depth of all this city was because it was home. I felt like such a poser, such a tourist, in a place that seem to fit me like a glove.

“New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do. Now you’re in New York, these streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you…” ~ Jay-Z (Empire State of Mind)

What happens when you have one dream for your life only to have it live out so completely different? As I melted into the frantic rush on the pavement an overwhelming feeling hit me…I was walking the steps of my girlhood dream. The culture, the elegance, the diversity, the activity, the power careers…this was my dream. I could see 18-year-old Nikki so clearly…so ambitious…so hungry to devour all that life had to offer. This is where she had imagined herself. I think she also saw herself married to John F. Kennedy Jr., just keeping it real. And as 40-year-old Nikki stood there she came face to face with her childhood dream meeting the reality of her life. First, let me say I hate people who talk about themselves in third person, so please feel free to make fun of me for doing just that. Second, don’t get too worried…this isn’t were I say “I’m living the wrong life and I’m leaving it all to pack up and move to NYC.” It’s okay, I know some of you were thinking it. Actually, after coming off the high of being in this very intoxicating city, I realize that New York, like Charleston has become one of the great loves of my life. How funny, because on paper Charleston and NYC are so very different yet they both speak to my soul. I predict that I will return to the city that never sleeps…often!!!! I want more of her and she has so much more to give. But she is not home.

“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

18-year-old Nikki hadn’t learned that valuable lesson yet…but she soon would. Home is not a place that seemingly fits like a glove or feeds a dream. Home is where love is. The beauty of age is reconciling what you desired with what matters. How much would I have missed had I followed my 18-year-old hearts desire? Had I not been derailed from chasing my ambition where would I be? This week I stood face to face with those very questions (maybe I had a mini mid-life crisis) and I have an answer…I don’t care!!! Now, I am all about transparency…that wasn’t my immediate conclusion…I had to reflect for a few days. But I choose not to live in the land of “what if?” How many people constantly look back at the paths not taken as failures to live the life that they dreamed? To what avail? Retrospect often opens the door for bitterness and discontentment to take root and it steals all the joy from the life we have been given.

We have been given this one life to live and sometimes the dream and the reality look quite different. That doesn’t mean the dream has died, it means a new dream has been born. I love that I get to go places like Charleston and New York City…places where my soul comes alive in new and fresh ways. But my heart will always be at home and home isn’t a place, home is where love resides. Where there is love there is contentment. Ahhhh…I am really loving the wisdom that comes with age. Did I just toot my own horn?!?! Possibly.

Contentment for me comes from a husband and soul mate who loves and respects me; My children that make me love deeper than I ever thought possible; friendships that champion me and love me regardless of my crazy; a family that is rooted in love and loyalty; a ministry that gives me more purpose than I ever thought was imaginable; and my God who loves me far beyond what I deserve and way beyond what I can comprehend. All the things that my 18-year-old self could have never understood, my 40-year-old self is humbly grateful for.

I guess you could say this homage to New York City is a long, drawn out thank you. How does one even thank a city? Maybe I’m the only weirdo who wants to know. Regardless, thank you for being everything I dreamed of and so much more. Thank you for allowing me to disconnect from reality and, for a brief moment, be a part of your colorful mosaic. You have reminded me that what is hidden in one’s soul is multifaceted and there are many layers. That excitement and elation can come from visiting places that touch your soul deeply but  true joy and contentment are always found at home.