One of the reasons I decided to start my trip on August 31st was that I knew it would take me two weeks to reach New York City. That would mean being able to celebrate my birthday with my closest friends in the city I call home.
So ever since I took that first step from West Hebron, I've had September 13th circled on my calendar. On that afternoon I knew I would walk back across the George Washington Bridge and weave my way through Harlem to reach Claire's apartment. I might be technically homeless right now, but as long as Claire has a place on the Upper (upper) East Side I know there is room for me in her deluxe apartment in the sky-high-high.
There are people in my life who have had a passing impact, then there are those whose impact has been so profound that it is difficult to put into words. I'm gonna try anyway. Claire and I have been best friends for over four years now. We met at Lehigh University, went many years without keeping in touch and then reconnected in 2005. Had I not tracked her down four years ago, I probably wouldn't even be living in NYC today. There are many things I could say about how important Claire is to me, but you have lives to live and I want to avoid early onset arthritis. So I will just say this: our friendship has allowed me to experience conscious, unconditional love in a very special way and knowing her has challenged me to give mySelf more of the self forgiveness and acceptance that I need. Lest I get too misty eyed, I will temper my praise by saying that somehow, even after four years of being my primary audience, Claire still has not developed an appreciation of my amazing singing voice. A total tin ear. Well, nobody can be perfect. :)
With Claire's apartment as my home base, I had my nights planned out for maximum enjoyment and relaxation. A quiet homemade dinner with Claire on Saturday night. Dinner with Claire, Andrew & Valentina down in Chinatown on Sunday night. Then a birthday meal with long time college buddies Ray and Jeff on Monday. On a trip that is all about appreciating the joy people bring into my life, I wanted to be intentional about spending time with those who know me the best.
By the time Tuesday morning came and it was time to pack up my bag again and say goodbye to New York City for a second time, I felt a twinge of fear and hesitancy. It was one thing to be walking from West Hebron, knowing I was working my way down the Hudson River toward New York City. But now I would be walking away from my home, from my support network. What loomed ahead came into focus: four months of wandering, of having faith that the further and further I roam from home that there will be people in those unfamiliar places to house and feed me. At that moment, it felt like a huge leap of faith. Then the words of Joseph Campbell came back to comfort me. Follow your bliss, he wrote, and doors will open for you. That has certainly been my experience so far, so why wouldn't it continue to be?
That isn't to say that large challenges and more fear might not await me down the road. In fact, I'm expecting them. That is where something Ray and Jeff and I talked about last night has to come into play: perseverance. Up until now, I've let my fear of the unknown convince me to abandon projects prematurely, to return tail between my legs to the comfort of my "known world"'. When that happens, there is no growth. This time, I will persevere. I know my best friends will remind me of that when times get challenging. With that assurance I walk on.