New York City was, at one point, the epicenter of the pandemic in North America.
When Chris and I flew back to the NYC area at the end of March, 2020, everyone I knew was freaked out for me.
I assured them that everything was fine, and that staying in our apartment was going to be just fine.
Due to the borders being shut, and everything being shut, it was a weird place to be during the pandemic that I oddly kind of relished in.
When I would take my 7 minute subway ride to Manhattan (we live in Hoboken, across the Hudson) and emerge on the other side, I kind of loved seeing the streets so sparse.
They were sparse not in a freaky way, but actually in a calming, more manageable way.
Growing up in Toronto, I am no stranger to big cities, and my soul led me to NYC far before I met my partner and started to build a life there, but the sheer number of people walking around NYC streets always overwhelmed me.
During the pandemic, this wasn’t the case.
I could wander through Soho and only see a handful of people, which gave me ample room to take in the architecture of those beautiful old buildings, and to get my bearings.
I got to learn new walking routes and get my directions settled without having the stress of dodging hundreds of people.
It was actually a really nice time.
However one thing that was always affronting were all the vacant stores. Especially in the West Village where I strolled the most, there were so many boutiques that had closed and were left empty.
I worried and wondered what would happen next and felt bad for all the businesses that closed.
For a long time, these buildings remained empty.
And while they remained empty, eventually, restaurants opened for frigid winter patio dining, and later for indoor dining. Later from that, Soho House and my coworking spaces started to open again.
Slowly but surely, more and more people started to return and breathe more and more life into the city.
There was an uptick when it became Spring and some residents returned from presumably sunny destinations, another uptick when the Universities opened again and a rush of students came back during the summer, and another big uptick in the late fall when the USA got rid of its travel requirements and Europeans, in particular, were able to visit once again.
This increase in people made such a big difference. While people say that NYC isn’t back to what it was, I would say it’s definitely getting close. I notice every week more and more people around, and the energy has been returning for a long time.
And then, just last week, I was walking to take myself out for my biweekly date with myself: lunch at a nice restaurant, a walk outside, a review of my goals, and whatever else my soul is calling out for.
I walked the same route I always walked, but noticed that this time, all of the stores that were once vacant now have new tenants.
I went to the same restaurant I love going to for my self-dates, and noticed that it was filled with so many people and so much more liveliness than I had ever seen it have before.
It was a slow process, for things to have a rebirth, and while I don’t think it’s fully there, it’s getting really close.
It’s tangibly rising again.
And then I couldn’t help but see the parallels in my own journey.
Leaving Toronto was no small feat for me. I grieved a lot the last two years about it.
I took the life in Toronto as I had known it, and was led to burn it all down.
That is what happens before the rebirth – a true destruction of everything that was.
After that stage, there’s usually a period where you are just in the smoke.
You have burned down whatever you needed to burn down, but the ashes are still hot. Nothing new can yet be born from that place.
This is a place where grieving is required, and trust is necessary.
Eventually, the dust settles enough that clarity can start to come.
You can begin to see the edges of the new picture that you are painting for your life.
For me, this was a time of exploration. It was the times where I would walk the city to find the nooks of it that began to feel like home and familiar, and the places that didn’t. I found the restaurants and working spaces I felt a sense of ease in, and what didn’t align.
And slowly but surely, as we experiment and explore, a foundation is built.
From that foundation, we can eventually rise.
As we start to rise, slowly a sense of settledness starts to come.
Eventually, from that settledness, we will eventually fully rise into something new.
However, I’m not yet totally there yet, just like NYC isn’t.
But, I’m a lot further along than I once was, just like NYC.
I feel like the city right now is this companion with me, and together we’re learning and growing and becoming something new, all at the same pace.
NYC is having a rebirth and so am I.