(Part one of a three part series)
By Charles D. Springfield
It was about one month before I was to move to New York City – February 28 to be exact. And with about four weeks to bring things related to the relocation to a close, transition other things and start to get things in New York off the ground, I probably should have spent this particular Sunday cleaning, organizing and getting my head wrapped around the mountain of details before me.
But instead, I opted to take the 11 a.m. Amtrak Hiawatha Service to Chicago – one hour and a half away from Milwaukee where I’ve resided for the last seven years – to meet some dear friends for Sunday brunch at one of my favorite bar/restaurants, minibar.
I know. It probably seems foolish for someone to take what could be a highly productive day and spend the bulk of it eating, drinking and being merry in Chicago. Who would do something like that at this crucial time in the moving process?
I’ll tell you who would do it (two skinny thumbs pointing in my direction). It’s someone who needed a quick jolt of energy, inspiration and motivation from one big city in order to propel me forward to take on this colossal task of moving to The Big City. But most of all, I badly needed the trip to muffle all the noise from the naysayers who thought I should forget about NYC and just stay put in my seemingly comfortable life.
I’ve always been a big city kind of guy. I’m not sure how my fascination with big cities started. It could have been that there was something in the water in Upstate New York at my Nana’s house that drew me to the area. That was a place I spent time when I was about one year old and where I took my first steps. Maybe it was when I watched Batman take down villains in Gotham City, was amazed how Superman could leap tall buildings in a single bound in Metropolis or saw Spiderman swing from skyscraper to skyscraper in New York City.
Or it could have been that trip to London I took when I was 16 years old, which my parents STRONGLY encouraged. Whatever the reason, I knew early on that there was a big wonderful world out there to explore and that a big city would be the ideal place where I could fit in and feel right at home. Therefore, the thought of big city living had gotten under my skin in a major way.
But hold the phone. I don’t want anyone to think that my desire to live in a large city is an automatic dismissal of Milwaukee or other mid- to small-sized cities around the country. To the contrary! I’ve benefited greatly from living in Milwaukee and Jackson, Miss., and New Orleans. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, which is a beautiful, clean and culturally rich place. Despite it being recognized nationally as one of the most segregated cities in America, I actually learned to not only appreciate diversity but to crave it.
That hunger for diversity led me south to Mississippi to attend Jackson State University. I sought to immerse myself deeper into my African-American culture by attending a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). Although we were mostly all young black men and women, I saw a broader spectrum of diversity of thought, behaviors, styles, attitudes and perspectives that I had never witnessed before. My fellow students were from St. Louis, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, Atlanta, all over Mississippi and international students from all over the world. My thoughts of feeling like an outsider in many regards were silenced quite a bit after being in that environment.
Ultimately after spending most of my free time from school in New Orleans over the course of several years, I landed my first job out of college working at the city’s daily newspaper. Although my time physically living in the city was short lived, my love affair with New Orleans still continues to this very day. Although I would love to move back to New Orleans at some point and be an active part of the rebuilding and revitalization of the city, my heart currently belongs to New York City.
For a lot of people – particularly my naysayers – New York City is a large, mean and intimidating place that’s over crowded, extremely expensive and frustrating to visit and live. It can be all of that. To me, obviously, it’s a lot more. It has an interesting duality to it. It can be one of the hardest places to survive and thrive while being one of the most wonderful cities on earth. It’s a place where you never know who you will run into or what’s going to happen to you on any given day. It’s a place where someone with vision, intellect, talent, passion and drive can go extremely far. It’s a city full of possibilities.
Yes, living in New York has always been a dream of mine. But It has been a dream much deferred. Several hurdles prevented me from moving to the city years ago. I landed a newspaper job in the South instead of an East Coast newspaper job after college. My first real attempt at relocating to the city was put on hold because the September 11 attack occurred eight months before my graduation from graduate school, leaving the city and its economy a complete mess.
But after having what I now refer to as “a series of unfortunate events” over the last two years, I threw caution to the wind and my shit in a bag (well, several bags) to make my dream a reality. No terrorists, no bad economy or no amount of sneaky slimy sons of bitches were going to stand in my way. Not this time. Those obstacles may have slowed me down, but my determination was unstoppable. I might not have had everything lined up as I would have hoped and I definitely could have used more money in my savings account. But I was finally making it happen.
That realization really sunk in for me that weekend. I was just a few weeks away from moving to New York City. The reality of it all was mind blowing. So a calculated distraction was in order. When Chicago called, I didn’t hesitate to answer.
It was well worth the trip. My friends and I feasted on a lovely brunch buffet and unlimited carafes of Mimosas. They congratulated me on my decision to move and praised my motivation to do it on my own terms. And these well wishes were coming from accomplished and talented college professors who have lived and traveled the world. It was a celebration of friendship and the extra motivation that only close friends and family can provide. It was just what I needed that Sunday: to live life and positively look toward to the future.
I found myself welcoming Monday morning with the fire to get down to the business of claiming the life I always knew belonged to me. As I was propeling myself forward, I held tight to this truism in life to keep me focused: Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. Some stink a hell of a lot worse than others. And most often you need to keep it to your damn self.
To be continued…