This post was inspired by YouTuber Emily Diana Ruth’s series, “Letters to July.” You can watch this year’s series, as well as 2013 and 2014, on her channel.
I heard lots of other people were writing to you, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve never been the most reliable pen pal. My desk in Kentucky is filled with false starts of childhood diaries, the initial detailed catalog of my daily life at ages 8, 9, 11, swiftly tapering off (more like swan diving) into one liners, fragments, and then a void of silence. Even as an adult, there have been many periods in my life when I’ve resolved to keep a record of my existence — when I started college, when I studied in Florence, when I moved to Paris, when I first came to New York — and yet my well-intentioned smiles and nods as my parents told me “write it all down” seemed to vanish like coffee grounds swept off a counter: bold, undeniable, and then not there at all. And so I’m left with emails and jotted down notes, iPhone pictures and crumpled up ticket stubs, to remind me of who I was when I lived in that space. In a way, this blog has been the closest I’ve ever gotten to keeping a consistent log of my life, the posts tracking almost a full year of my grappling with the city and home and what those things mean.
And so we come to you, July, when the paths I’ve carefully carved out, the niches I’ve burrowed into and the spots of sidewalk or patches of sky I’ve come to cherish are quivering to escape my grasp. You’ve become a lonely month for me, July. The city clears out for these hot months when in past years I’d be singing French camp songs by the lake or painting my face to play Gandalf or the March Hare, serving up coffee or kabobs and bobbing along to bands by the Ohio River. My friends scatter like dandelion fluff, blown by a summer wind to London or Connecticut or Florida or Seattle or Switzerland. And I keep standing, trapped in the day in, day out. I get up far too late, I drink coffee, I go to work, I come home, and then I lie awake with my thoughts in an empty apartment, one that will soon cease to be mine. See I’m moving, July, and all the books and mugs and candles and cotton balls will have to be packed up, taped into submission, and schlepped to another corner of Brooklyn, address as yet unknown.
I am a nester, a person whose wanderlust runs counterpoint to my need for a space, a cozy den, which is homey and familiar and provides a rock amid the chaos. When I first moved to the city, I spent hours hiding in my apartment, intimidated by the vast clamor outside my doorstep. When I was homesick or frustrated, unhappy and lonely and scared, my room was a space where things were safe. Nothing could hurt me there, or catch me off guard. And even as I grew more confident in my wanderings, venturing beyond my doorstep to find concerts and parks and coffee shops and new friends, I still treasured the moments when I would turn on the lamp, shut the door on the rest of the world, and just be in my space. I’ve lived in this apartment for one year and ten months, which is the longest continuous amount of time I’ve spent in one room since leaving home for college. And so while I can blame the logistics (which are exhausting) or the New York real estate market (which is cruel), I think my anxiety mostly lies in a resistance to letting go of this touchstone, which has grounded me for nearly two years as I figured out how to make my way here.
It’s true I have other touchstones now — new friends, new job, favorite spots in the city. I know where I think makes the best iced lattes and the killer cheese grits. When I want a burger or somebody to analyze the latest episode of Hannibal with me, I know where to turn. And part of me is excited for a new space, a new energy, a new chapter in my New York life. My roommate and I are doing our best to lean into the uncertainty, daydreaming about natural light and consistent hot water and roof access. But I’ve never been someone who handles big change well, despite my best efforts, and so even though we’re over a month away from the big shift I can already feel the panic building when the lights are off and the hush of the air conditioner can’t drown out my thoughts. You’ve always had an otherworldly quality to me, July, a month apart from reality. You’ve been an escape from the routine, the heat tamping down the whir of the everyday into a sort of hazy mirage, to be dealt with come mid-August when we return to our regularly scheduled programing. But this year the limbo has a different flavor. I don’t know what comes after you, July. I don’t know where you’re steering me. And I have trouble surrendering to the flow and just letting the current float me to my next stop.
But I’m trying. And I think that’s what counts. Some days it doesn’t go so well; I feel like I should be doing more, making phone calls or sending emails, drawing myself a map, and my pulse leaps out of control as I try and fail to gather up all the factors in my grasp. In these moments, I try to take a deep breath. I lean on my friends, call my family, try not to obsess. I light candles and drink tea and attempt a normal sleep schedule (such efforts being thus far in vain, but hey, I’m not giving up yet). You’re flying away so fast, July, and before I know it you will be rolling into August, when things will truly get topsy turvy. So I will cherish these moments in the place I’ve made a home. I will get out and remind myself that there is a world beyond my doorstep that contains many corners I’ve made familiar, and many more just waiting to be discovered. I will try to remember that I’ve been here before, staring into a murky void, and things have always sorted themselves out. I’m going to hug my friends and drink prosecco and go with my family to New Hampshire, the place where I always recharge and find peace. And I hope you’ll hold my hand, July, as I figure out my next step.