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August First

Nick and Sam and the UPS Man
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Hudson River Parkway, NYC 2023

I didn’t have set plans for the day. I didn't have set plans for any of the rest of that sweatily stuck-together month other than cleaning out my apartment. That morning, I wished to sleep more, to start my morning over so that maybe, when I woke up this time around, I wouldn’t feel as defeated by the narrowing-in responsibilities that come with the closing of summertime as a graduate student. But my mind wouldn’t let me rest more. Stimulated by anxiety, I’ve never been able to shut down during chaos. I needed to do something to keep off my phone so I promised myself I’d at least go for a bike ride in the afternoon.

I had just returned to New York after more than a month away. People say after they’ve been gone a while and come back home it feels like they never left, but I didn’t feel that way. I felt like I had been gone a whole year or was moving for the first time all over again. The other thing about returning home after being away is that the fridge is empty. Despite my mental haze compounded by thick heat and jet lag, I wasn’t to the point of not eating breakfast. 

So when my stomach beats out the needs of my brain, I put on my slides, the ones reserved for inside the apartment and occasions when I believe the five-second-rule applies to walking to my nearest deli and back, and head out. Each flight descent I am awarded a solid five-degree decrease in temperature that culminates in our tiny lobby, home to the only air conditioning in the building. Outside, it is actually cooler than inside, but when I get back I’ll continue to convince myself that this is impossible. 

Within the sheer span of weeks, a few of the stores on the streets around me already changed, causing further distress. I walked into my deli laughing, aware that being able to notice these changes is ironic affirmation I am at home here. Even still, the knowledge of this satire doesn’t console me. Amused, surely, but not comforted; I’m reminded yet again I am not as adaptable as I’ve always assured myself. I grabbed a carton of eggs, seven dollars worth of soy milk, a questionable avocado, a plain hero roll, and say “no, thanks” to the bag the deli guy offers me, which I’ll regret shortly as I fumble my items trying to open the three sets of doors to get back into my apartment, smashing open the avocado. 

Upstairs again, the impending need to move apartments loomed over me, easily consuming the small energy reserved in this heat wave. My brain felt like the choppy scrambled eggs in my pan. They tried to be over easy at first, but broke unsalvageably during the flip. Continuing to break up the yolky mess and pretend I wanted my eggs scrambled in the first place was the only option other than throwing them away and starting over completely. 

It’s uncertain whether I would have actually been able to get out again that day if Sam and Nick hadn't called me asking if I could come sit in their rented U-Haul truck guarding the remaining contents while they carried loads of bed frames, lamps, tables, and guitars into their newly leased apartment. Trying without success to go for a ride all morning, suddenly, without hesitation, I was on my way to Brooklyn. How easily I sprung into action when the call to do something came from someone other than myself. In my defense, they promised me lunch.

The humidity broke into rain, but I was determined to ride there. My ego calculated that by biking I’d maintain some semblance of agency in my day –– taking the train would be too obvious a sign to the boys that I had absolutely nothing better to do. I ran into a closed sushi restaurant pleading for a bag to cover my soaked-through seat. As I came out totting my new plastic “have a nice day” cover, a UPS worker told me I was out of a movie. It must have looked like I was seeing daylight for the first time, energetically saved from the pitfalls of my paradoxical isolating socially-motivated dependence. The consistent unveiling of how light my heaviness actually was washed over me. Laughing again, I got back on my bike, making my way over the steady incline of the Williamsburg Bridge with a sense of purpose much more profound than worthy for the task of sitting in a metal container for a few hours.

For some reason, I thought moving apartments in New York wouldn’t be as harsh the second time around, but I was wrong. Emotionally, it was worse. After the completion of a full year lease in a new city, moving served as a challenging reflection of where I was, what I left behind, and the forcible questioning of where I want to go. Even in acknowledgment of all the good that came about within the year, these meditations exacerbated my feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction. Empty spaces equated to long distance relationships no longer physically present and finding purpose substantive enough to outshine my present unhappiness challenged my self worth. Overcoming this is where the growth I was seeking lives, but I wasn’t able to access this type of thinking yet. I was just thinking about not getting hit on Broadway, the new Beyoncé album, and the fact that, eventually, I'd have to bike back to Manhattan. But for the moment, I felt good. I had a destination.


The boys greeted me, more than slightly damp themselves, and I sat amongst their possessions journaling and watching them haul their large stuff up a very narrow staircase. I couldn't help but think about the likelihood that they'd do this dance again in a year's time for another catch 22 of compromises. I wondered if I’d be around for it.

As menial as this favor was, in my depression, it was meaningful to have a responsibility outside of my own needs. The internally motivated nature of working solely for my own accomplishments might have been the most challenging mental aspect of being a graduate student. No matter how socially conscious my work committed to being, the task at hand was to prepare myself alone, bolster my own capacity, so eventually, I can apply what I learned to my still coming-into-focus goals for the future. Finding value and seeing consistent progress in this nebula of ideation required more self-certainty than I had that year, something I didn’t know when I applied for a masters degree directly after undergraduate schooling. 

When Nick and Sam finished their physical labor, I came along to return the U-Haul. Seated between them on the floor of the two-seater truck, we drove through the already tight streets of Bushwick where far too many people were trying to do the same thing in the same oversized moving vans. We were exhausted. For the same and different reasons. But we laughed a lot and spent the drive trying out our best operatic voices over the classical music blasting through the radio. 

​I knew Nick and Sam before moving to New York, attending the same midwest university. We weren’t close there, existing in adjacent, infrequently cross-pollinating friend groups. But now, here, we are learning to care for each other, bonding slowly through our shared experience of moving to a new city from our old one at the same time. Sometimes, being around them made my efforts toward personal growth harder, ​a reminder of the comfort of the past with simultaneous awareness it would never be the same. I didn’t have the strength yet to accept this reality and release my nostalgia.


We sat for lunch together more quietly than we were in the car. They bought me tortilla soup and a yellow gatorade. I lugged my bike onto the train and went back home to Manhattan. 


I’d never go back to their apartment again. Our friendships changed as we found our footings in the city the second go around. But, I’ll always be grateful for experiencing this alongside them. Grateful to have been a part of that rainy move on August 1st. Ingrained into the memory of the day and what it signified about our moment in time together. 

As for my own apartment, I made an unexpected move later that summer with the help of five friends who I still owe some beers. I landed in my greatest fear, going closer to my university, and by proxy, further from my friends. But of course, as life has it, when I gave up trying for what I thought I wanted, my life opened up. There, I was able to stop grieving over what I was missing and be present in where I was, who I was, and what I was doing there. This wasn’t because I distanced myself from older friendships, but because I finally found enough security to understand that the depths of my relationships weren't going anywhere just because I wasn't around in the same way. My studies improved as well, a direct effect of my self-esteem surely, although I still hold my reservations about attending graduate school at this age.


Looking back, I am not sure if dependence deserves the negative connotation we often ascribe to it. But, I know I misunderstood what it meant to become independent. 

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