I am not in love anymore. I am not bewildered by the city, but by my inability to feel what I felt once. I hardly look up as I make way through puddles on streets and sidewalks. I have lost interest. I don’t feel protected or loved or wanted. I am beaten by an imaginary force. I am alone. I have no home of my own. I have become pieces of an indistinguishable territory.
I always wanted something different. Even as a child, my mind was elsewhere. In the happiest moments, I wanted something else because I knew how transitory that moment was. I looked at those around me and tried to understand how they were happy. I didn’t know that they may have been feigning it. I envied adults because in my eyes, they had everything. I envied my teachers because I assumed they liked what they did, and because they appeared confident.
During celebrations, gatherings, I joined in, but with a different mind. I laughed, but also wondered about what would happen when everyone left and the party was over. I wondered how I would go back to my routine. I wondered how the house would be quiet once again.
I am still in search of something that I can’t explain to anyone or even to myself.
The New York of my dreams was something I had created at the age of 13 or 14 when my eyes first fell upon the city. I remember it being an extraordinary image. I was a native of Tehran, so it wasn’t that I had never seen a city. But it was something about it that caught me, seduced me, made me want to grasp it. I pondered about it in day dreams. I began to dislike the comfort of Virginia, the wide roads, the big grocery stores and the many trees and natural parks. I began an obsession fully at the age of 15 when I realized my imagination worked better when we drove to the city for a few days every summer. I began to believe that the only place where I could truly write was the city. I developed a tragic sense of nostalgia for the city and its blissful grandeur, its rambunctious streets. I began to live in the dream of one day obtaining life in the city, a life of my own, a life where I would separate from my mother’s and father’s dream. To me, the two of them had established a comforting life as immigrants. They had given their youngest child the opportunity of a life time: the American dream. They had established themselves as working citizens who paid their bills on time and taxes. I wanted my own dream, now that I no longer struggled with my being a bilingual. I especially wanted it because there was nowhere better than New York. Everyone in my family knew it would be hard to attain and they admired my stubborn, passionate efforts.
In a way, I came to New York without any objections. I came without any terrible hardships. I worked hard as a student, had a dream, knew how to write and it all worked itself out, though it required much patience on my part. At 21, I already had access to my dream. I lived it fully. I worked, went to NYU, worked on my writing, experienced night life, met strangers, met friends, and created a new persona. I struggled, just as anyone else living with student loans and not a lot of cash does. But I did it by choice and the end result was worth it.
I am here still, 22 and living quite the same. Nothing is extraordinary anymore. I am sort of tired, buried in readings, still a year to go with school. New York is utterly beautiful but I feel not much for it. I barely see it even. I spend most of my hours reading, drinking coffee and staring out the window from my warm room. Delightful, the view, but I am unhappy. Many of my close friends and family believe something is wrong with me, that I am being ungrateful and selfish. They no longer know how to comfort me. They are bored with my self-deprecation, my inner misery. I am not happy with myself and I don’t think the city is at fault. I am on a path to an uncertain, but perhaps great future. I am unprepared and my knowledge of the English and American literature seems insufficient to me, for I still feel that 10 years of American living has not been enough.
This kind of writing is trite and dull, but I have to figure out how to be. How do people learn to be? How do they satisfy themselves and appreciate what they are. I am not what I want to be. Is anyone?