That summer in new york

I was pacing the rooftop deck of the Williamsburg loft my employer generously rented me for the month.

“I think I might be experiencing anxiety for the first time,” I said into the phone in a small voice.

Turn, pace. Turn, pace.

It was August 2013. Dusk had brought some much-needed movement to the previously muggy afternoon air. I was wearing a baggy white t-shirt, denim cutoffs, and bare feet. My shoulder-length hair hung limp, slightly curled at the ends from the humidity. I’d just turned 24.

“What does it feel like?” Kelsey was on the other end of the line in San Francisco.

“Like I could cry at any moment.”

Turn, pace. Turn, pace.

“It will be okay, Hales.”

We talked for an hour, my gaze shifting between that unfittingly, ridiculously fancy deck and the glowing manhattan skyline. It was so stupidly pretty. Why was I such a mess?

The view from my deck that summer

The view from my deck that summer

I cried to Kelsey. I cried to Austin. I cried to Kelly. But mostly I cried to myself. Or worse, just stared at the air in front of my face and felt nothing but inexplicable despair. The strangest part of all of this was there was no particular reason for my sadness.

I remember emailing my dad:

I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t really make myself feel better about anything because I belittle all my optimism as silly idealism or naive justifications. I am so distrustful of my own logic because every “logical” thought I’ve had in the past I’ve ended up disagreeing with later. 

Cynicism just kind of sucks the hope out of me. It feels hopeless. Even when everything in my life is technically going well.

And it was, embarrassingly enough.

I wish I could launch into the treacherous backstory that got me to that place, pacing that deck, crying on the phone. But I’ve got nothing. Work had sent me to New York to cover for someone who left the company quite suddenly. I was living and eating for free in one of the coolest cities in the world – a place I often dreamed of living. Everything was wonderful. But I was a wreck.

Tonight, almost two years later, the song Island by Yuna came through my earbuds during my commute home and my mind was transported to that muggy rooftop deck in New York and my breath caught in my throat.

I would never claim that an album alone cured my sadness that summer in 2013. Maybe it just came to me on the right day. Maybe it was a catalyst for a thought that lead to another until I was on a path that went towards a light instead of a shadow. Whatever it was, Yuna’s album held my hand like a good friend until I came out of the other side of it.

And tonight when those familiar notes floated through my earbuds the trip flashed through my mind like a little movie.

I remember the pages and pages of journal writing I did to Decorate. The sense of calm that suddenly overcame me as I walked the city streets to Lullabies. The tiny smile that begrudgingly crossed my face as I looked out the subway window to Island. The little dance I did when no one was looking as I walked through the park to Favourite Thing.

A photo I took upstate, towards the end of my trip

A photo I took upstate, towards the end of my trip

The album was my background music to healing that summer. I continued writing every day. I started reading more. I started tracking my feelings and course correcting my defeatist lines of thinking. I researched and discovered news ways of looking at life. I also – as unromantic and unremarkable as this is – got off my particular birth control when I got back to San Francisco. That helped.

But tonight as I listened to Yuna and marveled at my inner movie reel, I couldn’t help but laugh a little bit. I barely remember what I was even worried about that summer in New York. And the parts I do remember are so irrelevant. Not in the oh-that-worked-itself-out-so-my-hindsight-tells-me-it-didn’t-matter kind of way, but in the that-fear-went-unsolved-and-eventually-was-forgotten-and-became-completely-irrelevant kind of way.

It reminded me that not only might my current concerns not get solved, but they might go POOF – into thin air! Irrelevant in a week or six months or a year!

If only I could know what I’ll know next year, I sometimes think to myself. But we don’t get to know. And that’s life isn’t it? You wait and wait and then go OHHH. And there really is no other way. You can read a million times that LIFE IS SHORT and TO ENJOY YOUR [INSERT DECADE] WHILE IT LASTS and to LOVE YOURSELF and to FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS and to NOT WORRY ABOUT WHAT MEAN PEOPLE THINK and you can try so hard to do those things but don’t they fall on deaf ears a little bit? Aren’t they just clichés to you until, very suddenly, they’re not? Until your life experiences stack up, one by one, and provide you with proof?

But really, I think you’re too young to be cynical.

My dad wrote back to me, in response to my panic-stricken email.

Don’t get me wrong, but to me it feels like you need more data points than you could legitimately have collected at this time in life to conclude an outcome which justifies significant cynicism.

And maybe I didn’t fully understand him at the time but he was right. I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. But he knew there wasn’t much he could tell me. The same way my mom couldn’t tell me in 6th grade that the world wasn’t going to end because all the popular kids hated me for telling the principal that Vinny punched my friend Preston. Well, she could try. But it wouldn’t mean anything until I learned it myself. My parents knew it then and they know it now.

There are some things you just have to let life teach you. Truth has a way of proving itself to you regardless of what anyone tells you.

Tonight, as I sat on the bus thinking of that summer in New York, I realized something. The silly thing about worrying about the future is not only do you not know what will come your way, but you don’t know who you’ll be when it does. Your worst fear now may come true, yes, but it also may not be your worst fear by the time it happens.

Time has a way of showing us things we could never teach ourselves. There’s a certain awe-inspiring freedom to it, isn’t there? So much is out of our hands.

It would be okay, that summer in 2013. Kelsey was right.

Me and andy, summer 2013

Me and andy, summer 2013

14 thoughts on “That summer in new york

  1. I must say, this was rather poignant for me… I was getting into bed, feeling that overwhelming and draining sense of sadness and confusion about a topic I won’t bore you with, but has been permanently on my mind for the past month. This post showing up in my email was just what I needed. My problem seems overwhelming at the moment, but being reminded of the fact that this struggle will eventually be resolved or disappear from my radar entirely was exactly what I needed. Thanks. :)

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    • The nicest comment a gal could ask for. I’m sorry you’re feeling sad. Not only will it resolve or disappear, it will become this oddly foreign thing that you associate with a past version of yourself. Until then, maybe write about it? You seem like a writer to me. And listen to Yuna!

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  2. Love this ! Have similarly had my own ‘soundtracks to soundness’. Your blogs always my must read for solid content + fashion – Keep it up !

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  3. Oh Haley, how I needed this…
    thank you thank you thank you
    ”Your worst fear now may come true, yes, but it also may not be your worst fear by the time it happens.”
    i found so much confort in this

    i love people who have struggled and then became type of people they needed in times of struggle
    have a nice day!

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    • You’re a) an angel, and b) assigning me qualities I don’t deserve! My introspection can definitely border on navel-gazey; thank you for making it feel a little less-so. I’m so happy you found some comfort in this.

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  4. As someone who has suffered from anxiety for years, this post really speaks to me. I’ve learned the hard way that yes, bad things happen, but they also pass, and we are all much more resilient than we think. Our ability to adapt and change is our saving grace.

    Great post as always, Haley. :)

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  5. Haley, what you are doing with this blog matters. My little sister is going through her first heart break and I just know she will find comfort in this.

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    • I remember my first heart break with staggering clarity. It’s one of the most amazing experiences we get to go through, as humans. Tell her she’s embarking on one of her biggest growth spurts yet. Hugs in both of your directions. Thanks for the nice words, bringing a tear to a gal’s eye.

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  6. This blogpost hit me like a battery ram (don’t worry, I mean it in the best possible way).
    I am rounding the end of my first year away at college. And I feel like my life has been pretty monotone up until this point. Both my friends and me were very no-drama, almost boring people before this year. So once it hit college, I think I reached my highest highs first semester and then, right now, it feels like I am scraping my knees on my lowest lows.
    But the kicker is that it’s not even me. It’s not me that’s suffering from crippling anxiety and discontent, it’s the people around me that are slipping into some shadows and tangles that I’m afraid to even look too closely at. It feels like my world is crashing around me–like one by one the stability I had in my life is seeping out in clouds of irrationality. And I have all these people whom I deeply care for, struggling…but they are holding on so tight to me, that I don’t think they realize that they might be squeezing my hand a little bit too hard. Their problems are worming their way into creating new and reviving dormant problems for myself. I’m in this tiny, capsulated space of four years that is University and friends and school and emotions. It’s all so present. It feels so inescapable and imminent. On top of that, I’ve had to reevaluate some of the people that can clichéd-ly be labeled “toxic.” So it feels like I am left with nothing, or if anything, a mess.
    And reading this back, I know one day I will marvel at and maybe even thank all these problems that have walked into my life–just as you so beautifully said. I swear it’s like you glimpsed at my life, turned the page, and knew exactly the words I needed to hear. So, I just wanted to say thank you.
    This month I’ve found that music, books about new ways of life, writing (especially writing), photography, and just any form of culture that I can get my hands on have helped so much. These things are reminders of what makes me feel passion and hunger. I never thought of myself as ‘lending’ myself to friends too much, but I realize how rare it became for me to be alone. So I spent more time alone. Got comfortable with it–both with the absence/silence and with myself.
    Anyways, I’m just this work in progress and I think I think too much about everything, especially the future…so I just wanted to let you know how much this post means to me (which apparently I did by way of unloading my life–but I hoped to paint you a picture to show the gravity of my gratitude).
    I found comfort and peace and a grin at the end of your writing.
    Thank you.
    All my love.

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    • Thanks for writing to me. I’m glad my post could help in the smallest of ways. It’s wonderful to be a friend to those with anxiety and depression, but it takes some practice. Some of my best friends and favorite people on the planet suffer from it, and they’ve taught me how to be a good friend when they’re not feeling well. It’s not always something you know how to do inherently as an empathetic person. You didn’t ask for advice from me, but perhaps try asking what they need from you. Give what you can, but also do what you need to do for yourself. Finding that balance seems like it will be your biggest challenge this year.

      College is a crazy roller coaster…this first year won’t be your first low or last high! Bask in it a little bit. Maybe try to let go of the idea that “happiness” is the goal and anything less is a failure. The spectrum is part of life. No one is happy all the time. That’s v boring.

      And FULLY UNSOLICITED (aka talking to my past self): don’t be too fooled by the blip you will probably have in a couple years (around age 20…in my experience) where you think you know everything. It happens to everyone and it’s a really good and nice feeling but don’t let it blind you or make you arrogant. Remember you always have a lot to learn. Shit you feel SO SURE OF will flip on its head, which is fine!

      Also remember that “wherever you go, there you are”…one of my favorite expressions. No matter your circumstances (where you are, what you’re doing, who you are around), you’ll still be you. So cultivate that first, and figure out the other [outside] stuff later.

      Congrats on figuring some shit out. That’s really cool. Sorry I just got preachy. I’m more projecting my past on you. Also this is stuff that’s still relevant to me, we aren’t so different!

      Best of luck. Sending positive thoughts your way. Thanks for reading!

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