A few years ago, I learned how to really cry.
I cried buckets of tears until I was drained. They stopped coming after that; the saddest songs and movies only caused a shrug of my shoulders and the shaking of my head. Nothing seemed to move me quite the same after those months that left me dry.
Then came New York City,
with her tall buildings, her strong coffee, her firm presence and undeniable strength. She made me cry again, she brought me face to face with my drought. And she brought freedom for me when I realized that there are some things still big enough to stir me, to remind me that none of us are immovable.
There now sits a memorial, a museum, and a tower that knocked the wind right out of me. A reminder of New York’s own kind of Titanic. We never thought it could sink and yet the walls fell. On that day, a lot of life sunk beneath piles of debris and rubble.
In all of her stability and power, a strong part of her crumbled on that day.
But there now sits a memorial, a museum, and a tower. They don’t replace what was lost, but whisper, there are still things we can build.
She taught me that. It’s not about replacing, it’s about rebuilding.
Because we won’t ever get back what we lost. It can never be the same again.
They didn’t try to bulldoze it all and pave over the loss, leaving no traces behind. What a betrayal that would have been. They left reminders, and built beautiful things around it.
Sometimes it feels like a betrayal of myself to try and pave over the past. It happened and it changed me. Still, I’ve tried to just replace it all and erase my memory.
But New York grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me hard and said, “Build around it, girl. Build beautiful things around it and let it push you to fight more fiercely for your freedom.”
She gave me permission and I didn’t even know that’s what I needed.
But when I stood next to that tower and watched the people who still fearlessly get on subways, planes, and walk the streets alone, I knew I was being given an invitation: it’s time to remember how to be free again.
New York is still loud, still loves bagels. She doesn’t apologize for her size, for the space she takes up.
She didn’t cut her hair, change her clothes, become someone new. She just kept going, kept being herself, kept her arms open and her streets full. She didn’t have to convince anybody that she would be better off. She just daily grew stronger and proved that freedom comes through rebuilding, in not letting the pain take the best of you.
It won’t be easy.
I’m figuring that out. Through tears and decisions, it’s been me and some of my closest friends sitting knee to knee and saying, “It hurts to look at all the pain, to not deny it, to experience it fully and try to find some sort of peace with it all. “
What does it look like to rebuild? Where do we even start?
For us, we start with prayers, a cup of tea, and laying one brick at a time.
“We’ll get there.” That’s what we tell each other with bloodshot eyes and runny noses. We’ll see the good things, they’re closer every single day.