My family moved to Alaska just before I turned 7. Leaving the familiar (and familial) confines of the midwest to start a life in the Last Frontier was no small endeavor for my parents. As a family, we were heading North to build an entirely new life for ourselves. “What an adventure,” we all thought.
We didn’t know anyone in Alaska, nor did either of my parents have jobs lined up. So, naturally, some extended family members thought the move was a crazy idea. “You can’t just up and move to Alaska! What’ll you do with all your furniture?!” Seriously. My parents were embarking on the adventure of a lifetime and their relatives were discouraging them from following their dream because of…furniture?
Many years later, as I prepared to move from Seattle to New York City, people had questions for me, too: “Where will you live?” (I didn’t know.) “Do you know people there?” (I had one childhood friend and one musician acquaintance.) “Do you have a job yet?” (No.) And, yes, I was asked, “What’ll you do with all your stuff?”
I’m happy to say that fears about what to do with my furniture never occurred to me, but I was scared of moving to New York: what if I took the stage at a jam session and everybody laughed? What if I took the wrong subway and wound up in the South Bronx? What if the rats really were as big as cats? What if I moved to New York, nothing ever happened to me, and I died one of those New York deaths where nobody noticed for two weeks until the smell drifted into the hallway?
You know what scared me more than anything else, though? What if my fear kept me from pursuing my lifelong dream of living and singing in New York City?
The scariest thing about making big changes in our lives has nothing to do with the logistics of selling our furniture or finding a job. The scariest part of transformation is saying “Yes!” to uncertainty, fear, and setbacks. Whether we’re moving to a new place, letting go of a toxic relationship, starting a business, or learning a new skill, there are bound to be moments of sheer terror.As we shed the skin of the Self we’ve outgrown, the question “What the hell am I doing?” inevitably arises. And once we’ve shed our old skin, we’re not exactly comfortable, are we? We enter a new phase of being tender and vulnerable in our brand-new surroundings. We become strangers in a strange land.
The good news is this: every time we undergo transformation, be it literally or figuratively, we discover a little bit more of what it means to be human. We become wiser, more expansive, more creative.
As for me? I became a New Yorker.