This is not a "Goodbye to all that" essay, this is a "Hello to everything" essay.
I moved into my crumbling loft building in Williamsburg in the early aughts for three reasons: It was affordable, I loved the barren beauty of the neighborhood, and there was a remarkable view. All day I sat at my desk staring at a computer screen, trying to write something that would make a difference, so what rose beyond that screen needed to be inspiring in some way. And it was special, this view. There was the Williamsburg Bridge, both stoic and solid, yet constantly in motion with traffic, and the city behind it, with the Empire State Building changing its lights every night. Sure, I also had to look at the garbage-strewn rooftops of a few shitty warehouses beneath that, not to mention the burned-out cars on the street below, but look up and out, my friends! Look up and out.
I never dreamed of much beyond the view. It's hard to make a living as a fiction writer, not to mention my first three books didn't sell particularly well. Once, I floated the idea to my accountant that someday I might buy a home, and she laughed at me. No one will ever give you a mortgage, she said. Your finances are too unstable; for God's sake, you're a fiction writer.
So I committed to the life of an artist: I would write my books, tell my stories, work until I was dead. I didn't care much about the money anyway. You can't. You have to make your art because you love it and because it will kill you to stop. Not because you want to buy a house someday. That dream was for someone else.
And so for many years, the two things that defined me were my writing and my apartment. My life was a whirlwind, and I didn't care about finding the center of it. I threw myself into my work and my career and my life in Brooklyn, with Manhattan always outside my window. Frequently I caught myself dazed, staring. That sky was good for maintaining an open mind and visualizing hundreds of pages. I would never own a home, or have savings, job security, or benefits. I always felt as long as I could look out at Manhattan through a wall of windows and was still publishing my work, I was doing something right.
But how long did I think that view would last? A fool would say forever, but New York City is no fool. Five years ago, one apartment building went up in my neighborhood, blocking most of the bridge, then three years ago the warehouses were torn down. One was replaced with an apartment complex for the Hasidic population last year, and then a fancy condo went up this past summer; another is in progress. Chipping away at the view. There was more street traffic, more construction. My neighborhood was barren no longer. Every winter, for four years, I went to New Orleans to write, and each spring, I returned to Brooklyn to find a different chunk of the skyline gone. I have uttered the phrase "I had a good run" approximately a thousand times, never once taking consolation from it.
Somewhere in there, my career turned. The hard work paid off. My accountant no longer scoffed at the idea of my buying a new home. I fell more in love with New Orleans with every visit. It wasn't my shimmering city full of big dreams; it was something calmer, deeper. The slow strolls I took at sunset quieted my soul. What if I just bought a house in New Orleans? What if I just threw everything into that life? It had been so many years since I had considered it as a possibility. Was I there now? Had I become that person?