we could never leave this city
“Thirty is really the year you become a person,” someone told me earlier this week. “Until then, you’re only really partly formed.”
This is also the year when people stop threatening to leave the city and start doing it. Last night we gathered at the largest-yet of the going away parties, hosted by the kind of people we have all always taken for granted as being a part of this city’s fabric and also as the kind of people who do more with our lives than we do. It seemed less sad to say goodbye than it should have been, and we presumed that it was because we could not as yet picture what their absence would look like.
I stood with a cluster of my friends on a Brooklyn rooftop, sufficiently drunk as we considered the summer that’s already ending before us. Mid-August is the point at which you throw your arms in the air and have a temper tantrum because of all the things you have not yet done. There is never enough of summer. One of my friends declined to even speak about what, exactly, had been so wrong with his summer; he only shook his head at the sad state of affairs he felt himself in. At first, I commiserated; it was only a few weeks ago that I declared to Rebecca that “this summer requires a re-do.”
And yet: what are the things that summers are comprised of? Light beers, beachy afternoons, ice cream cones, afternoon hikes, sunscreen, rooftops, backyards, porches, day trips: all of these things have been mine to enjoy. I ruminated on this aloud, because there is no other way to ruminate when you’re drinking a Bud Tall Boy: “I guess my summer has actually been pretty good; it just wasn’t long enough.” My friend just looked sadder.
That is the thing about New York that is crippling in a way we often fail to identify. There have been any number of recent studies that blame social media for making us less happy; on Facebook and Twitter, the lives of others seem so much better in comparison. New York in itself is more guilty than either of these mediums: in a city with so much to do, we feel bad about ourselves if we aren’t doing all of it at once, and whenever we see our friends, it seems that they have figured out how to move along in the world while we remain hopelessly stuck. And then summer ends and we wonder what happened to all of the tacos we meant to eat.
There is another problem at the heart of the first one: the idea that it is difficult to make friends as an adult. I would wager that if you asked people what really keeps them from doing things – and by “things” I mean everything from seeing an art exhibit to launching your own – is the lack of someone to do it with. As Rebecca recently pointed out with her characteristic eloquence, it is really very hard to make adult friends. At a certain age – is thirty the magic age for this too? – people in couples tend to lean on each other as sole partners in activity crime, which is wonderful but more insular than we care to admit.
We want friends, and we want to have adventures. These may well be the only things that matter.
I had somehow forgotten all of this until I met someone recently that I wanted to know. As adults, we have such weird sets of interests and such solid habits and patterns of thinking that it seems almost as impossible to make a real friend as it does to fall in love. Falling in love, in fact, might be easier; at least there is a map to consult for what the beginnings of a romantic relationship look like. What is the beginning of a friendship? What does the crucial “next step” between a conversation at a party or in the office and having someone become part of that small pack of people you invite to outings and invent dinners for and send ridiculous text messages to?
Without a clear answer, it becomes easy to lose people, and that seems dangerous and sad. Without these people, we might never figure out how to get to that art show or make our own art or take tennis lessons or eat however many tacos at Rockaway Beach it takes to consider a summer a success.
I have never been more certain of the truth in anything than the following: There is only one thing anyone really needs to be happy, and that is to be adventurous. I am also fairly sure that most of us don’t want to admit that, and we want even less to admit that those adventures often necessitate other people, and sometimes those people need to be new. We can’t afford to let the ones we want to know just pass us by.
I get very worked up about the possibility of not having enough adventure; I think we all do. As we slide into the end of August, summer undeniably begins to feel like failure and we are even forced to admit that the bulk of the entire year has passed us. There is no other way to put this than to say, simply: this is terrible. We are left to wonder if we’ll ever see the person who could have been our best friend again, or if they’ll friend us on Facebook and if that even means anything, or if we’d feel better about our summers if we’d just gone to the beach one more time.
I have been getting a lot of flack for waking up early and for drinking the green juices and for trying, albeit barely, to make sure I’m as healthy as humanly possible. All I can say is that I feel like I’m preparing for something, and that I grow increasingly worried that we’re going to wake up one day on the couch and find out that everyone else has left the city.