New York City Holding Pattern


Spending formative adult years living in New York City will, at times, make you feel as if you are in a perpetual holding pattern. Sitting on the tarmac — knowing that if you could just take off you could get to your exciting destination. But the city is keeping you confined, to seat 12D — with your knees up against the seat in front of you — sitting next to a million quiet strangers — all anxiously hoping to get somewhere. Anywhere but here. Your destination: the future.

You know that you will get off the ground, the plane has to take off eventually, right? But maybe, you think — maybe I should get off the tarmac and onto another plane. Should I choose a different destination or choose a different airline to sit on the tarmac with? Is this plane going to take me where I want to go? Can anyone here help me get off this plane? You anxiously watch as other plans get the signal to take off and even watch some planes land in your holding pattern. Yet, here you are, stuck, with the seat belt fastened sign on, peering out the window — locked in your mental hell. How do I get off the ground? Why do I feel so stuck?

This holding pattern will make you crazy. You’ll feel unsure about every decision you make. You’ll feel suffocated by the present and paralyzed by your future. You will be afraid of starting a new job or falling in love with a great person. You will wonder if there is even a way to get out of this pattern. You will wonder if you are the only one feeling stuck or if people are faking liking the incessant pull and energy of this city. Doesn’t anyone else want to live in a city where you smile at passersby or ask the barista how their day is going–and actually care about their response? Doesn’t anyone want to connect with something other than their headphones and smartphones? Am I the only one who wants to get out of this vortex? You are paralyzed by New York.

Your lease is up and even though you aren’t sure how long you’ll be on the tarmac– you sign for another year. Fuck. Now you feel stuck. For a whole more year. Can you find a new job in a new city at the same time your lease is up next year? You may try but find no opportunity strong enough to pull you out of this holding pattern, nothing to get you out of your lease. Or, you find a great new job in a new city and you get scared. Scared that you won’t know how to exist without your wings clipped. Scared that you only know what it is like to live without ever flying. Will I fail?

You go on a million hopeless dates. Date after date, person after person. You give them a piece of you. You take a risk hoping, this one is different. Your soul dies a little with every failed meeting, every misunderstood need. You resign yourself to the idea that you won’t find someone here in this city. If you could only make it out of this holding pattern you’d find them. Yet, leaving this city means starting all over. And you’ve been here 3 years now–you’ve established yourself. Would leaving and starting over again only prolong this holding pattern? Is this pattern unique to New York or just your 20’s?

So you stay, on the tarmac, in the same seat. Seat 12D. Hoping and praying that the plane takes off. That it is a smooth flight. That you fall in love with the person in 12C. That you land in your destination. Happier. Sunnier. Away from New York. But for now, you wait. Waiting for the signal–you can take off now.