Memory is a funny apparatus; the things our mind remembers and how nostalgia impacts our emotions. Here's what I remember:
I remember being a small child (maybe 6) and getting on the Austin Blue Line with my mother. It was the first time I had experienced the Chicago skyline, albeit from a distance. I can still remember my excitement in seeing skyscrapers and imagining what city life must have been like.
I remember Tim Burton's Batman movie release in 1989, which would have made me 3. There was something about Gotham that reeled me in and captivated me. Was Gotham an addiction?
In elementary school, our class had to go to Morton West High School to do an outdoor activity. On the track, I got in trouble for not paying attention because I had zoned out into a glimpse of the Sears Tower. Even as a child there was something about city life that had reeled me in and created an obsession.
As a gay man, the city has always represented a safer space for me. It isn't utopia but it represents a site where I feel free to be who I am; free to express myself as I see fit (at least more so than rural America). So living in Chicago only made sense when I finally turned 17. But as my fashion and/or gender becomes more fluid, I soon realized Chicago was still a small big city. I set my sights further, not because New York is without issue but because it is different in a way I can feel but not describe.
My family remembers when I worked for them, telling them stories about how one day I would be living in New York City (whatever it took). When I left the company, they gave me a cardboard box as a going away present.
On my twentieth birthday, I decided to take a day trip to NYC--I purchased a flight and then a return flight 24 hours later. I will never forget my grandma calling to wish me happy birthday. She then put my grandfather on the phone. I remember him asking me, "Why do you like New York?" And I simply said, "I don't know grandpa. There is just something about it. It's New York!" The rest of the conversation was also unusual. A week later my grandfather passed away.
This journey is not just about geography. The opportunity I am about to embark on is one that reconciles all of the nay-sayers I've encountered. I will never forget the overwhelming number of people who approached me during my undergraduate career asking, "Why would you major in that?" as if passion wasn't good enough. "What are you going to do with *that*?"
Today, I embark on a journey that marks my chosen destiny. Today, I finally have an answer for the people who asked me, "What are you going to do with a degree in that?" I am going to live my dream. This is only the beginning.