I’ve decided the let go of New York. My time in the City that helped me grow as a person, a woman and a writer, has now come to a close. I’ve not let go of her yet, and even when I eventually physically leave the city, I will never leave her. She’s been my companion through truly hard times, and through beautifully joyous ones. The stories of the past nine years are coming back to me as I gather them, life morsels, savoured through every memory created in this vast metropolis.
The stories I will continue to tell, are built upon this city of metal, false hope, real struggle and immense courage. She continues to evolve, as I have. The observer and the observed once again merged. Now more strongly than ever before; I look at her slowly disappearing from my rear view mirror as I move decidedly and quietly to the next leg of this writing journey.
She will always be with me, I’ll take her wherever I go In the only way I can, through my writing, my poetry, my spoken word and my commitment. I’m devoted to her in ways I never thought possible and although leaving her may be a foolish errand, New York will push me no matter how tired I am, to build something worthwhile, and something that’s truly mine.
Leaving is never easy. She may not forgive me. I hope she will. My love for her is eternal. She knows me like few cities do. She’s seen me break down in tears in public like all New Yorkers have because let’s be honest it’s a right of passage. You cry yucky tears on the train home from work next to a complete stranger and no one will bother you; Not because they don’t care, but because crying in the subway at 6:00pm on a Tuesday beckons you to the reality that is this city. She’s a bitch but she cares.
I’ll cary her, as she carried me though these tough, enigmatic, wonderfully tragic years of transformation. I will return to her doorstep from time to time, for coffee, a bagel some good conversations and a slap in the face to remind me to stay true to my convictions.
Sometimes the things we planned for are the same things we had no plans for.
March 22, 2020
This past march marked my 3rd annual 27 day writing challenge. The month of March marks a personal turning point, a shift, a place of transition from what was before to what is after, a very introspective, somewhat lonely winter season. March has also become a reminder of a dark time, an anniversary that we never thought we would be reflecting on. Last March, we entered into a contract we thought we would quickly come out of. The authorities said three weeks tops; then a lockdown, a pause in New York, that brought the city to a halt. I spent my 42nd birthday quarantined with my flatmate in Brooklyn. 14 days into a global shut down New York was the most quiet it had EVER been. It was post apocalyptic how silence and New York just don’t mix. My world became the 4 block radius around my apartment. My anual 27 day writing and post challenge was for lack of a better word, challenged. My love of writing however never wavered, I made countless notes, wrote small poems, and elaborated on thoughts. Ideas cropped up in my writing journals, my pen however had better days. I am feeling the urge to share my viewpoint a year on, as I’m entering into my 43rd circle around the sun.
In those early days of the lockdown like pretty much everyone around me, I felt panic and fear that for the first time there was no plausible way out of. There was no explaining or theorizing a way out of it. Patience, writing, meditation, more patience, rinse and repeat. I’ve since blurred the memories from the seismic shifts, big or small and now post aftershocks upon aftershocks, there are times when I’m still in shock. I blink my eyes everyday in gratitude to be alive. March of 2021 seems like a decade and a split second has gone by. The collective and personal thunderstorms that uprooted our lives, have somewhat passed and now we collect what is dear to us and reconnect in ways that we may have never explored before this past year.
This year the challenge continues, beyond the constraints of the 27 days of March. Writing, commentary, poems, thoughts, and discussions are refreshed in a way that goes beyond the limits and constraints of a formula. The bar has risen, the lines have been blurred, and the content will explore the ever changing and shifting world that reveals itself to each and every one of us. I choose to write because it’s a way of making something unique out of something mundane. I choose to share because we’re not alone.
Thanks to all who’ve supported, read, commented so far.
What have we learned, what have we yet to learn and what fundamental changes have taken place a year into a global Pandemic?
The second week of March, marks what has become a transforming, revealing and overwhelming year. March 13th will remain the day life completely and irreversibly changed. It’s 22.24 on a quiet Saturday night and despite all we have gone through; I feel the trials of this year were not in vein. I almost can’t bring myself to reminisce of what was before. There is only what has become, and will come after. We are all forever transformed.
A necessary awakening has taken place. It started with uncertainty, panic, fear of the outside world, anger, more panic and then a slow realization, that this tragic year gave us a once in a lifetime opportunity to stop, listen, understand, create, let go of, build on, comprehend, and quantify our lives in ways never before available to us. We paused. We had to. I lost my shit once, badly. After talking to a dear friend in Athens, which was going through its first severe lockdown, I sat on the corner of my street on the edge of the curb and felt my chest collapsing. I came to the realization that if I’m going to be strong for others, I had to be strong for myself.
I threw all my creativity into cooking nourishing food, and yes I made a lot of bread. I spent the better part of March wondering how I could see my family without putting them at risk. I spent my birthday self isolating with my flatmate and a bottle of wine. We were catapulted into a growing social justice movement that up until march was not in the collective consciousness of every single person with a phone and an internet connection, and then… Breonna Taylor, then George Floyd. The voices of those who were and still are marginalized, went from a whisper to a deafening roar. The world didn’t have a choice any more but to shut up and listen.
Traveling to Greece was not an option, It felt like luxury to even try, and staying put turned out to be the wisest and safest solution. I managed to create a little kingdom out of a small sunlit bedroom. Brooklyn became my universe. Daily meditation, chanting, yoga, stretching, long walks, daily check in with my parents and my beloved friends, forced silence, and time for reflection.
There were countless blessings. A safe home, a beautiful multicultural and multi ethnic proud Brooklyn community, a park I could have taken for granted became my entire world. My solace, my microcosm, my place of laughter and joy, my space became the everyday walk to Prospect Park. Writing didn’t come easy. Images were imprinted for later. Mental and emotional balance was a daily effort, purpose, goal. Meditation became my rock. The Pandemic was a stopping point for certain patterns that no longer served a positive purpose, giving space to a starting point for self realization, motivation and fervent self care. Making a cup of coffee became a practice, a ritual, a starting point.
Movement, breathing, meditation and even chanting has become the cornerstone of my balance and sanity; it is now an integral part of who I am and how I navigate the world. The biggest blessing of this tumultuous year, was the beginning of my online teaching, sharing, breathing with friends, strangers, old friends, and new ones. On the morning of March 14th, I turned on my live feed and started sharing my yoga and movement practice, with no expectation or thought of how long it would go. Self care, mental health care, community care, global care became integral to this new world order.
I am grateful for my health and the health of those I love. I’m grateful for the community that so effortlessly built itself around those that needed it the most. I am grateful to this pandemic for forcing me to take the reigns of my own life. All our lives moving forward were not going to be the same. Nor should they be. If we have learned nothing else, it is to take absolutely nothing for granted.
On the eve of March 14th 2021, this was one for the books, let’s make it count this time round.
Once a year, we are celebrated. Happy International Women’s Day! Inspiring quotes are brought up. Women of color are being recognized we say. (Even though this Pandemic has shown that those who have been left behind and disproportionately so are those same women of color). Donate to women lead organizations we say. Then we get back to our respective places, playing the game we’ve been taught to play for so long we forgot what the rules were in the first place. Being a human being requires equanimity. We have been at this game for far too long and we seem to lose more ground each year that passes. Each year we profess to want to see the world truly change.
I would honestly be ok with a one to one ratio. I don’t want to have more than men or to be valued more than them. I don’t believe my work is more valuable. I believe it is just as valuable. I’m not sure I want equal to men either. Equality still means we have to work harder, speak louder and say more just to be half as understood.
I want to be received as a hard working professional, a woman with integrity who isn’t pandered to, patronized and dismissed because and only because I seemingly need help. I don’t need help, I want people to listen. I want my non paid labor to be accepted, acknowledged and recognized as work. I want my successes to be of my own merit, and my failures not to be the failure of all women. I want to collaborate to elevate, not to compete in order to prove that for some reason we are not on the same team.
Raising human beings is work, taking care of your elders is work, Cooking for a family of 3,4,5 is work, cleaning a household is labor which is almost too often shouldered by and only by women. Let’s be honest here. We’ve worked so hard to prove we can seemingly do it all, because we had to, because we played a game we didn’t have a part in designing; and in the end we’ve neglected the premise of having the necessary support to do it WELL.
The structure of how society chooses to accept women is so contradictory it’s driving us further apart than bringing us closer together. Just look at the supportive comments on any social media feed that features a woman in a position of power. I don’t want the obligatory child I’m supposed to have, be the exact same thing that keeps me away from the job I need, the career I want and life I deserve. I don’t want the only project worthy of recognition to be my marriage and breeding credentials. I don’t want to be seen as a vehicle for humanity’s salvation or it’s hard on. I don’t want to be agreeable, timid, quiet, I don’t want to be undermined in public and in private as being difficult because I don’t agree with the status quo. I don’t want communicating better with men to achieve a better outcome to be perceived as selling out. That’s not equality, that is not celebration.
We have learned to define ourselves in reaction to, in connection to, and in a space created by men. When we do get over it, and create our own spaces they are not treated as equal to those we’ve reluctantly had to occupy because of lack of choice. Even spaces created for and by women are in connection, subsequent to, or in response to the status quo. That is not progress, that is not women being celebrated, that is being forced to see ourselves only through the lens and opinions of the other.
How can we celebrate? What aspects of our achievements, our success, our experience, femininity, aging, sexuality can be discussed freely and openly that don’t highlight our struggle to be recognized? What belief systems do we recreate, replicate and blindly repeat, and which ones do we do away with in order to fortify, and be who we always knew we were. Ourselves.
We are shaped by the women before us, we owe deep gratitude to those who invested in us, helped us think for ourselves, while paving the road for progress and change. The road is not smooth. Breaking down the structures of the pastis an ongoing, often perilous battle. We are also shaped by the ones who will come after us, as we commit to live by example and be the change we seek. It’s not easy, it’s not a catch phrase, it’s not a meme. We don’t just need one day. We need it every damn day.
How to acknowledge a milestone such as a year in the Life of a Global Pandemic
For the third year running in March; I launch a 27 day posting challenge to celebrate among many milestones, the coming of spring, my birthday, birthdays of very dear and close friends, and above all, my celebration of writing. These are and have been peculiar times. For 12 months now, we have been served something in between a subpena a blessing and a curse.
For (more than) a year the tight grip of our reconnings, came hand in hand with cripling uncertainty and fear. Our circles got tighter and tighter, and the strangeness of this new reality aproached like a title wave. I felt stuck. Unatached like many of us. Not knowing where exactly to run to and how to stand still.
We all stood still.
There was no way of getting out of this without some serious damage. We went from what seemed to be everyday life, to life interrupted and then back to attempts to “a new normal” (I personally hated that phrase). The mojo all of sudden vanished. I like many of us I went on a collective overdrive. There was so much to be said, and a lot of not knowing where to begin. All my desire to write about anything seemed futile in the grand scheme of things. Words take their time, they listen they form into our minds like sand inside an oyster. This anniversary is a painful reminder that we sometimes have to stop, and take a good look at ourselves. In retrospect, I’m actually glad I took a (forced) step back.
Some things are worth the wait.
Some dishes take longer to prepare.
Some words appear when we need them to.
Sometimes tragedy is the birth of change.
What I’ve come to realize is that writing, reading, and moving have always been part of how I see the world. Despite the hikkups the delays, the injuries, the life interruptions, writing and moving make life normal. The muscles have been dormant. In this prolonged winter, many of my passions felt secondary. I would start on a thought, an idea and just stop. Personal and family matters came first. Survival, mental claridy, mental focus, just the facts ma’am. We have all been trying to keep our collective shit together. We have failed (badly) at times. We have broken, cracked, and obliterated the old paradigms, We have a lot more work to do.
This one year anniversary feels like the collective red pill. We don’t know how deep this rabbit hole will go. We have seen the Matrix we have been given a chance to be free of it. This is our last chance. The anniversary of this year is our chance to recon with our role in the choices we make, the words we use and the lives we truly wish to lead. The reality is not pretty. What this year above all others has shown is that a perfect storm is needed to unvail the truth about who we want bo be.
We turned to things outside of ourselves. We cooked, we made bread, we coped. We zoomed everybody and their mother, literally. We were (are) scared, frustrated, tired, worried, fearful, angry, bored, fed up, high, low, indiferent and we kept going.
We keep going. I kept going . With the help of many many others who were in my corner, just as much (if more ) as I was in theirs.
What this anniversary has made me come to terms with is that when shit hits the fan, humanity is at the mercy of a virus. The virus mutates, we keep fighting it and then it comes back stronger. We have had for some a rude awakening, to others what has always been there in plain site. This has been a hell of a year. One that has forever changed us, we are all affected by this anniversary. One which will be a hard one for many of us to grapple with for many more years to come.
This year on my March daily post challenge, I hope to take you on a different journey. One that finds the strands of humanity that connects us more than divides us. I hope to bring you into a world that isn’t so unfamiliar and distant as we all would like to believe. I invite you to join me.
On November 27th 2012, after two grueling years into the Greek financial crisis that showed no end in sight, I made the decision many of my closest friends made and left Athens, for the second time. This time I was part of a new diaspora; the latest chapter of Greeks leaving for something better, but under very different circumstances than the immigrants before us. This exodus was full of already talented, often highly educated people leaving a collapsing economy after what seemed like a lifetime of stability and security that was literally torn from under our feet. There was no external war to escape or massive poverty to quell, yet ultimately Athens was being systematically broken. Her spirit was broken and so was mine, or so I thought. Life in the early 2000’s was really good in Athens and I loved living there. In her heyday during the height of the 2004 Olympic Games, Athens was a really cool place to be. This gamble with our lives and our money, ultimately put a massive financial burden on my generation. The early noughts were some of the best years of my life, until December 2008.
In order to truly know a place, you have to live it
The tsunami of the financial/housing crisis having left the shores of America, came crashing down on Athens in early 2010 and what was America’s problem quickly became ours. People were losing livelihoods, markets were crashing, banks were foreclosing and people were in massive debt. What I had built over 13 years; my home, my career & my relatively comfortable life, was coming to a slow and painful stop. I came to the realization that If I didn’t leave, I would become stuck, and the one place I knew would get me unstuck, was New York. I recall now confiding in an old friend about the feeling of urgency I felt to leave. Being a lover of all things that grow, The roots that once were our anchor to our motherland, now rotting in a place that was being suffocated by bad financial management, crooked politicians, xenophobia, racism and massive uncertainty. Packed along with my books and clothing were many doubts, fears and anger. I wasn’t ready for her then. New York knew more about me than I knew about myself. She kicked my ass and slapped me around, she exposed me, and left me there to fend for myself, and for that I am now grateful to her. It was the beginning of a very arduous and difficult journey. I still had a lot to learn about myself as a person, a woman, a Greek, an American and ultimately a citizen of the world. In New York my project- Aμerikana was born. She came through for me just like The city did.
In the months and years that came and went, I made it my mission to understand this city and it’s rhythms in ways I couldn’t have done at a distance. In order to truly know a place, you have to live it, and the first place that grabbed my heart was the Lower East Side and all the surrounds it. I’m a nostalgia junky. New stuff doesn’t do it for me. I prefer and look for the old over new any day. For me the Lower part of Manhattan is that fix of nostalgia that has kept me here all these years. I love walking through history soaked neighborhoods finding people who’ve lived there all their lives; generations of New Yorkers showing me their city. I longed to speak to those who’ve seen the trends come and go, and still remain true to the streets, the parks, and the blocks that raised them. I love hearing stories of shops now long closed, art scenes now only spoken of as legends of a glorious punk rock past, and smelling the history in the buildings that still stand in the streets that have vanished over time. New York is unique in her demand of loyalty and devotion by it’s residents. She’s not easy to love, but when you do she loves you back in secret ways no tourist or visitor could ever fathom. This year, although one of the hardest and most daunting emotionally and mentally, I’m celebrating my 8th winter, and the start of the 9th year in New York.
Don’t misinterpret my love for naïveté. My relationship with this city has been far from smooth.
She is relentless, resourceful and demanding. She’s a broad, a hustler and a 5 dollar hooker, all in one. She’s a sophisticated woman who can hail a cab with a trucker’s whistle, she’s a skank and a princess at the same time. She’s a handful and she’s not easy to be with, but deep down she’s all heart and all art. I found myself, here. I found out about what I’m really made of here. I found my deepest sorrows and greatest joys here. I found my love for Greece, and Athens grew here. New York is erratic and resourceful. She’s a hustler and in order to truly “make it” here you have to be as well. It’s not romantic. She’s dirty and ugly and will tell you the fucking truth to your face. Here I found my greatest teachers and most influential mentors. There have been many moments I regretted my decision to come here, I though it was a mistake, I thought I was a fool to let go of all that was easy and familiar to come to a place where, nothing of what I had accomplished in Athens meant anything. Yet here I was and quitting wasn’t an option.
The old me peeled away to reveal someone stronger, more aware, more connected and braver than before. An old astrologer friend said something about coming here to go “back to first grade” and learn the lessons about myself, and life I had not absorbed the first go around. The teachers were many, the lessons I was forced to learn at times stifling. The mounting anger and frustration at not understanding what I needed to learn, left me with a chocking feeling. I would have to fight harder for that gulp of air to keep going. There she was, New York, my biggest teacher of all, she knew I would get it eventually.
After what felt like a lifetime, It became clear just like the light shining through the clouds. It all became clear. We are here to understand each other by making a better effort at understanding ourselves. The more I learned about myself the more I was able to understand the “otherness” about me.
Cheers NYC you tough broad. You will survive this as you have survived before. I hope those that truly love you will lift you up like you have them