Growing Up

city flower

When you live in New York City, there are moments when you find yourself at odds with her. When my husband, James, and I moved here a year ago, I was fresh out of graduate school and just starting a new job. James was on the job-hunt and together we moved into a tiny apartment on a six-month lease just to see if we could hack it. I'll admit that this first year has sometimes seemed like a test of wills. The wills in question being our own, and the apparent will of the city herself. I don't mean to exaggerate our struggles. We've been triumphant, almost entirely. We've survived moments of legitimate worry like car accidents and thefts and desperately low bank accounts. Those moments serve best as a way to put into perspective our complaints about laundromats and malfunctioning subway cards. Despite all odds, this month, we even managed to get married.

There's little about this past year that's been truly unique. The particulars, of course, but not the thrust of the story. Since moving together last June, we've been regaled with stories of a once-upon-a-time nature from other once-young couples who shared bathrooms with neighbors and subsisted on ramen and ketchup packets and fiddling in the subway. The stories usually finish with a sigh and a "You're only young once." But while on one hand these stories offer a sense of community and the relief that someone else has also survived a difficult moment, there is a risk, I think, in believing that this kind of struggle exists only for young people.

I spent Sunday with my 90 year-old cousin, Mildred, who has lived in the same New York City apartment for 60 years. She is the picture of grace and good humor, and like us, she battles a willful city. I've decided that it's still more hopeful to realize that struggle exists at all stages of our lives and that young or not we have the capacity to overcome it. In difficult moments, I've found, a few stems of fresh flowers make a world of difference. And it doesn't matter one bit if you're 28 or 90. Mildred agrees.