After a morning coffee while watching the Atlantic I’m on my bike cruising the boardwalk heading to the library to start my work day when suddenly I’m hit with a wave of longing for another city; today it’s Austin.
I imagine my life there, what it would be like, what I’d do for a job, where I would live, who I would potentially be dating, what we would do and where we would go on those dates.
Passing by an endless row of sand dunes and sea grass, a breeze cool as the foam of the waves slants across my beach town, and above the bass rumble of the surf clamor the shrill voices of the few morning swimmers. The scene is ideal, but somehow my mind is in Austin’s Barton Springs or sailing on Lake Travis with my fictional love just like a few days before it was back in Montreal; that swooning, elegant French city that stole my heart in the same way in which I was enchanted by Paris.
Other days it’s Chicago, especially Wicker Park, or Cincinnati in the Fall in the mountains overlooking the skyline, San Francisco, in one of those steep apartments with a view of the Golden Gate, Boston, Portland, Seattle, Nashville, London, Charleston, the rustic Oregon coastal town of Astoria… In other instances I’m back in Nairobi, Kenya or Accra, Ghana, living my life abundantly by truly finding it in losing it to the service of others like some of my best friends have done. There, I’m roughing it but loving it, where a simple trip to the market is a thrilling and dangerous adventure, where I’ve fallen in love with a Swedish missionary and we have this awesome, epic, Africa life, where we realize our own western poverty in the midst of “third-world” riches.
Sometimes I long for a more stable life that’s more locked down in a city like Philadelphia, Boston, Austin, Chicago, Montreal, Portland, or even New York or Los Angeles. I long for a life that joins all the other working millennials living together in a big city, constantly meeting each other, constantly dating each other…
Despite my home city of Philly being only an hour away and having an apartment there as well and leading an up-and-coming publication within it, the barrier island of Ocean City has become my home base. And although this picturesque beach town has adopted me, taken me in, given me a lofty position within it, there is still moments of isolation where I long for those coffee shop encounters, those late night margarita dates with a new Tinder match, being completely surrounded by ambitious young people in their various fields. Although these instances exist here, they’re not nearly as common or as populated as Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood or the Hawthorne section of Portland, or Seattle’s Capitol Hill or Manhattan’s West Village.
Suddenly the Austin wave turns over and I imagine my life had I stayed in Washington, D.C. after college. Would I be drained and living recklessly and getting in too deep covering politics and corruption? Probably. Would I love it? Probably. Would I have lost part of my soul and character, dignity, integrity and morality to the incredibly fast-paced, cut-throat DC culture? Probably. Would I still have loved it though and maybe be dating someone I cherished who was perfect or horrible for me? Potentially.
Turning off the boardwalk onto the street, I head straight for the library, my library / office / work-space. This is where life has led me and what I have been led to be doing. Years ago if someone told me I was going to be an editor and journalist on the New Jersey coast, have my own publishing company and manage numerous publications I wouldn’t have believed it. I thought about all that I have: my own company that is expanding, my own time and space to manage and direct, a coast rich with history, a beach and an ocean to swim in… and suddenly another wave crashes against the shores of my mind and I’m glad I have all of this instead of living in the hustle and bustle of one of those cities with all of the millennials who are working under someone. The door for me was opened here, where I was guided and directed by forces greater than myself, to a spacious place where I could grow through a lifestyle and career that has given me the time and space to do exactly that; something it seems I could never have in any other place or job. Here I have the time, space and place to unleash my creativity and full potential over a seemingly infinite expanse just like the sea I live beside rather than any sort of condensed limitations.
Despite my longings and my FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) I am blessed to have traveled and to be in a career that allows me to do so and experience all of these cities I’ve had the privilege of experiencing in order to even feel FOMO in the first place. For a second I wonder, what would life be like without FOMO for these other places? And then, my heart breaks for those who only know and have experienced just their own very small corner of the world, having never ventured out to feel the FOMO that I’m so blessed to feel.
Now I’m seated at my usual table at the library, spread out with my computer open, workbooks, papers and binder. An elderly man sits in the chair beside the window reading the latest Wall Street Journal. An elderly woman slowly maneuvers over to him, a Press of Atlantic City tucked under her arm. As she gets closer he reaches his bruised, wrinkled and calloused hand out to touch her wobbly, pale and liver-spotted ones. As she closes in on him, he leans forward and perks his head up, still gazing at an article and she leans down to kiss his forehead.
The latest wave of Capital City longing and “what if” wondering turns over and reminds me that life is fleeting. Those who are blessed enough to find someone who loves them back, who are excited about each other, who are a total, hands down “fuck yes” to doing life with, they’re the rich ones, and not having anything even remotely close to that is the real FOMO. In their case, it really doesn’t matter where they are or what they are doing, what their job is like or the city they happen to be living in. What they have eliminates all FOMO.
From my morning spent looking out over the vast oceanscape, knowing I am in charge of my day and what I get done in it, I realize in the quiet of the library’s second floor a certain clarity and revelation I wouldn’t get anywhere else but right here and right now.