A Wedding, A Concert, Anxiety

In case you were wondering what an “obstructed view” at Carnegie Hall looks like. 

Last weekend, Tom and I went to California for a wedding. We spent Thursday and Friday with my family and some old friends from home. Elena had just bought a condo and was now going about furnishing it. Charlene was awaiting bar results and looking for a job. Amy was about to graduate from pharmacy school and move in with her boyfriend. Michelle was considering a career change and possibly a move. Enny asked if my mother still taught Chinese (she does); she wanted to learn so she could better communicate with her boyfriend’s family. Atalia was mulling over what English PhD programs to apply to.

“Come to New York,” I said.

My brother was on a business trip in China and I spent time at home with Cathy and the baby and the dog. One day I wrote in my childhood room with the baby on my lap while Tom golfed with my mother. My father, unchanged – or perhaps I just couldn’t see – made smoothies for us every morning.

On Saturday, my college friends Erica and Carson were married in Long Beach, California. I, a bridesmaid, read a poem by Pablo Neruda at the lovely ceremony and saw a handful of familiar faces from my college days. Tom and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves but I felt the whole weekend had been a strange, unsatisfying touch-base. Too-short. I used to talk to these girls all the time. See them every weekend. Take long walks with them around my hometown neighborhood and have them come over just to laze about and eat leftovers while my parents watched TV or worked in the yard. And now they were, whether attached or single, living whole lives that seemed to have nothing to do with me. Perhaps they always were but this time at home the contrasts seemed starker.

I flew home on Sunday feeling disconnected and anxious, wondering if going back to New York would help center me somewhat.

You know that feeling, “It’s not you, it’s me?” Or in this case “It’s not them, it’s me?”

It’s usually true.

Back in New York, Grace called to say she was in town from Miami, touring with the New World Symphony.

“Let’s get lunch tomorrow,” she said, and I had nodded excitedly into the phone. Ah, an old friend in New York. That usually made me feel better. But at lunch I listened as she and her musician friends talked about other musician friends and a world I was not apart of. And too, and later in the evening, when, Tom by my side, I sat high up in the dress circle of Carnegie Hall watching her play principle cello opposite her boyfriend, principle violinist, some scratchy, tension-filled Swiss composition (En rêve by Norbert Moret, if you must know), I felt a strange dread that everything was changing. Later at the bar with the New World Symphony musicians buzzing all around us Grace talked excitedly about the changes that lay ahead for her.

A few concerns here and there mostly concerning impending auditions at orchestras all around the country and where she would end up and with whom she would live…oh and the giant question mark of her career path as a musician. But she nodded confidently, “Everything will work out as it should.” From someone with even more uncertainty ahead than I.

I recognized the seed of my anxiety. For once my life circumstances were changing in stride with those of my friends. For once I do not feel that I’m falling behind. I am nearly done with grad school. I am looking for a job. Tom and I are moving in together. All exciting things I look forward to. But last week the magnitude of these changes hadn’t yet hit me. The plane back to California was both a flashback and flash-forward – the same scenes with the same people – but now we, some holding hands with lovers, others by ourselves, were about to step on very different paths.

It might not make sense but the paradox of a bright but murky future makes me look to my family and friends, wanting to cry out, “Don’t change! Not so much! Not yet!” To say, “Let me make my changes first so that if for whatever reason I can’t or won’t, I have my old life to fall back on.” But that’s not how it works. We’re all moving ahead at the same speed and I have nothing else to do except let my anxiety work itself up and down and hopefully, out.

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