Sunday, June 15, 2008

On a New Shore

This past Friday I finally accomplished on of my life dreams by walking the length of Manhattan down Broadway Avenue. This seventeen mile walk down a former Native American trail that became a colonial toll road before being incorporated into the 1811 New York City grid plan was a great way to see parts of the city that I would never have strolled by at any other time. One can see New York City through its different ages and stages, from quiet residential neighborhoods in Washington Heights and Inwood to massive commercial centers such as Midtown and SoHo. While four blisters greeted me the next morning, I am eagerly awaiting the next urban hike, as I hope to walk the length of Brooklyn via Flatbush Avenue at some point in the coming year.

Walking through 400 years of history on one path is an eye opener, especially in the seven mile stretch between 59th Street and Battery Park. Ending at the beginning of European settlement in 1624 at Battery Park was a unique experience, and I can only think about what millions of other people have thought upon landing at base of Manhattan over the last few centuries as they looked north. There is nothing like standing on a new shore and seeing a range of possibilities and challenges in full view.

The end of a Manhattan stroll at Battery Park represents an ending and beginning in my life as well. In April I finished my Masters of Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. My graduation from Michigan was preceded by Susan being offered a Lilly Residency in Ministry position at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Susan accepted this two-year position, and two years after moving back to the Midwest from Princeton, New Jersey, we are headed back out to the land of dense populations and ill-plotted roads.

I loved my time back in the Midwest. Ann Arbor is a great town, and if any readers have not visited yet, the summer is the best season to experience this city. Rarely does a city of 100,000 have such fine cultural offerings, bookstores galore, and a well-plotted grid, but Ann Arbor does. The University of Michigan was a great place to learn and work, and I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed walking to work or school each day from our apartment in the Old West Side neighborhood. It was great being back in Michigan as well, reestablishing political connections, visiting my hometown of Grand Rapids to see friends and family, and helping to build the family’s cottage on Lake Michigan.

When Susan and I were in Philadelphia last weekend apartment hunting, I experienced a range of emotions about moving back to the East Coast. I hate changes to my routine, and for all my traveling, do not appreciate life changes that bring me out of my comfort zone. I have warned others that I hate anything new for the first two weeks, and this has largely held true through my life. True to form, I was really disoriented in Philly for the first three days. However, after doing a number of informational interviews for potential jobs, I realized that a large part of my anxiety was job-related, and by talking to possible employers over the week, my fears were slowly replaced by a greater sense of confidence and assurance. Susan and I also found a nice row house that will be a great fit for us for the next two years in Philadelphia. If our four years of marriage have taught us anything, it is that 1) be flexible and supportive of each other, and 2) God always provides, even if it is not what you expected.

When I graduated from Calvin College in 2002, I did not expect to move five times in the next six years. I lived in Columbus for a year (2002-2003), Washington DC for another (2003-2004), Princeton for two (2004-2006), as well as Ann Arbor (2006-2008), and am now heading off to Bryn Mawr. One expects the college years to be ones of constant transition, but in my life, it seems that the years following Calvin have required more mobility. While constant moving has helped us keep the junk levels to a minimum, the uprooting does have its downside. White apartment walls lose their luster pretty quickly, as does the need to make new friends, find new haunts and walking routines, not to mention jobs.

Walking down Broadway helped to put some of this transition into perspective. While one might in different communities and in a different setting, the road always remains. I suspect that Susan and I will end the two year moving cycle, although I do not know where the next destination after Bryn Mawr lies. Then again, neither did thousands who landed at Battery Park on a new shore.

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