On an early July afternoon, I sat with friends on the roof of my apartment building, waiting for rain. We’d heard there was a storm coming and we’d made margaritas - neon green, from a store-bought mix - to usher in its arrival. We took seats on rickety chairs that shook on the uneven tar beneath us. We faced the coming clouds.
For a long time, nothing happened.
The sky, the color of smoke, sprinkled and spit. Wind, exhaling, scattered bottle caps and cigarette butts across the roof.
We looked around. We discussed — very unscientifically— the possibility that the storm had shifted its course. Some of us went downstairs.
But then, moments later and seemingly out of nowhere, it came. In ferocious, furious gusts, it came. We stayed outside for as long as we could stand it; then, with wet shoes and dripping hair, we clattered down the stairs and watched from my window, our feet in puddles on the floor.
I had lunch last week with a family friend I hadn’t seen in months. A year ago, her mother suffered an aneurysm and is still in the midst of a long recovery at a hospital in California, relearning basic skills.
Her daughter, newly out of college, told me over bagels and borscht about how differently her first year in New York had turned out from what she’d planned. She was embracing it, though, with patience and grace.
We agreed that focusing on the stability of bigger things — family, relationships, health, creativity — makes weathering crises infinitely more manageable.
Most things about my twenties haven’t looked the way I thought they would — but staying open to surprise has been one of the best lessons I’ve learned. The biggest surprise, in fact, has been that being open to every experience — even unhappy ones — has made life richer in ways I could never have imagined. I hear music differently. Tiny details of the everyday have never held more beauty. The world, curiously, has never felt smaller, or safer.
Storms shift course constantly. Now and again there’s enough time to make plans. Other days, there's nothing to do but get wet.
“I just realized I have no idea where I’m going to be in a year,” Lily announced the other day as we made lunch at our apartment. So much had happened in just the past few months, she said, she barely recognized her life. She had a new job, new friends, had endured the end of a long relationship.
“I can’t imagine living life knowing where I was going to be in a year,” I said. Then: “But no one knows where they’ll be in a year.”
I’d had no idea, two years ago, that I’d meet Lily and that we’d be here now, sharing an apartment in one of my favorite corners of Brooklyn. Or that after working as a nanny when I first moved to New York, I’d be a writer today. Just weeks ago, I could never have predicted the turns this summer has taken, or how very happy I feel to be exactly where I am.
Two weeks ago, drowsing in the passenger's seat on the way back from a last-minute trip to Montreal, I remember being sleepily aware of rain. I remember French pop on the stereo, too, and the contented drumming of fingertips on the steering wheel. I remember smiling at gray clouds with half-opened eyes, and bewilderment, moments later, at how the sun seemed to reappear all at once.