It’s my last day at 4 Times Square. My possessions have migrated upstate, or to Goodwill, and in two weeks, I leave New York completely. But today I leave my job at The New Yorker, where I’ve worked for nearly five years, and for whom I’ve sacrificed nearly all of my Friday nights and a fair number of Saturdays through the better part of my twenties. Far be it from me to get all teary-eyed and nostalgic about leaving an office building in Times Square, for God’s sake, but it’s easy to place a sort of palpable weight on the space, a perversion of Joan Didion’s metaphor, maybe. With literal revolving doors.
I’m revisiting Didion’s New York essay for my own New York essay, which I’m working hard to make…not tiresome. It’s challenging. I’ve got my copy of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which I must’ve bought in the final weeks of my senior year of college, and I apparently read it during the three sad weeks I tried to be the kind of person who marks up a book. I bracketed the passage above. I’d spend the following year making odd decisions, like working in a t-shirt shop in Edinburgh, Scotland, or moving to California, which actually is an abstractly sensible decision, but when I was there, the world was always quietly ending. I moved to New York at 23, like you’re supposed to do.
The past couple of years or so, I’ve trudged around Times Square silently fuming as I elbowed tourists and panhandlers in Dora the Explorer costumes. But I can’t help but think about the first day I came to The New Yorker, when half of me was simmering with excitement over the magazine, and the other half was flummoxed by the sheen of Condé Nast. It was the fall and the Vogue girls marched past me in enormous heels that resembled bondage gear and it didn’t take long to forget about all that, buried beneath stacks of books and paper on the twentieth floor. I left four months later, when the budget dried up, and spent half a year freelancing like crazy. When I was invited back for a staff position in late summer, it was those first days all over again, walking up to the building in early fall, a crisp sense of anticipation nearly tangible. A friend said her sister had a little trick: every time you caught a glimpse of the Chrysler Building in the corner of your eye, you got to make a wish. I shamelessly crossed 42nd St to get a better look out of the corner of my eye on my way to an HR interview. I am very superstitious.
"I enter a revolving door at twenty and come out a good deal older, and on a different street." Some of this is about the job, the magazine, the specificities of my life. But most of this is about growing older in a way you didn’t anticipate, the sort of thing that happens when you’re half-glancing at the Chrysler Building out of the corner of your eye. I’m saying goodbye to colleagues and friends today, but really, they belong with a broader group that I’ll miss—all the people I know and rely on and love in New York, a webbing network I can’t help but feel like I’m shucking off completely as I travel across the Atlantic. I have two more weeks to make peace with that. Today, I’m saying goodbye to that first day, walking into 4 Times Square in one of my two fancy outfits and trying not to look utterly dazzled by it all. I’m saying goodbye to that first day, and every day since.