Farewell to the Wonderful Land of Oz

In the final run-up to leaving New York City, one image continually stuck in my head—Dorothy saying goodbye to all of her friends before leaving Oz to return to her family in Kansas. I know that must seem backward, but you have to first  understand that I never wanted to live in New York City. Before moving there, New York was just a crowded, dirty, materialistic tourist trap in my mind.

Unlike Dorothy, I was relatively happy in my own “Kansas.” I like the slower pace of life in Austin, TX and in North Carolina. I loved the southern hospitality and neighborliness expressed in simple phrases like, “Y’all come back now, y’hear.” In 2005, I had finished graduate school and was about to get married. I wanted to put down roots. I wasn’t necessarily eager to buy a house and have kids, but I wanted to build a “home” and start a “life.” Moving to New York City felt like running away from that, or at least putting it on indefinite hold.

And while I wasn’t carried to New York City by a tornado, I remember feeling just as scared and anxious as Dorothy when I arrived. But, I also very vividly remember the moment I opened the front door and my whole world turned to color.

You see, it didn’t take long for New York to show me a side of itself I hadn’t experienced before. Even though I didn’t drop a house on any wicked witch, I immediately felt welcome. New Yorkers are truly just as friendly as any Texan or North Carolinian, but they also tend to be a bit more worldly. They’ve been exposed to more people from more places who have done more things in their lifetime. There’s a broader perspective in New York City than just what’s on the evening news.

The analogy between NYC and Oz goes even further… Despite the fact that Beth and I rarely ever broke into song during the usual course of our day, we did get to at least a few shows on Broadway to make life seem a bit like a musical. There was even a Yellow Brick Road, the N/R/W subway line which took me everywhere I needed to go.

But, by far, the most important parts of my journey through Oz were the friends I made along the way. If it weren’t for my own Scarecrows, Tin Men, and Cowardly Lions, I don’t think I would have made it.

After living in New York for almost five years, I’ve “seen behind the curtain.” The great and powerful Oz was not a terrifying visage of flames with a booming voice, but a simple man from Kansas. I discovered that New York works the same way. We like the tourists to think that New Yorkers are tough, no-nonsense folks who could punch out a taxi driver, but look underneath the dirt and the grime and behind the luxury stores and the over-priced apartments and you’ll find the real New York City. The city I came to love and call home.

Dorothy couldn’t stay in Oz forever and neither could I. Being away made her realize how much she missed her family and how much she loved her old life in Kansas. Unlike Dorothy, however, I’m not going back to “Kansas.” I’m starting a new adventure in a new Oz that may be even stranger than the first. But like Dorothy, I’ve learned something about family and home. I’ve learned you can’t have one without the other, and I’m lucky enough to always carry mine with me.

No matter where we go, no matter what happens, I’ve got Beth to share the adventure. And I can’t wait.

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