I think I could believe in an alternate universe theory. The one that says there are an infinite number of other realities.
Because if that’s the case, maybe there’s one where I live in South Carolina.
If there’s a universe where Karis Rogerson lives in South Carolina, I like to imagine that she’s a very happy person. She rents out a small house downtown and spends weekends writing on the porch in balmy weather. She regularly makes deer burgers or goes to the driving range or gets coffee with her cousins, meets her grandparents and aunt and uncle for lunch, and keeps up with her childhood friends.
In this universe where Karis lives in the South, she can be a journalist, working for the local paper covering downtown events, being a watchdog for state and city government, and sharing uplifting stories of South Carolinians doing good.
Maybe she even has a boyfriend or a husband, a dog and a cat, a yard, a back porch, a grill. She has potted plants in her living room and when the temperature finally drops below 50, they light a fire in the fireplace and cozy up to it, watching NCIS or Castle.
She still sees a therapist and takes medication to cope with her depression, but she has fewer episodes, less loneliness.
She is happy, content, in a simple, uncomplicated way. She rails against rush hour traffic on I-26 and hates going to the local Wal-Mart after work. She is stressed about work and the struggle of making a relationship work and sometimes she feels constricted by life in the suburbs. She fights with friends and interview subjects, and money can be tight sometimes.
But she is happy.
I like to think there’s a universe where that Karis exists.
Because in this universe, I have to turn my back on that southern life and go back to the one I live in New York City.
I say “have to,” but it’s not something I’m mad about, not really. I love my life in New York. I pay an astronomical amount of money every month to share a bedroom in Brooklyn where I don’t have a back porch, and my family is hundreds of miles away, along with my childhood friends.
In New York, the job of the journalist is too demanding, too stressful, and too enemy-creating for me. I can’t do it.
I have a lot of depressive episodes and I feel lonely often, and though I am happy, I spend so much time striving that I can’t, in good conscience, describe myself as “content.” My life is complicated, my emotions a constant tangle. I am torn between my need for a relatively low-stress job and my intense push to succeed as a writer, by any means possible.
But there are so many things that I love about it.
But there are so many things that I love about it. I love that I don’t need a car; that I can either take a subway or walk to get anywhere within the city. I love that when I’m having a bad day, all it takes is a 30-minute stroll through Central Park or midtown and I’m happier, my mood rises thanks to the sights and crowds. I love that urban beauty surrounds me no matter which way I turn.
I love it with a passion. I love my job, where I have responsibility, but the stress is so unrelated to academics or literature that it’s hardly a problem, and where there are countless people to interact with daily. I love my friends, and I love my church.
More than that: I am called to New York. I feel the call in the tug on my heart at the thought of my city, in the conviction I have about needing to be there, in the supernatural love I have for everything about it — from people to places to its history.
I am called to New York. I feel the call in the tug on my heart at the thought of my city.
I believe in all honesty that God has set New York City as a temporary or permanent destination on my path. I don’t know the details — whether it’s because of what I can give the city or what the city can give to me, whether it’s for my career or my own well-being, or whether it’s for now or forever — but I know it’s where I’m meant to be today.
There are no doubts in my mind about this.
My parents bought me a ticket back to Columbia, South Carolina for Christmas. I didn’t want to go. I was afraid, because this was a city I idolized for much of my childhood, and it unfortunately disappointed me deeply as an adult. But I went.
And what I feared was true: I realized I could be happy there.
But, at the same time, I also realized it’s not where I’m meant to be. I hope I’ll be back soon to visit.
It turns out, we can desire multiple, seemingly opposing things. And just because I want two things that are wildly different does not diminish either desire.
But here’s the other thing — I have to put this weird, new desire behind me, because it’s not the reality I’ve been given. And yeah, I could spend all my time pining for that life. But that would take so much away from the life I have been given, a life I adore, a life I’m immeasurably grateful for.
That would take so much away from the life I have been given, a life I adore, a life I’m immeasurably grateful for.
Life can suck because we only get to live one reality, but it’s amazing because we can choose to live that one as fully and richly as possible. And if we don’t, we miss out on every thing of beauty that God puts in our lives — and he puts a lot of beauty in our lives, guys. He just lets it overflow and consume us. It’s incredible.
I’ve been given one reality for each day; I’m gonna do my best to enjoy it and be as present in it as possible, rather than bemoan the lives I don’t get to live.
Karis is a grad student at NYU in New York City. Her writing has appeared online with Seventeen as well as Good Housekeeping. She blogs at karisrogerson.com. To stay informed about all her writing, sign up here.