I cannot tell you how often these words have come out of my mouth. I say it all the time, almost without thinking. Yet lately, I’ve been contemplating this knee-jerk reaction. What does it mean? And why do I feel the need to announce it, unsolicited, at every opportunity?

New Yorkers have egos about New York. It’s the best city in the world, we’re told—the gold standard of cosmopolitanism and sophistication. Being from New York is almost like an identity in and of itself, a way to define oneself in a singular, all-encompassing sentence.

And yet, at 24, I moved 3,000 miles away. So why am I still clinging?

Where we come from—our roots —can have an enormous pull on our psyche. To deny this is to deny something fundamental, some core human experience. But as I’ve aged—and evolved—I have found myself more and more drawn to those from radically different backgrounds, seeking connection beneath the seeming differences.

And what I have found is this: ultimately, we are more similar than dissimilar. We all have the same fundamental fears, hopes, dreams, and desires. People are people, after all.

I often think about the tug of my roots, versus the pull of my future. The more I release old patterns, limiting beliefs and conditioning, the more I am drawn to new people and new experiences that stretch me, that encourage me to adopt new ways of being.

As I continue to evolve spiritually, I’m often confronted with my ego and its sneaky claims on my joy. Sometimes, I’ll have a knee-jerk reaction to something, borne from my early conditioning, from the hyper-ambitious, hyper-kinetic environment of my youth. And I have to pause, notice the thought, notice the judgment, and then—let it go.

It’s a process and one that takes time. As much as our upbringings can enrich and shape us, they can also rob us of our potential, stunting our emotional growth and individuation.

At times, I have been so attached to New York City, so afraid to let go, that I have lost out on connections, on experiences. It’s taken me a long time to reconcile the fact that as grateful as I am for my early experiences, they no longer serve me and that, as much as I may always love Broadway, the brick-lined streets of the West Village, and the hush of Central Park during winter, it is often elsewhere that I find the most peace and solace, where I feel closest to myself. I am no longer the heady, intellectual New Yorker I once was.

Like with all things, it’s a balance. We take the things that work and we leave the rest. This is not, I have finally come to realize, a betrayal. Rather, it’s a testament to our own expansion and exploration, to our own strength of heart and courage, and to life itself.

And in the process, we meet our humanity in others whom we may never have encountered otherwise. We bridge gaps, gaining so much more than we left behind. Am I still a New Yorker? I don’t know. But I’m not sure it matters. What matters is that I’m unstuck, that I’m free to discover the world anew and that it’s my present and my future, not my past, that own me now.

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