By Ari Alvarez
While scouring through Strand Bookstores in Union Square, I came across a book that caught my attention. Title: Goodbye to All That; Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. Immediately, I felt a connection to the title and all the personal essays tucked into it. Living in New York is an experience that can be difficult to sum up into words- but here was a fair attempt. This book, decorated with a brownstone on the cover, introduced me to the work of Joan Didion and her 1967 essay, Goodbye to All That, dedicated to her coming and going from New York. Didion’s 1967 essay has inspired many to write and reflect on their time living in New York, including myself. Here is my personal ode to this trash filled, magical city in the form of a packing list as I prepare for my upcoming “New York farewell."
It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city for only the very young.
The walk in closet you call your room; a literal embrace in comparison to the extremity of New York City. A cozy nook in a Gramercy brownstone. A home base that held space for all of your tears, excitement, Netflix binges with housemates, sleepless nights, lazy mornings…
The constant buzz of basketballs being tossed around in the court right outside your window. Your New York soundtrack.
Your housemates that went from being complete strangers to actual family. Hailing from different countries, your paths perfectly crossing in this crazy city.
The East River breeze that greets you on your walks to and from work. Especially on a hot, humid day.
Tex-Mex panini from your corner bodega. And their bodega cat.
Irving Plaza; the scenic route home.
The L train. Thank you, L train.
All of the East Village.
All of the Lower East Side.
Vinny’s dollar slice.
All the halal…
ALL THE BAGELS.
ByChloe’s “Guac Burger”
Your favorite bookstores: Strand and Bluestockings.
Every single handwritten letter you received.
All of Williamsburg- because you can’t hate it, as much as you try.
The undying amazement of Grand Central Station’s ceiling.
The art; all of it.
Central Park’s Turtle Pond.
The freedom of being on your own two feet. And your improved navigation skills that are a bonus perk as a result of this freedom.
Hilarious road rage observations.
The refreshing feel of above ground trains.
Soup night at Menno House.
All the protests and marches.
The sleepless excitement of awaiting a friend or family member’s visit.
The difficult, but humbling goodbye that accompanies their visit.
Your new budgeting expertise (and lack thereof) after two years of living on a volunteer stipend.
The deep love and gratitude you feel towards the Loretto Community- a community you had no idea existed just over two years ago. Thank you, Loretto.
Your Midwest and East Coast memories.
The numerous bus trips down to Washington D.C. And of course, Junia House.
Sitting next to global and local leaders, activists, and experts every day at work.
Your windowless, but colorful little office on the 6th floor of the United Nations Church Center.
The privilege and honor of standing with one of the greater movements of my life time; Standing Rock. A heartfelt thank you to Oceti Sakowin camp, those who welcomed us in as family, the constant drumming, prayer, and love felt at camp. Radically altered forever. Mni Wiconi!
Every member of the Mining Working Group at the United Nations. Thank you for letting me represent you, trusting my knowledge and uplifting my passions. Water is a human right, and the fight is not over. In solidarity with you all, forever.
Every single Loretto Co-Member and Loretto Volunteer Alum who took me under their wing. Thank you for mentoring me, taking me out for dinner, listening to me, and guiding me. You have heightened my vision of Loretto far beyond what I could have ever hoped for this year. Through you, I have experienced and felt the Loretto spirit.
This year in New York has been one of my greater life journeys. I have encountered pain, distress, annoyance, happiness, love, relief, and joy at levels I’ve never felt before. My time at the United Nations has exposed my strengths and weaknesses. It has led me toward my proper path. It has shown me that it’s okay to be completely heartbroken every day, because what truly matters is the community that is there to mend your broken heart. Advocacy is so small task. Nonetheless, I see it being done without defeat daily.
I will take that perseverance and New York magic with me, forever.
My two years as a Loretto Volunteer have gifted me the adventure of a lifetime. I am bolder than ever. I have connected with my true depths. I have accepted myself, and come to truly love myself. I value my family more than I ever have before. I have made substantial, real friendships.
I am forever in debt to you, Loretto Volunteer Program. Thank you for granting me the opportunity to meet myself in moments where I have felt the most unworthy and incapable. Thank you for uplifting my skills and worth. Thank you for outlining my path.
I’ll find my way back to you very soon.
Ariana Alvarez is a second-year Loretto volunteer from Clayton, CA. She graduated in 2015 from St. Mary's College of California with a degree in Sociology and Women's and Gender Studies. Last year, Ari was a volunteer at Nerinx Hall High School in St. Louis. She'll soon be headed to the University of San Francisco to get her M.A. in higher education and student affairs.
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.