Friday, March 26, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities, and Of The Girl Who Traveled Between Them

My beloved aunt L. noted that I seemed more alive in New York, and asked about the differences between this city and my prior haunt, Washington D.C.

I've been thinking about her question a lot.  I love both cities.

Washington DC is elegant, manicured, sophisticated and gracious, with broad avenues, gleaming monuments, and fleeting cherry blossoms.

It has some beautiful traditions, like the Smithsonian Folk Festival and the Smithsonian Kite Festival:

It is the home of some of my most treasured life memories, such as Obama's Inauguration.

It has its tough areas as well, of course.  And the city feels more planned-- the subway stations all look the same (no mosaics!).  The streets are active, but not as intensely crowded and vibrant as New York.

My view of New York: brawny, vivid, gritty, exciting, constant theater of the streets, every variety of age and ethnicity, a city of walkers, miraculous art in public transport, endlessly changing and interesting.

As I continued to reflect on the question, though, I realized that my renewed liveliness is only partially due to the change in geography.  The real reason is the change in me.

The leap of faith I took in November, moving from money to heart, is the greatest difference.  I am different. I am more open, more awake, working in a field that has been a passion since my teens.  I am collaborating with people who have devoted their life to the same mission.  In the corporate world, one ultimately makes decisions based on what's in the best interest of shareholders.  In my non-profit agency, we make decisions based on what's in the best interest of the beneficiaries of our services, people who are utterly vulnerable and who in many cases would die or be severely impacted without our help. 

I do not malign the corporate world.  I learned valuable skills that are critical to my current work.  I made wonderful friends- real friends, not just work friends.  I was intellectually challenged every day. I traveled the world.  Without the corporate world there is no non-profit one-- we are dependent on donations and on tax dollars.  It is an interdependent system.  There is no wrong here.  It was simply not right for me anymore.

I do not have a perfect job. The paycut was enormous, despite the fact that my job is bigger than the last one.  With the increased complexity of work comes the related stress.  But I no longer feel that I am marking time.  My work and my heart and my time and my efforts are aligned.  It feels wonderful. 

And that, my dear aunt, you who have faithfully role modeled the path of the heart for me, is the real reason why I am more alive.  The city magnifies my contented spirit.


  1. That is awesome!! I admire your journey, thanks for sharing!

  2. Sarah,
    I'm so glad you have found work that feels so right for you. This is wealth, right?


  3. Your heart called you to New York...and now you live it, every day.


  4. Wow, Sarah! What courage your own path has been to find your heart connection with employment. You captured what I was sensing so well. And, you are so correct, no right/wrong, or duality... all part of the greater Whole. And your sentence, "Without the corporate world there is no non-profit one--" sometimes is forgotten. That path led you to where you are now....
    DC has been my city, not during Obama, but during JFK, LBJ and RN... I grew up with those 'daughters' and John-John. You are introducing me to the Soul of NYC. I love you fr that and so much more. Thank you for taking time to reflect and share so beautifully. XO

  5. I'm so glad for your heart and this is a wonderful nugget of a blog. But just so you know, some of us are still a little bitter at NYC for stealing you away! Guess we'll have to come visit :)