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Self and the City: Symphony

by Jessa Chargois

Self and the City is a column intended to increase visibility and dialogue surrounding mental health, relationships, harmful stereotypes, and the necessity for self-care and vulnerability. Self and the City will be headlined by Jessa Chargois on a bi-weekly basis. Submissions and guest columnists are welcomed to send work to

I believe fear is a natural reaction to change, yet, it still doesn’t make the apprehension easier to swallow.  

As I type this very sentence, I am acutely aware of the unfamiliar emptiness surrounding me in my childhood bedroom. Between the four walls I have fallen asleep within for the last year, I have felt protected, safe, and frankly, challenged. I’ve grown connected to the intimate details of myself; the delicate thoughts that trickle through my anxious mind. Juxtaposed against the chaotic streets of Manhattan, the soft suburban anthem filled with birds chirping has lulled me into a restful sleep, a hibernation that lasted throughout a year of turmoil, deep pain, and monumental grief.  

Displaced by the pandemic, temporarily furloughed from what I once thought was my dream job, and miles away from my non-familial support system, I felt disconnected from my past self. As the months passed us by, I burrowed deeper in a more creative, relaxed, and calmer version of myself that I never knew existed. If I close my eyes long enough, I can recall a version of me filled with anxiety, lack of sleep, the deep yearning for male approval, and restlessness fueled by a bit too much tequila, weaving through the streets of downtown Manhattan. I was unhealthy in countless ways, from the fuel I fed my body to the rhetoric I fed my inner monologue, I was losing a grasp on the fundamentals I use to define myself. This very column came to fruition as a place to hold myself accountable. Yet, just as  “Self and the City” remained centered around “mental health, relationships, harmful stereotypes, and the necessity for self-care and vulnerability”, I was losing my grasp on all of the above. Upon reflection, I’m not sure who I would be today if I was not forced to slow down and break the cycle of detrimental habits. 

So, I am left to ask, who will I be once I return? 

I’ve spent the last few weeks packing up my belongings into the very boxes that brought them up to the suburbs one year ago. While I found, yet another, dream apartment to call home with some of the most wonderful and optimistic friends I have, I continue to hold my breath, afraid of old habits reappearing. 

Will I become complacent with my life, letting myself believe my career trajectory is “sufficient?” Deep down, I know until I find myself in a more creatively demanding role, I won’t grow as an individual. Yet, will I once again convince myself this life is enough?  

Will I once again find myself at the bottom of shot glasses, drowning my fears and apprehensions in liquid courage? Will I find myself groggy, sluggish, and off my game, holding my breath as the subway shakes sense (and nausea) into me? Will I forget memories because I can’t bear to sit alone with myself in a room? 

Will I once again allow my anxieties to rule my dreams? Will I idealize those found on the pages of my phone, comparing my successes to those of others? Will I smile when others remark on how ‘put together’ I am, when deep down I know I am faking it like the rest of them? 

Will I allow the progress I’ve made while away from the best city in the world fade away once I wake up to the symphony of car horns and construction that defines New York City?

I pitched this column, “Self and the City”, as a tool to connect to you, the reader, on a more conversational and personal level. I’ve shared some of my deepest fears, darkest secrets, largest obstacles, and most personal opinions, yet, I have not been entirely truthful. This column was meant to increase visibility surrounding mental health, relationships, harmful stereotypes, and the necessity for self-care and vulnerability, yet for the last year or so, I haven’t been taking true care of myself. 

Hence, I’ll make the same promise to you that I’ll be making myself: I will hold myself accountable to be the strongest version of “Jessa” I can be. I will honor the personal growth of the last year. Despite the anxiety, I will be vulnerable and honest with my setbacks. I will be honest and forgiving with myself, as we all should be. 

Fear is a natural reaction to change, so, if we are being honest with ourselves now, I am terrified of moving back to an environment that fueled personal chaos. I am terrified I will not maintain my intentful accountability. I am terrified I will lose my personal growth and confidence, ruining the monumental relationships I have built over the last year. I am terrified of forgetting myself once again, blurring the lines between who people think I am, and who I know I am. I am terrified of falling into complacency, stagnant within the city that never sleeps. I am terrified that just as I have fallen in love with the delicate parts of my deepest parts, anxiety will overcome this progress, blurring admiration and loathing. 

I’m not sure there is a quick remedy for this. Time will heal this wound inside of me. I will wake up, basking in the New York sunshine (that does hit differently, I swear), and remind myself of the growth I have undergone in one of our collectively darkest years. I will remember the privilege I hold in the ability to utter such a sentence, and hold my head up high, intending to make this city a better place. I will remain accountable for my actions, my ability to hurt those around me with my foolish actions, and my duty to be the best version of myself for those who have supported my reckless past self. I will continue to speak help through my conversations with a therapist who finally gets me. I will share my concerns with her, rather than bury them so deep, the only way to release them is through the use of bad decisions I won’t remember the next morning. 

I don’t have all of the answers, nor do I need to. I’m growing and changing, and I’m proud of the direction thus far. I’m not sure where the next few months will lead me, lead anyone truthfully, yet, I’m looking forward to waking up to the New York City symphony. 

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