This weekend I climbed on a Megabus and traveled south from my life in a northern town to New York City, to visit my fiancee, see some old friends and stomp some old stomping grounds.
It was a lovely weekend. We even got to watch the marathon.
We looked for my friend Sal Ciulo from the Urban Mission, who ran in the race, but missed him. My fiancee, Meredith, was tracking him on her phone, though, and we knew when he finished and were very happy for him.
It was inspiring to see so many people completing the 26.2-mile race, especially given recent history.
The New York City marathon was canceled last year because of Hurricane Sandy.
And the bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April put everyone on alert that even triumph isnt immune from tragedy.
On the news Sunday there was talk of tight security at the finish line and, while there was a noticeable police presence throughout the day, it didnt change the festive nature of the race; thousands of spectators lined the course to cheer on their friends and family members.
Of course, in true New York fashion, just a few blocks away from the race, life in the city continued as normal. On Fifth Avenue, well-coifed and well-dressed natives hustled past tourists trundling in and out of the luxury shops and department stores. I was one of the tourists. I picked up a work shirt and a couple of sweaters from Uniqlo, a Japanese department store with startlingly affordable merchandise.
Being a part of the visiting masses was a marked departure from just one year ago.
Last November, I was still living in New York City.
At that point it had been my home for three-and-a-half years: the place where I went to college, and the place where I slowly began the transition from prolonged adolescence to something resembling adult life.
I arrived in Watertown just after Election Day last year. Its been a wonderful journey and Ive learned a tremendous amount. In some ways, Ive learned more in the one year working at the Watertown Daily Times than I learned in all those years of academic study.
Much has changed since I left: friends have gotten engaged and married, some with advance warning, others rather suddenly. People have made plans to move; some already have left and some will stay indefinitely.
Were all getting older. The Sunday night we spent this year quietly having a few drinks at a fake dive bar on 86th Street and Amsterdam, we would have spent last year getting properly soused at a real dive bar downtown.
Change is inevitable, I suppose, and in some cases, preferable.
But for a few short days, it was nice to be back among friends, in a familiar milieu, where inspiration and exhaustion are in equal supply.
As the runners passed by, I thought about how important, and yet how arbitrary are the ways we mark progress in our lives. There are ends to races, but the necessity is always to run on.
It is nice to celebrate the milestones, however.
New York City is a great place and Im glad I got to live there, but Im also glad that I get to live in Watertown, that Ive gotten to experience summer in the Thousand Islands, kayaking on the Black River, Tom and Jerrys for the holidays, skiing at Dry Hill and, yes, even lake-effect snow.
Now Im back on the Megabus, traveling north.
Bring on the election and bring on the next year.
Daniel Flatley is a staff writer covering Jefferson County government and politics for the Watertown Daily Times. He writes a column once a week for the local section of the paper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.