The City is a Living Lullaby: Before & After. Me to We.

I have not needed a lullaby in seventeen years…

Last night the strident sounds of an insomniac city pulled at my eyelids and slid me into safe slumber. Those same sounds– the rhythm of a basketball dribbling in the distance & the tails of amplified conversations—  climbed through my third floor window shortly after the sun this morning. Oh, how I adore my new lullaby.

People ask for a paragraph synopsis of how my life is in the Bronx since moving here on Tuesday.  Well, in order to attempt to deliver justice in this description, Life needs to be personified. Perhaps she is a young girl, ready with a restless heart. You see, the only way to describe this experience to anyone is through imagining that Life is a living, breathing person.

Life snuck up from behind me and handed me a black Sharpie marker last week.

Here, here, take this,” Life says.

Why, what is this? What should I do with it?

Life rolls its eyes. “Draw a thick black line down the middle of me. From now on you are going to look differently at me, as if I am two people. One part of me exists as Before and the other now exists as After.

Before & After.

We all stumble into instances when we realize that we have crossed a threshold that will forever cause us to refer to life as Before & After. Before the Divorce. After the Break Up. Before the Car Crash. After the Degree. Some of us sink upon our knees and wish that the After had never come. Others embrace the change and hold hands with the After. Before suddenly seems so Young. Naive. Outgrown. Worn.

Our lives before a certain experience have great difficulty fitting all the emotions and thoughts that we pull from the trial or the stepping stone. And so we pack up our suitcases full of Awareness, Compassion, Understanding & Knowledge and we move over into the After.

For the longest time I heard the perfection in three letters, side by side: NYC. Automatically my mind would turn with 3,000 or so ideas. Broadway shows and fancy dinner parties. Devil Wears Prada Lifestyles & Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But over 300,000 New Yorkers live a lifestyle that consists of Poverty. Bills that cannot find the pathway to Paid. Schools that fall below state standards.

A lot of this poverty echoes in the place that is now considered my home: The Bronx.

I have long grown tired of people’s stagnant set of stereotypes that cover this borough like a thick layer of ashes: Guns. Food Stamps. Sirens. Fighting. Gangs. A place where your one hand belongs next to your pocketbook and the your eyes are meant to stare at the ground. And while the Bronx does certainly have crime and areas of urban decay, more than that, it has people. Beautiful People. Stretching Means to Make Livings. Learning English to Work in this Country. Taking Their Dealings and Dealing With It.

And what breaks my heart is this: We were all called here to live but no one ever wrote in the rule book that acceptance of how we make a living was necessary. Some people don’t know trust funds and others have been slammed by the “system” but can we turn our backs on those who are different from us? Just because we have More, if More is even a legitimate word… So what if we have more Paper Money, More Titles or More Security. I want More Simplicity, More Spirituality, More Connections with this City and the People Who Speckle Its Concrete.

My computer broke a few hours after arriving on Tuesday. A Large Crack Etched the Face of Her Screen. And normally I would cry and scream and need a new one immediately. But perhaps it should stay broken for a while, perhaps I need the simplicity that will come from not having this luxury. And my mom said it best, miles away but sitting next to my soul, “Better your computer be broken then your heart.” I am already learning, Mom. I want to take so much from this year… but all of the things, “for granted” is not one of them.

I am confident that these next ten months in New York City will mold my life like Play Dough. I am dedicated to a volunteer program centered on Community and Simple Living. I have close to 25 dollars a week for my own spending. I live by a food budget with three other individuals. And I am finding pretty quickly that this is not the Minority, but rather, the Majority. I will work within the community on a daily basis until I am meshed into the community. I am giving my Heart, my Gifts, my Talents and My Self to this year.

Before pulling up to our apartment, situated across from a discount grocery store and a barber shop, it was all about Me. Me Growing. Me Living. Me Loving. Me Wanting. Me Hoping. Me Dreaming. Me Stringing Together Lullabies To Put My Dreams To Rest At Night. But something happened… A shift took place… The ME grew restless suddenly and the M wanted to move away, sick of the E. And the so the E let it leave and set off on a quest for another letter to accompany its side. And oh, what goodness, a W showed up… It may have trailed off from another word: Wonder, Wild or Wisdom. But no matter its origins, it took its place next to the E and the WE was formed. More perfect than the Me. More fitting to be We.

We Grow. We Live. We Love. We Want. We Hope. We Dream.

We String Together Lullabies with Our Own Unique Sounds.

Share with me your Before & After Moments…

As a Drop A Love Bomb Partner, we have a new mission at hand. Please take a few moments to drop a love bomb… This mission is dear to my heart, seeing as I now have four familiar faces taking up the Chicago area. Miss you AVs.

Love Bomb Mission: Chicago Fire Department

Hey Team!

This week we are doing something just a tad different.

Typically we drop a Love Bomb on one person, but this week we are dropping a Love Bomb on the entire Chicago Fire Department.

Chris Wheatley, one of their firefighters, died in the line of duty on August 9th.

Nate and I would like for this Love Bomb mission to be two-fold:

1) To encourage, support and comfort the Chicago Fire Department as they’ve lost a brother in duty.

2) To thank the Chicago Fire Department for serving their community so faithfully.

As most of you know, Nate (@ItStartsWithUs) runs our parent organization, ItStartsWith.Us – their 15 minute mission for this week is to help out a service worker. Every now and then the ItStartsWithUs team helps us drop our Love Bombs, so I thought it would be awesome if we could do our part by supporting a service worker (a lot of them!) while we drop our Love Bomb at the same time!

You can leave a comment on the Chicago Fire Department’s blog here:


Much Love and Light from New York City,

30 thoughts on “The City is a Living Lullaby: Before & After. Me to We.

  1. Oh. Hannah! This is so beautiful. How is it that every time you write you leave me without words?? It’s like you knock the wind write out of me every time. ❤ Beautiful.

  2. I enjoyed the guest posts, but I am glad you are back! I missed your writing. Such a great post, and I’m looking forward to reading about all of your new experiences. As a side note, I did a year in the AmeriCorps VISTA program and the “me to we” transition was one of the best experiences of that year – something I try to never forget. I love the way you are embracing a new community. I can’t wait to hear more!

    1. Thank you Emily. I was so so so happy to return to blogging today. It was stirring inside of me all week to get back to this page! I cannot wait to write more about the year ahead. We should totally chat about the me to we transition sometime. I would love that.


      Hannah Katy

  3. Hey Hannah,
    Happy to see you back, with a more widened view for the world.
    And i should say that i am destined to read this post. I am soon gonna be relocated to a bigger city for my job and though i know that it would be another change by which i learn and evolve into a much better person, i couldn’t shake off the fear factor towards adaptations and incompatibility. But your words just gave me a much needed push and support. And i am sure that i would be reading this post everyday till the new life molds me in a better way. And this time, i give my word to you that it would be “we-learn-and-grow”.
    Thanks a lot.

    1. So good to hear. I hope I can be with you through every step of the way. The big city is quite exciting, I daresay you will adore it.

      And thank you for being such a dedicated reader.


      Hannah Katy

  4. Hi Hannah,

    I’m sure you and the people of the Bronx will have a lovely love affair! Jimmy and I drove the entire length of the Bronx the last time we stayed in Brooklyn. Loved it! I believe it’s got more green space than any other urban area in the country – 1/5th. Bronx Zoo can’t be beat. It’s also not an island unlike the other boroughs. It’s an amazing gem.

    Living on $25 a week. I bet you can find an urban garden or start an urban garden. I’m a huge advocate of showing people how to farm. There’d be less starvation if this skill made a comeback. (And we stopped paving over and synthetic turfing over the land.)

    Wishing you a happily ever before & after.


    1. Amazing gem is right. I love hearing all the sounds of the city at night, it makes me smile so much.

      I will have to check you out those urban gardens, very interesting.


      Hannah Katy

  5. I am so glad you got there safely, and may I just say every post of yours makes me want to either come live in your mind, where the walls would be papered with rich language and beautiful metaphor, or failing that, mass email your posts out to the world. Everything you write is so elegant, and every message you share so powerful for the world to hear. This is going to be one amazing chapter for you, and I have a strong inkling NYC is going to be left better for having you in it 🙂

    1. You. Are. Wonderful. this comment made my day. Come live in my mind anytime ha ha. Let us hope that the world hears these words. And thank you so much for guest blogging, I will be sending an email your way as well Lady.


      Hannah Katy

  6. So happy to hear you made it safely & are thriving! I’ve missed reading your writing lately but I know this experience is one of a kind. I can’t wait to read more.

    1. i fell off the blogging map a bit in terms of reading, so I am heading back over to you in the next few hours! I have missed you so. And I have missed writing, but now I am back and it feels so good.


      Hannah Katy

  7. Hannah, you just don’t know how to stop impressing me and inspiring me with your beautiful way with words! Enjoy learning from the Bronx. It’s a place that teaches well.

    Oh, and by the way, I miss you…but I’m glad you’re where you are. 🙂

  8. Thank you so much for the comment on one of my earlier posts. It’s great to know I’m not the only one who makes collages like it’s my job.

    This is probably one of my favorite of your posts. The before & after idea really resonates with me, and it’s so comforting to know I’m not the only one who feels like that. I think NYC is going to give you more than one amazing realization about the world and I’m sure you’re going to have a lifetime of stories to share with people after you leave.

  9. Hannah!

    What a wonderful way to distract myself from Life for a moment (unfortunately my most awaited Before and After hasn’t begun yet). I can’t wait to see what that the rest of your time in the Bronx brings you. I’m so glad you have taken the time to really digest where you are and what that means for you now and in the future as you become more at home in the Big Apple (and obviously how you put those thoughts together so beautifully for the rest of us to ponder). I can’t wait to re-read this post in 4 months; as much as it pulled at my heart-strings now, I can only imagine how it will affect me when I am experiencing my own South American lullaby!

    I look forward to your next post!


    1. Dani-

      So good to hear from you! I miss you so much already but feel incredibly blessed to have met you… Come road trip to us right this instant!

      I can hardly wait to hear about your South American lullaby either, I know it is going to be so beautiful and you are going to grow so much from the experience.


      Hannah Katy

  10. I have a friend who did something last year similar to what you are now – living/working within a small community, volunteering in a local area as part of the program, living with three other people, etc. She absolutely loved it and has said time and again how life-changing it was. I can already tell that’s the case for you, too. Embrace every moment – they’re all adding chapters to this new story you’re embarking on!

  11. The simple life is underrated, don’t you think? Your attitude about the broken computer is so perfect and wise and beautiful.

    I, too, live in “the hood” of Seattle and despite yesterday morning’s gun shots, I usually love it here. Spicy. Diverse. Real. There may be a lot of hurt and anger and poverty, but there is more love than anything else. I am glad to hear that NYC is treating you so well. I’m sure you are getting to know the Bronx like the back of your hand. Have fun exploring. XOXO

    1. Miss you Lucy. So good to hear from you, thank you again for guest blogging. People adored your post!

      Maybe you and I can swap stories sometime, I would love to hear more about Seattle.


      Hannah Katy

  12. Okay, I officially want to live this next year vicariously through you. So keep up the awesome blogging, por favor!

    No really. You are such an inspiration. And as for the whole “me” thing? *Raises hand* Guilty.
    Guilty, guilty, guilty.

    What will be my “Before and After” moment? Good question. I think I’ve been living it out for the last few weeks as one climaxing buildup. Now it’s time for me to kick that “M” out and find a good, solid-looking “W”.

    Thanks for the inspiration, Hannah 🙂

  13. oh the before and after divide….. how I can talk all day about that.

    My decisive before & after moment is coming to CHINA. On the other side of the world!! (Actually the moment was more like three 300-hour plane rides in purgatory, but alas I emerged on the other side).

    My last blog entry talks all about the new world on the After side, the land of Tabula Rasa, where my life is a blank slate. Yet for me, the only thing that marks this Before&After transition is a mere slap in the face from God that says “you have a choice in front of you to make something with your life.” Yes, the scenery has changed, the air has changed, the people have changed, and none of them speak English, but that’s it. *I* certainly didn’t change, because I just hopped on a plane overnight. And truly, the inward realm of my being is the only place where true transformation can ever be measured. The rest—China, and everything in it—is just details.

    anyhoo, I got a bunch of grades to write out for my students, and the office I work in closes in an hour. I’ll be catching up on all your blogs soon!

    1. I cannot wait to hear more about your time in China, it is absolutely wild that you are there! So happy you broke through the fire wall though, definitely love having you as a faithful reader. Be safe over there.

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