Where's your Lispenard Street?

We can choose our own “enough.”

Where's your Lispenard Street?

“Only to him and Jude would Lispenard Street be considered an achievement–for as much work as he had done to it, and as much as Jude had cleaned it, it was still sad, somehow, and furtive, as if the place was embarrassed to call itself a real apartment–but in those moments he would at times find himself thinking, This is enough. This is more than I had hoped. To be in New York, to be an adult, to stand on a raised platform of wood and say other people’s words!–it was an absurd life, a not-life, a life his parents and his brother would never have dreamed for themselves, and yet he got to dream it for himself every day.”

Willem is an actor. His role in society is to breathe life into the fabrications of a playwright’s imagination before the eyes of a paying audience. In this season of life, that audience only pays him enough money to fund a shoddy apartment on Lispenard Street, a street so small it’s unlabelled on most maps. Yet he says, “This is enough. This is more than I hoped… it was an absurd life… and yet he got to dream it for himself every day.”

I cut the grass last week. As I pushed a roaring contraption across my backyard, I glanced up at the expanse of my neighbors’ interconnected lawns–each property marked by subtle transitions in mow patterns, and it occurred to me, this is absurd.

I get to live this life where the hardest part of my Saturday is pushing a self-propelled machine across a mini-field to trim a few inches off some blades of grass for no other reason than to make it look presentable to my neighbors.

And as I cut those tiny blades of grass into even tinier pieces I heard those words echo in my brain: this is enough, this is more than I had hoped, this is an absurd life.

There’s a pressure to find certain things important: status, money, success. But when I slow down and let go of this pressure, I find a beautiful absurdity in this life I get to live. Despite my habitual discontentment, I realize “this is more than I had hoped.”

We all have a personal Lispenard Street, don’t we? A place, a circumstance, or a life that to only us would it be an achievement.

We’ll make choices that won’t make sense to anyone else. Maybe a close friend who’s seen your journey will understand, but most onlookers won’t comprehend the things you choose to make you happy.

But even if your Lispenard Street isn’t what anyone else would consider glamorous, there’s a place on a street in a city we can call our own. In the end, it may look like nothing at all, but for us, it’s enough.


The beginning excerpt was taken from the book A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

A picture of me in front of the actual Lispenard Street in NYC.
A photo of an apartment on actual Lispenard Street taken by yours truly. The one on the left is what I imagine Willem and Jude lived in.

Cover Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash