That summer in Atlantic City

It’s been a long time. So long ago that the memories are almost diffuse, but for some reason they came to my memory today.

I was at the beginning of my American adventure, young and (more) restless than now; a new world was opening up to me with all its wonders and all its oddities; I was fascinated. When I went to the States it was the first time I was traveling outside Romania; I said whatever it is, I’m going, I don’t know where, or what I’m going to find there, but I’m going.

I was living in Atlantic City, NJ, a city famous for the bohemian Americans of the ’60s-‘ 70s, a city full of huge, luxurious and impressive casinos, restaurants, hotels and opulence. It’s true, once you passed the Tropicana, hotel, shopping center and casino,the real life was showing its true face: poor neighborhoods, drugs and a lot of crime going on. It was indeed a city of paradoxes, where the poverty was combined with wealth and social discrepancies.

When you reach the top, it doesn’t matter if the view is as you would have liked or not, it matters that you’ve arrived.

Everything seemed so new, so wonderful, different to me, and for the most part it was. I was on such a famous, innovative continent; it was almost a pride to have been there. I remember looking at the huge buildings, walking the wide streets, and I couldn’t believe I was there. The first weeks were kind of mind-blowing, from all points of view, the accommodation took a while, but after a few weeks I was already feeling comfortable.

Then one night it happened. I was returning home, walking on the boardwalk, after many hours of work but with a clear mind: I had a mini revelation. With wavy and blonde hair in the warm ocean breeze, with salty and moist air in my lungs, I realized that life must be lived as you feel, according to your own rules and as you wish. I realized that you will be happy only when you listen to your own reason and your own conscience, without interruptions from the outside; I realized that only you can be the one to make decisions about yourself and your person, that destiny is in your own hands, that life must be lived with intensity, every and each moment of it,and that fear is holding you back.

I felt a slight release. Suddenly I felt that certain thoughts were beginning to clear and that they were taking on a different form. I have always been obsessed in a way with the idea of freedom, especially mentally, liberation from prejudice, preconceived ideas that put us in a box and lock us there for a long time, ideas that do not belong to us, but were given to us without asking or without wanting them; I always tried to get rid of them, something quite difficult to do.

I have met people so wonderful, unforgettable, who widened my horizon even more. For many of them I’ve suffered, I’ve laughed, I’ve danced on the boat at midnight or on the sand at Chelsea`s Beach Bar. We didn’t know back then where our lives would take us, as neither of us knows now, but I’ve realized something that night: the fact that everything is unforeseen and that we are ephemeral, that’s why every moment has its own role; we become someone else after every conversation, every experience, every book read, after every love or disappointment; we absorb everything that happens to us or around us, everything we see or have seen, everything we have experienced.

Life happens now, not when you make plans.

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