How do the personal identities of past and present remain contiguous?

It was summer 1982, and I’d just moved to Manhattan from Canada — a teen determined to make it on my own in the big city. Terrified and excited and alone, trying to scour clean the one place I could find to live — that being an SRO (Single Room Occupancy a.k.a. Welfare Hotel). . . I arrive donning my best clothes, and enter the building’s fragrant elevator that had just been emptied of the feces-encrusted baseboards ripped from the apartment of a previous tenant, a testament to the departed Saviour of over 100 cats.

“Will the hassles never end in this city? Will I ever finally kill the LAST cockroach? Will New York ever feel like home?” I look over photographs for some assurance that I do have a past, however brief. People somewhere do know I exist. There’s a knock on my door and I answer it to find welcoming strangers: Two handsome men proffering a pint of Haagen Dazs. “ICE CREAM LADIES!” they chime in unison.

Moving forward on an unknown path, a bit of RD Laing articulated my conundrum well enough that I wrote it down as I closed out the journal that marked my transition from the Great White North to NYC:

Sometimes I come
sometimes I go
but which is which
I don’t know

Sometimes I am
sometimes I’m not
but which is which
I forgot

And the journey back moves me to look up Laing again, his decades-old words seeming startlingly contemporary:

“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.”

“We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.”

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