Today is Day 31 of my 100 Day Project, and I’m just going to write about what’s on my mind today.
I’m moving out of my Brooklyn apartment after this month, and I’d say I’m 70% (probably more like 90% but it’s hard for me to say) leaving New York (for now) in favor of a more nature-filled experience, more of a laid back lifestyle…just to give my nervous system a little break, perhaps. Just to – maybe? – try California on for a few months. See? I’m inching away, trying to do an Irish goodbye, or as we used to call it in college, a “shady dip,” not really committing to leaving, just sneaking out quietly. Do you guys still call it that? When someone leaves a bar or party without saying goodbye?
I don’t like to say I’m “leaving New York,” because I know I will never fully leave New York. So I’m just going to call it taking a break.
I’ve lived in New York City for over 10 years now. January 2007, I moved to NYC.
I wanted to make sure I stayed until January 2017, because they say you’re not an “official” New Yorker until you stay 10 years. Because I escaped once in July 2012 and didn’t live here officially again until January 2013, I’ve made up those few months (and then some) this year, as I’m moving out September 1, 2017. So, I stay official. Who’s counting? Well, I guess I am.
10 years, 7 apartments. In order: Queens (Astoria), Manhattan (Upper East), Brooklyn (Williamsburg x2, Fort Greene x2, Boerum Hill).
“I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.” -Joan Didion, Goodbye To All That
Here’s the thing. For anyone who’s ever lived in New York City for any length of time…leaving is not easy. I’d assume people feel this way about other cities too, but New York seems to really get people right in the gut, right in the heart, in a way that makes them write essays. The city pulls you in and by the time you leave, if you do, you’ve lived a thousand lives.
I’ve been flipping through the book, Goodbye To All That: Writers On Loving And Leaving New York, which is based on the essay with the same name by Joan Didion, and it’s making me realize what a magnetic pull New York City has on people.
The back of the book made me tear up.
“Their essays often begin as love stories do, with the passion of something newly discovered – the crush of the subway crowds, the streets filled with manic energy, and the sudden, unblinking certainty that this is the only place on Earth where one can become exactly who she is meant to be.
They also share the grief that comes like a gut-punch, when the grand metropolis loses its magic and the pressures of New York’s frenetic life wear thin on even the most fervent dwellers.”
This topic is an insane one for me to be writing about late at night, because I have so much to say about New York that I could write an entire book, but the concept of leaving New York is all I can think about these days, so I had to write about it now. I even went to the bookstore today and stared back and forth between “Goodbye To All That” and “Never Can Say Goodbye,” and thought: dilemma of my life.
A review of “Never Can Say Goodbye” –
“Gets right to the heart of what it feels like to be a New Yorker—slightly insane, broke, and madly in love. These essays made me laugh out loud with recognition. New York City isn’t an easy place to live, but is anything easy really worth doing?” —Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers
I’ve had the same 2 thoughts so many times throughout the past 10 years.
- Everybody who lives in New York City has to be insane.
- Everybody who lives anywhere that isn’t New York City has to be insane.
And I’ve believed both of those statements wholeheartedly, usually thinking one within 5 minutes of thinking the other.
People who haven’t lived here don’t always understand why I haven’t officially left yet. For years, I’ve been complaining about it. I complain about the small space, the lack of nature, the way it affects my nervous system, the way it makes me tired, the way I hate that everyone is chronically busy and rushed, the way I have to work so hard just to stay feeling baseline healthy and peaceful, the way nothing EVER feels like enough here, the way even a relaxing day in NYC can feel stressful.
But I’m also addicted to it. The energy, the magic, the mystery, the lights, the way everything is buzzing ALL THE TIME, the way everyone here has a fascinating reason to be here, the way you can walk the streets at any hour of the day or night and you’re never alone. The way life here actually feels like you’re in a movie, the way stories just unfold. The way possibility drifts through the air, the way you never know what will happen when you step out your door.
The way you can’t help but develop a full-blown relationship with this city. Everyone has their own relationship with New York, and I’m sure many will tell you the tumultuousness of it rivals some of their human relationships.
To be totally honest, I still don’t know if I will really do it. The idea of leaving New York makes me feel sick to my stomach and exhilarated at the same time. I went with a broker the other day to look at an apartment down the street from me in Brooklyn. Just to see. It’s just a break, after all.
Either way, I’ve been thinking about New York City more than ever these days – what it has meant to live here, what it would mean to leave.
This has been my city from age 24 to 34. That’s not a small thing, and that’s not a small time in life. How many lives have I lived in 10 years?
I remember walking down Lexington Avenue, freshly turned 25, just quit drinking a month earlier (I didn’t even last a full 8 months with the open-til-5am bar scene here), headphones on, looking straight up at all the tall buildings around me, sun reflecting into my eyes, listening to Chocolate by Snow Patrol.
“This could be the very minute I’m aware I’m alive, all these places feel like home. With a name I’d never chosen, I can make my first steps…as a child of 25.”
And I was ALIVE.
Oh, the lives we’ve lived together, New York.
“I talk about how difficult it would be for us to “afford” to live in New York right now, about how much “space” we need – all I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore.” -Joan Didion, Goodbye To All That
Have you ever left New York? What was it like?