Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Bringing the blunders abroad

All things* must come to an end.

I'll try not to get too sentimental in reflecting on the past 8 1/2 years in NYC, though I'm pretty sure that's what blogs are for.

A lot's happened here and I've grown up, arriving as a single, wide-eyed 24 year old and leaving as an almost 33 year old with a baby and a husband who's still wide-eyed at the amazingness of the city.

Someone recently asked me, due to the baby and being at least one standard deviation above the average age of the East Village, if we were moving to the suburbs. I'm thrilled to say no - quite the opposite. We are moving abroad to spend time living in Ireland and traveling in Europe. It's the perfect time! Because it's now. The actual perfect time would've been a couple years ago, before baby, and possibly several years before then.

But despite all the truth about the madness of the city, the stress levels, the noise, the busyness of everyone around, I've found peace and calm and New York City has been central to my journey.

So my final lesson for you, lesson #69 if you're still counting, is that once there's an expiration date on something, like living in NYC, you will see it with new (sometimes teary) eyes. You will notice things like the parking garage that seems to intersect with the sky, pictured below. You'll see the nods and smiles of people who could've been friends if you stayed longer around. In turn, you'll be more likely to talk to strangers and smile at them too. What do you have to lose? Nothing now, and probably nothing back then, but it somehow feels different.

Thanks for joining me while chronicling alllll the missteps. It's time to bring my blundering ways abroad and learn new sets of rules and ways of life.

I'll miss you, NYC. Farewell for now.

*generally we say this about good things, but the mediocre and bad must also end. Thankfully, so much of my experience here in NYC has been superb, but not all of it (rat sightings and rents increases that make me blush they're so indecent). But damn, do I love it here, blemishes and all.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

There is no elevator to success.

 You have to take the stairs.
-- terrible motivational posters everywhere

Given the predicament we found ourselves in, expecting our first child this summer at the tender ages** of 32 and 34, there's been lots of discussion recently about whether we'd stay in our East Village apartment or move elsewhere.

After weeks of apartment searching, seeing at least a couple dozen units, we made our decision....we're staying put. Though dishwashers and washer/dryers and new buildings are all alluring, we just couldn't get past what we'd be giving up by leaving the East Village and the apartment that Sean has called home for 8 years. But here's the's a 4th floor walkup. At 5 months pregnant, I'm winded by the time I get to the top, but it's been do-able. But it's some of the reactions that've been fascinating. When people learn that I'll somehow be 9 months pregnant taking those stairs, or that we'll be carrying a small child up with a stroller, they respond with a mix of amusement, sympathy, and, sometimes, horror.

But here's the other thing. Since we made the decision, I've been much more attuned to stairs in the city and have been counting obsessively (it's become a form of mindfulness). I learned that getting off the subway and walking up to ground level often has as many, or even more, stairs than our 5 flights of stairs to our apartment. Here's a rudimentary breakdown:

  • Our apartment, top level: 64 steps
  • 2nd Ave F stop, subway level to ground (the one we take most frequently, given it's across the street): 59 steps
  • 57th St F stop, subway level to ground: 73 steps (ok, so this was partly because the escalator was out of service, but that's exactly how many steps I had to take to see daylight)

Once I realized this, I felt like such a sucker for focusing on apartments with an elevator or in a low floor. Turns out there are days I easily take 300-400 stairs without even realizing it (my prehistoric, pre-counting days).

I don't intend for this blog to become all about the difficulties and amazingness of parenting in the big city, though I imagine I'll make a mistake or two along the way. But this does lead me to Lesson #68, which is that you don't have to change everything and move to the Upper West Side or Jersey just because you're having a baby. Plenty of people make it work exactly where there're at and I'm excited to join their ranks. Even if you have mobility and the ability to pay moving costs and higher rent, you don't have to just because you think that's what your baby wants. Know what your baby probably wants? I imagine that it wants you to be happy and love him or her and to have a full, vibrant life.

As for me and my husband, we're looking forward to the sleepless nights and excitement living in a bustling neighborhood that will be awake along with us. Now that we're expecting, I've noticed that there are children living in the area and their parents seem pretty sane and like they might be friends/playdates further down the line. I can't wait to experience the neighborhood and city with new eyes and our new companion.

The major caveat is that we haven't had the baby yet so there are lots of unknowns. When our lease is up in a year and we're over hand-washing our dishes and taking the stairs, we might decide to leave. But for now, I'm happy that we've made the decision to stay and make it work. Every painstaking stair step up to our apartment reminds me that we're pretty damn lucky and happy and are going to welcome a baby into our lives, not changing every aspect of it for her.

**for NYC standards, for which I believe the formula for when it becomes 'normal' to have kids is about +7-10 years over most other places.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Furry friends

I'm living in Providence, RI for part of the summer and it's the sort of place where it's easy to walk around and breath in the air and sigh with blessed contentment at the fact that such a beautiful place exists and I'm lucky enough to experience it.

However, one week in, I'm missing New York. Maybe just the people in it.

I had a small taste of NYC when I went out for a late night walk. In the corner of my eye, I saw the rapid movement of a small furry creature on the street. I felt smug thinking that Providence had it's share of rodents and maybe the street I live on in NYC isn't so bad, given I usually only see 1-2 rats a night. Besides, they're usually inside the trash bags on the street, squeaking and making the bags move in the most distorted of ways. It made me like Providence a little more, even -- the city is just as flawed and imperfect as the rest of us.

Upon closer inspection, the creature was far too adorable and timid to be a rat. I realized it was a tiny, terrified rabbit on the dimly lit Providence street, chewing her grass slowly so as not to draw my attention.

I've been feeling lonely so it took a lot of restraint to not take the lil buddy home with me, but I walked away...and simultaneously missed NYC and felt relieved to be far from it.

Lesson #67: Rats and rabbits aren't all that different. Just ask this guy.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Trust jam

A couple years ago, I went on a lovely trip to Copenhagen.

One highlight of the trip was taking a train and walking past houses en route to Louisiana, the art museum (see photo above for the scenic landscape). While walking, we came across a beautiful home with an inviting, open mailbox. The mailbox contained several jars of homemade jam, painstakingly crafted and labeled. There was also note explaining how the jam was made, a price, and a jar to place money in if one wanted to make a purchase. At first, I couldn't believe how quaint it felt. There had to be hundreds of visitors walking by each day. I assumed they got ripped off on the daily and felt sorry for them, like someone should teach them common sense and how to run a business.

Later in the trip, we sat out for beers at an outdoor bar in the square. It was starting to get cold, and one of the employees walked over to a stack of blankets that were brought outside. He didn't bolt up the extras or bring them inside for safe-keeping, but left them out. Patrons grabbed blankets as they needed then returned them afterwards. No one took any, as far as I could tell.

Once I was expecting to see it, I was primed for seeing it all around; there were small examples of trust and kindness everywhere I looked. When I got back to NYC, I stopped looking for it and allowed my expectations to shift downward. While the per capita Trust Jam in NYC is lower than places like Copenhagen (in my humble and only semi-informed opinion), it still exists. But if you don't allow yourself to see it, you'll continue thinking that New Yorkers are, on the whole, jerks and only in it for themselves.

Lesson #66: Each of us has the ability to impart Trust Jam on those around us. When asked for directions, I can answer with a nod and be on my way, or I can give directions with a smile and a "have a nice day." When I see someone injured on the street, I can walk away to ensure my safety or I can wait until the assailant moves on and go back to see if I can help (true and recent story; though I reallllly wanted to walk away, I didn't - the poor 20 year old kid had blood coming out of his mouth after getting punched twice by a random dude asking him for money. Maybe if I was a large man I might take the chance to try to break up a fight but I know my stature isn't exactly imposing). After all, Trust Jam is not just the people who don't screw you over, but the people who take a chance on being kind in the first place.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New rat city

You know it's time for a vacation when you and your yoga instructor swap horror stories about the rat invasions in the east village, then instead of departing with a solemn "Namaste," you wish her a merry and rat-free day.

And with that, we're off to sunshine, hikes, nature, and animals that aren't rats. I love this city, but damn it feels good to leave.

Lesson #65: there's nothing funnier than watching someone waiting for brunch at Prune spot a rat scurrying inches away from an omelet. One thing I've learned is that there are no dainty mice on the east side, only the hardiest of rats. Maybe they're slowing down the gentrification of the east village? Nah, it'd take rats in someone's omelet to do that.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Us v. them

It's not just a fantastic song. It's more of a philosophy of which I'm becoming acutely aware. For the first few years living in NYC, I embraced the anonymity and loved feeling like one in so many millions. I don't know exactly what's changed; maybe I've grown softer with age, maybe it's because I'm marrying the coolest dude and it turns me into a sap when I think about it, and maybe it's just more exhausting to put up walls than just be a person. Being lonely amongst millions is tough work. Whatever it is, I'm enjoying feeling a little more connected to NYC, the neighborhood, and most importantly the people in it.

I've learned first hand that you can choose either end of the anonymous v. warmth spectrum, find somewhere in between, or waver between them. There's a coldness to people here (and anywhere) if you're looking for it, or a warmth if you're willing to try a little harder. Either way is fine, but I've talked a lot less about leaving New York now that I'm further on the warmer side of the equation. My happiness still ebbs and flows, so I don't think this has much to do with it, but I'm a little more comfortable with it and worry less about happiness itself, which tends to make me the slightest bit happier. Besides, a man much more eloquent and absurd than I once said, "You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life." (Camus)

Lesson #64: open yourself up a little and find the warmth in others, or at least recognize when you're ignoring it. Oh, and happy holidays :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

To Roosevelt Island...and beyond

Where does the time go?!

I suppose every journal, diary, and other blog I've written in has had a dark period, so it's only fitting that I have one here too.

You might think that in the last 10 months, I've become so much of a New Yorker that I don't need to outline all the mistakes I've made because there have been so damn few. You would be mistaken. Today alone, for example, I spilled half a water bottle on myself while talking with a teammate, almost impaled someone with my umbrella getting off the subway, and used a pen to put my hair up because I forgot a hair tie, getting ink on my scalp in several spots.

All of that goes to say, I still feel like pretty much the same painfully (and happily) midwestern girl that moved here almost 5 years ago. And while the mistakes I've made have decreased in number, slightly, I'm still navigating what feels like a new world many days.

Ever since arriving here years ago, I'd heard of a mystical island in the city, only accessible by tram (at least on weekends, when the godforsaken F train is rerouted). Having grown up with Cedar Point (and it's lesser, closer alternative, Michigan's Adventure), there's little more I loved than roller coasters. So I figured that getting to Roosevelt Island by tram would be pretty much like riding the Top Thrill Dragster, or at least the Raptor.

Turns out it was a little less turbulent and fun than a roller coaster, but the view was stunning and an altogether new experience. Here's my dad and I taking in the view on the tram (and a short video of it here):

(I only wish my parents would visit more often and ride trams with me)

Which leads me to...

Lesson #63 in moving to a big city: take note of all the places you'd like to see, and then see them. Stop making excuses about it and waiting for the right time. The number of people I know that haven't walked the boardwalk at Coney Island, checked out the view from the Brooklyn Promenade, or even set foot in Queens (you know it's a part of NYC, right?) is high, and I've fallen victim too. If several people have told you how cool something is, go see it and quickly. You never know when a great spot will close down and you'll never get the chance to see it in all it's glory.

I just still haven't been told anything compelling to do on Staten Island. I'm really open to visiting, and not just because it's the poor mans booze cruise, which is also kind of cool. Please, someone tell me what to do there.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Cleanliness next to Godliness, seat 12E

As I sat on the runway yesterday, I realized that it was 4 years exactly since I sat on a similar runway, awaiting life in NYC after moving from Michigan. (I have some deep, poignant thoughts on the past 4 years, but for a later time).

My clothing, however, was decidedly more frumpy this time than the last. After traveling in Colombia for 10 days, I had worn everything already, so I wore the least wrinkly of the bunch.

Not a big deal. But it also would have taken 30 seconds to pack an extra clean shirt and would've made the journey a bit more enjoyable. There's also something really nice about realizing you've thought ahead and want to make your future self more comfortable (also the reason I feel nice about putting $$ into my 401k).

Lesson #62: If you can, save a clean shirt, socks, & underwear to wear on a return trip home. Pack them in a separate compartment so you don't even remember you have and accidentally wear them prematurely, if that's what it takes. You will appreciate traveling with the small luxury of wearing something fresh, and others around you will as well. The other option is just to do laundry on your trip. I will spare you an explanation of how fashion-conscious New Yorkers are, but it is nice after being away several days to at least manage to at least wear a clean outfit (even if a giant backpack offsets anything cool looking about it).

And whether or not it's fashionable, I take this seriously: "I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn't itch."  -Gilda Radner.

hammock dreams about colombia, not clean clothes.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

look ma, no makeup!

“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.”
― Yves Saint-Laurent

In trying to think less about my appearance, I actually feel quite vain writing a post on my own makeup habits.

But here goes.

This past Monday, I didn't wear makeup to work for the first time in a long time, maybe ever (as an adult at least). Sure, I have plenty of weekends and vacations where nothing touches my face, other than SPF 30, but the thought of going to work without at least a touch of makeup seemed beyond strange.

Logistically, I saved minutes in the morning, rubbed my eyes as often as I pleased without worrying about smearing anything, and let my hair get as wavy as it wanted. I kept feeling like I was forgetting something all morning, though, and it helped me realize just how ingrained my morning routine was.

But most importantly, it felt really good. A little vulnerable but also clearer, somehow. By Tuesday, I was kind of relieved to put on a little concealer + mascara (+ bronzer and blush, if you must know), but it was nice knowing that none of it that necessary. I also feel kind of embarrassed by how much I worried about it for the first couple hours - what, is someone going to point out the blemish on my chin or my unadorned lashes?!*

Lesson #61: people care a lot less about how you look than you probably expect. But ultimately, it's what you think that matters anyway - so if you want to wear makeup, do it! if you want to try a day without it, do it! if you never want to wear it, don't! just don't expect anyone to notice and/or care.

Which hopefully isn't the case for this post. But, being true to this lesson, I don't think it would bother me either way.

And for proof, here is a photo. I also feel silly even posting this but now I'm officially part of #MakeupFreeMondays, at least this once.

here I am, smirking at the fact that I would write about this and also post a photo of it.

*a couple weeks ago, during a leisurely breakfast on vacation, I unknowingly dropped a large gob of grape jelly on my collar bone. The woman sitting next to me pointed it out. Her friend added, "Oh, I saw that but decided not to say anything. I thought it was a birth mark."

Monday, March 18, 2013

luck o' the west village

Tonight, while I picked up groceries on my walk back from work and started noticing how much snow was coming down. Then I heard the faintest sound of Irish bagpipes...

Though my fingers were near frost-bitten, I had to turn the corner and continue towards the music, as if entranced. (maybe the Pied Piper was Irish after all?)

lesson # 60: let your neighborhood surprise you! and by all means, when you hear beautiful traditional bagpipes, stop for a moment and listen.