Part 3 of My Hurricane Sandy Diaries
Saturday November 10:
I did not cry throughout the Hurricane Sandy blackout experience (save a couple moments when my eyes welled up over people’s heartbreaking stories of pain and loss). Not until yesterday that is, when I finally broke down and let it ALL out – a long, heaving sob about everything. I haven’t done that in a long time.
I am aware that it’s rather silly to cry about anything I’m going through right now. People died during the storm, others lost everything. I’m gonna cry because I had no power for a week? Because telecom services are still down in my neighborhood, so I’ve had no Internet access for days and I can’t send text messages? Chock it up to Mercury retrograde. This too shall pass.
Hurricane Sandy really did put life in perspective – what’s worth getting worked up about and what isn’t – which is why I’m acutely aware that these tears are really not about any temporary communication snafus. The truth is, I just can’t do this anymore. I think I’m ready to move back to Los Angeles.
If I’m really being honest with myself, I need to admit that I’m fed up with New York and I have been for a while. I’m sick of the break neck pace of this city. The gritty, dirty, smelliness. The crazy people shouting in the street. The drunks & junkies passed out in the middle of the sidewalk. The young partygoers who step right over them in their short skirts and stilettos without so much as a second thought. The NYU kids, and bridge & tunnel set, who infiltrate my neighborhood to get wicked drunk and act stupid, then throw up all over the place and go home.
I’m sick of hostile, selfish jerks fighting about meaningless bullshit. I’m sick of people constantly approaching me on the street; always trying to sell me something; disguising their agenda; wanting a hand out. I’m sick of lacking in personal space. I’m sick of jam-packed subway trains; waiting for buses that never come on schedule; navigating through hoards of people everywhere I go. I’m sick of being “a bag lady” that has to carry 20 lbs of crap around all day because it’s not feasible to run home between meetings. I’m sick of buying too many groceries and having to lug them 15 blocks + 5 flights of stairs, when I can’t get a cab. I’m sick of dragging all my dirty laundry 4 blocks to the nearest filthy Laundromat. I’m sick of how expensive it is to live here. I’m sick of busting my ass at multiple jobs just to barely make ends meet. I’m sick of my rude, nosy landlady; tiptoeing around to avoid her; living without hot water and heat at least several days out of every month, even though she just raised my rent. I’m sick of freezing cold winters; all those lost months spent indoors waiting for the return of pleasant weather. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m sick of it ALL.
Yep, I’m coming to the realization that the pace and tenor of this city just doesn’t suit me. I’m a California gal, who runs on California time, at California speed. I need more nature than the park can provide. I need sunshine, space, clean streets, some peace and quiet, please! I’m also realizing that I gave up a pretty lovely life back in Los Angeles – a beautiful little home in a picturesque hillside neighborhood; a foxy Volkswagen at the ready in my garage; my family close by.
It’s not that I didn’t appreciate these things before, I DID, but perhaps I have an even greater appreciation now that I’ve lived in Manhattan. I was always aware of, and very grateful for my extremely good fortune, which is probably why I never truly set the wheels in motion to live in another city, even though I thought about it for years. Sure, I daydreamed of giving San Francisco, Seattle, or Hawaii a go, but I never thought I’d actually have the guts to move or the wherewithal to successfully thrive outside of my hometown.
I never thought NYC was a place I’d ever live. In fact, I was quite sure it would “chew me up and spit me out.” Yet it called me. Once I began to explore the possibility, events unfolded rather effortlessly to move me cross-country. I needed to get out of my comfort zone, go somewhere completely different, and kick my life up a notch. I had a lot to prove, to myself mostly, about what I’m truly capable of. New York gave me that. She toughened me up and forced me hustle. I needed that swift kick in the pants and she delivered in spades.
But New York has also worn me out. I feel like I’ve aged 2 years for every one I’ve lived here. I’m tired. And lonely. I need some love, not another hard knock lesson. This city can light you up like a firework, make you feel as if you’re living the dream, and are the luckiest person alive just to be a part of it. It can also be harsh and unforgiving. New York doesn’t owe you anything. She’s not going to make it easy on you. She may even kick you while you’re down, if you’re not careful. Sometimes when you’re at your wit’s end, she might cut you some slack, but probably not for long. There are certainly many other friendlier places on Earth to live. New York is great if you: have money (and lots of it); thrive on chaos; require constant stimulation; are a workaholic; have ADD, a thick skin, and a high tolerance for other people’s suffering; don’t need a lot of space; can’t exist outside of epic urban habitats.
Perhaps I’m just too sensitive to live here. Maybe I want an easier life after all. Is that so wrong? I don’t want to struggle anymore. I don’t have to. I’m lucky. I can leave. I have a choice, a Plan B, a really awesome one at that.
It’s true, I let opportunities slip through the cracks. I had an abundance of good ideas that I didn’t follow up on. I chose to prioritize the needs of my clients, for the sake of making money, over the things that I’m really passionate about. I took the safer path and thought small. I lacked faith in my abilities. Often I didn’t have the energy, or the inclination, to compete in this cutthroat game. Maybe I could have taken greater risks, thrown more caution to the wind, but it ultimately goes back to the pace thing. I just didn’t have it in me, to do it all and devote myself 24/7. I want a life that’s about more than work.
I might’ve had it when I first moved here. There was a time when I was willing to do whatever it took to stay in New York. While living in my first apartment, I was suddenly given 25 days to move out and at that time, going back to LA simply was NOT an option. I wasn’t going to leave NY before I was ready. This was my dream. I wanted to build a life here. No one was going to take that away from me. Yeah, I had that drive at one point, but I lost it somewhere along the way. To be fair, I did try especially hard to make this work. I applied for hundreds of jobs. I worked at a vintage clothing boutique on Orchard Street (before it went out of business), as a home/office organizer, a photography assistant, a stylist, a hand model, an executive assistant for several high-profile CEOs, all the while pursuing my own personal writing and photography projects. I explored lots of avenues, but nothing really stuck. I kept giving it more time, hoping all these irons in the fire would manifest into my “big break” if I could just be patient a little longer.
There was a time in NYC’s history when you could live in Greenwich Village as an artist and not have a job. You could just be an artist. What a revolutionary concept. It’s what people did and there was a community here to support that – in the 1920’s era of Edna St. Vincent Mallay and Dorothy Parker; in the 1950/60’s Beat Generation era of Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan; and in the 1980’s “NY 500” era of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring. It was a profoundly grittier Village then, but you could survive with a little help from your friends. Everyone: paint, write, perform, produce shows, make films, host salons; express yourself, tune in, drop out! But those scenes don’t exist anymore. When millionaire developers buy up nursing homes and low-income tenement buildings to erect glass box condo lofts for the mega-rich, and rent for a 300-square-foot shoebox can easily run you $2000 per month, how does anyone manage to live here without earning a six-figure salary?
I did periodically re-evaluate, but the answer I kept receiving: “Give it another year. It’s not time to pull up stakes yet.” People would always tell me, “It takes at least a year to feel comfortable in NY. It takes at least 3 years to get your bearings. It takes at least 5 years to really establish yourself here.” And in the back of my mind, lingered this nagging question, “Yeah but, at what point do you read the writing on the wall and decide that enough is enough?”
2012 certainly fit that bill, serving as a huge mirror and provoking much reflection. The year kicked off with bang, when the guy I’d been dating unexpectedly had a New Year’s Eve freak out and broke up with me shortly after midnight. This coincided with the equally sudden passing of my landlord in his apartment downstairs and the unbearable stench of death that lingered in our building for months. Spring packed its own punches as I was hired and then subsequently fired from what I thought was my “dream job”. A series of nasty legal disputes, violations of privacy, and abusive threats turned my once comfortable apartment sublet into an intolerable source of stress. Thankfully, summer blessed me with a few desperately needed getaways to Kismet, Fire Island. And fall graced me with a trip to the rolling hills of Burgenland, Austria where the emphasis on fine wine, family, tradition, and luxuriating illuminated life’s paramount importances to me. Then of course, Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast in late October, yielding the biggest lessons of the year.
So, as a result of all this soul-searching, I’m finally clear on a few things: I want to be an entrepreneurial artist, not a corporate career gal. I want to have the time and means to pursue my passions: for food, drink, culture, and travel; research, writing, photography, and cartography. I want to live in a house, ideally close to the ocean, that reflects my personal design sensibilities. I want to travel and see the world. I don’t want to work multiple jobs that I have no vested interest in for some overpriced, cramped apartment that will never belong to me, and doesn’t afford the opportunity to venture much of anywhere else.
I want a creative, collaborative partnership with a compassionate, free-spirited man who values the balance of work and play; who desires true love rather than perpetual bachelorhood. Not too many New York men are looking for this with so many beautiful options at their disposal. (Yes, I chose that word on purpose.) Also, I don’t see myself raising a child here. The idea of walking down the streets of Manhattan with a baby, amidst this swirling chaos, scares the bejeezus out of me. (Not to mention, the schools are so expensive and competitive!)
New York certainly got its hooks in me good though. I definitely bought into the work driven, fast paced, single serving, hustle bustle. I may have even convinced myself that I’d be content building a life here for the long haul. But a part of me will always feel out of alignment with this place. You can take the gal out of California, but you can’t take California out of the gal. It’s where I come from and it’s a huge part of who I am. The Universe planted me there from the beginning for a reason.
There was a time when I equated going back to LA with failure. If that happened, it would mean I wasn’t strong/ambitious/talented enough to hack it in NY and I’d return to being all the things I’d left behind – single, isolated, bored, and complacent, again. But things have changed, I’ve changed. I’m the one who gives meaning to my experiences. I can choose to see this return as a new and exciting, completely different era, a clean slate. I’ve gained a much clearer understanding of who I am and what I want out of life. I’ve got this NY energy coursing through my veins now and I can put it to better use in LA. It’s simply impossible to go back to the way things were in the past.
So, does this mean I don’t love NY anymore? Hell no! Quite the contrary. Much like a love affair, you can love someone deeply and know that they’re not a good match for you, that you’re not long-term material, and your destiny lies elsewhere, impossible as it may feel to walk away. I can’t change the things I don’t love about NY, that’s just who she is, and I need to accept her, worts and all.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid to go back to LA. I am afraid to fall into old patterns and habits. I’m afraid to drive again. I’m afraid I’ll be filled with regret, miss NY, and feel as if I made a terrible mistake. I’m afraid I won’t be able to make my new career dreams come true or meet my ideal romantic partner there either. I’m afraid to go backwards, rather than forward.
It’s clear to me now that my biggest blocks about returning to LA are mental ones. It’s all a matter of perspective that I alone am responsible for. I choose my attitude, thoughts, and actions. YES, it is time to read the writing on the wall. Not just read it, but do something about it. I don’t need to fear this. I need to listen to my heart and let go of the things that are no longer serving my highest good! Life is too damn short. I have faith because, you know what? I trust myself and this change finally feels right…
Have you ever been guided to make a big move? Did you experience a series of AHA! moments that prompted you to change your life’s path? I’d love to hear your story, so please leave a comment below. If this post resonates with you, share with a friend, and be sure to SUBSCRIBE (in the top right hand corner of this page) so you can receive all my freshly pressed posts directly to your inbox when they go live every week!
Coming up next week: Living in New York is a lot like having a love affair…