It’s been five months since I moved to New York.
Astoria, Queens is the place I call home these days. And, I love it here. It’s a 15 minute train ride from midtown Manhattan, and Queens is the most diverse county in the nation. Two things that are essential for me: 1) being able to get into “the city,” and 2 ) diversity.
As I hinted in my first post, I have a long history with NYC.
Today, I’ll share some of that history, and I’ll also update you on how things are going, in general.
When it all began
I fell in love with NYC when I was nine years old. My family had returned to the States after living in Europe, and we visited New York to see extended family members.
I remember driving through the city, looking up at the buildings from the backseat window, and thinking “This is where I belong.”
There was something about it--the narrow, old streets, the people walking, the cars buzzing by. I knew it was my place.
As I got older, I tried all that I could to convince my parents to move to New York. Whenever we explored moving as a family, I begged my Dad to consider NYC. He wouldn’t. He was born in the Bronx and had his own (not-so-great) history with the city.
I searched for jobs in New York after college, but, nothing worked out. Doors didn’t open, and I wasn’t willing to make things happen. I don’t mean this as a negative. There are times when pushing through obstacles is required. I had the sense that pushing, during this time, would have been detrimental. I needed to wait for the right time.
Then I met and married my husband, who was raised in Pennsylvania and didn’t have an urban bone in his body.
Anyway, this is the short history of my admiration and pining for NYC.
(Spoiler alert: My husband loves New York.)
Have you ever felt like you belonged somewhere?
I’ve always secretly felt like a New Yorker, although, I could never have legitimacy as a New Yorker (since I never lived here). I realize now that my personality is very NYC.
Direct, but friendly. Confident. Curious. On the go.
There are two places that have captured me (not that I have seen all the places): The tiny town in the mountains of Puerto Rico, where I’m from (I briefly mention it on this podcast episode), and New York. Interestingly, these two places also represent the dichotomy that I seek in my environments--the center of it all, and where no one can find me.
I’ve known, since I was introduced to these two locations, that they were home.
Have you ever had this experience?
I’m not sure if there’s a study or a science on the impact of your environment on your life, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a person’s sense of wellness is deeply connected to what their environment inspires. At least, I find this to be true for me.
Any time I’ve moved to a new place, I’ve noticed what is different about my new environment; I instinctively compare it to the former environment.
This time, I am also noticing what is different about me in my new environment.
In the book, Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves, the authors explain that a person’s identity isn’t static, it changes based on the people around them. This is the basic concept of a triangle. We do not discuss people’s characteristics as a whole, but rather, how they behave when they are with specific others.
I see that my environment is an entity, an influencer, and perhaps, at times, a third party in my social circles. New York feels like a person. People talk about NYC like it’s a person. For example, there are posts about “breaking up” with NYC. I find this interesting.
I’ve jotted down a few things I’ve noticed about myself, and NYC, in the past five months:
I am more present.
I am more observant. There is so much to see!
I use my phone less. It has become a bit of a burden at times, actually.
I love trying new places to eat (although, this has always been true).
I had fallen into suburban fear about NYC. When I learned I would be teaching until after 9PM in lower Manhattan, I worried about taking the train home at that hour (I worried, for like, 1 minute. Nothing serious.). But, on the first day, I realized this was a silly concern. If you’ve been in Manhattan at 9:30 at night, you know what I mean.
New Yorkers are nice and talkative.
Driving is stressful (not in New York, in general).
There are no Walmarts. (I have become a creative shopper.) Not that Walmart is my go-to. I’d much rather support independent, local business. But, it was an easy fallback.
The Identity Crisis
So… life wouldn’t be life if there weren’t downsides to change. Sometimes, growth means grief.
In the beginning of our transition, I cried on a regular basis. Not for myself, but for my kid. She would often say to me, “Mommy, I miss our old house.” And, of course, I would feel guilty for moving her across the country, to a place with winter (okay, maybe that’s just my issue), into an apartment.
It was an emotional struggle for several months. I learned to say, “I do, too.” And, to empathize, without trying to cheer her up.
I’ve gone through an identity crisis of sorts.
Part of my identity struggle is related not only to the fact that to live an urban life you must combat the American ideal of suburban living--which is, for many of us, perpetuated by commercials, our parents and colleagues, and larger institutions, but also to the fact that I was embedded in suburban living only 6 months ago. I had a solid identity as someone who had achieved the ideal.
Now I have almost no ownership. We sold our home and one of our cars. And, as weird as this may sound, this has caused some disorientation.
I recently heard someone say on a Ted Talk, “Ownership is dead.” And, I have to admit, it made me feel better.
I’m not sure that owning a home matters to me right now. In fact, I know it doesn’t. But, I have had to re-center my priorities, think through my life goals, and understand the overall present and future purpose for my decisions. While much of this has resolved itself, I find myself seeking daily reminders of the overall vision.
I have a global vision. I do not know if it will come to pass, but I want to prepare myself and my daughter for thinking, living, and working beyond this country’s (the United States’) borders. In order for that to be central, day in and day out, I must make choices that prioritize connection, travel, bi/tri-lingualism, flexibility, and discomfort, while also maintaining love, harmony, faith, and inspiration.
I’m figuring it out.
So, What’s Next?
I am going into my second semester teaching at Nyack College’s MFT program.
Supporting therapists in The Refreshed Therapist Network is my daily privilege.
And, I plan to launch an online practice in 2019. (Stay tuned! I’ll share the process with you).
I’ve come across the following resources this week that are relevant to some of the ideas in this post. Take a look, if they interest you:
Life In A Tiny Apartment: Where Do You Put All Your Stuff? Reading My Tea Leaves
My friends, Carmen and Bob Morrison. sold their home and moved to Mexico City, to empower members of urban slum communities to meet their own mental health needs. I met with them recently, and they reminded me of what really matters.
Let me know, in the comments below.
What resonated for you, in this post?