I Moved Back to New York: Backstory and Update

Well, well, well. When I wrote my last post in this blog-roll on January 18, I definitely did not intend to go literally six months without writing another blog post! 

And yet here we are, six months later, and this is the first post I've written since then. Ha! Such is life, isn't it? It literally always takes you by surprise.

Another surprise: this section is no longer called "Travel." Yeah. That worked really well while I was in Europe and not working full-time and, therefore, actually able to travel, but it hasn't been a huge part of my life the last six months, to be honest. And I wanted a place to just sort of hash out my thoughts that are more miscellaneous, and/or give updates on important life events.

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So, one update: I'm back in New York! If you follow me on social, you may already know this. In mid-February while I was in Columbia, SC, I fell into a pretty dark depression. I was seeing a doctor and a therapist and looking for jobs, and I just couldn't get out of the pit. And I missed New York. It was unhealthy how much. I was in a bad place mentally and unable to handle my homesickness. 

And there was one thing I could do about it, so I did: I applied for a job that I had interviewed with before leaving New York, and after interviewing on the phone and feeling confident that I could at least make it to the next step of the hiring process, which happened to be a paid training period in the city, I made the decision to move up here.

The past four months haven't been easy, by any stretch of the imagination. I mean, I literally had, like $150 in my bank account when I left, or some nonsense like that. I was incredibly broke. At the same time, I didn't think I had the luxury of waiting. I didn't have good job prospects in South Carolina and, again, I was deeply, dangerously depressed. I was honestly afraid of what I would do if I stayed. 

So I left. It was impulsive, and I went against the wishes of some people who I love and care about a lot. And things didn't turn out rosy and beautiful immediately. In the four months I've been in the city, I've lived in 10 different apartments, in three different boroughs (and twice in New Jersey). I left my car in a parking garage for three months without actually setting up an agreement to leave it there (and got it back thanks to people being gracious toward me). I have been completely broke more times than I can count — to the point where I went 24 hours without eating once; where I had $5 to get through a weekend; where I ate nothing but cereal and leftover shrimp lo mean for three days, and didn't leave the house at all because my MetroCard was expired.

I've been stretched completely thin so many times. And if I suddenly woke up in my bed in Columbia in March, knowing every single thing that lay before me on this trip, I'm not sure I would have the strength or the courage to come back. 

But I don't regret doing it. 

Things still aren't perfect, or set in stone. I'm living in an apartment in Queens, but only until the end of August, because that's when my sublet ends. I have a doctor and medication, but not a therapist. I miss Italy viciously, all the time. I haven't worked my novel in over a month, as much as I desperately desire to. I work the graveyard shift so I sleep during the day and sometimes that means I miss out on socializing with people. 

But I don't regret doing it.

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It's hard to explain, and even harder to understand, why I feel so tied to New York. Why I feel like I have to be here. It's not just that I love the city. I feel like I am meant to be here. Like my soul belongs here. And quite frankly, it's the closest city in America to the way of life I had in Italy, and so it's the easiest in which to live without agonizing over how much I miss my home (so, so much). 

The truth is: I don't feel like my time in New York is over yet. I don't feel like I gave it my all. I feel like I have to fight harder. Because, yes, life here? So incredibly, freaking hard. My word. So hard. 

But here I am. It's been an incredibly difficult period of four months. I am so blessed, and so grateful, that people have supported me. My friends, my family, even my job...I told myself I didn't deserve any help, because I made a choice to return here, and so it wasn't on anyone's shoulders to help me. And yet, they did. 

I am blessed to have been helped by people. I am humbled by their love and support for me. Thank you.

Currently, I'm working full-time on a contract basis for a startup based in Manhattan. I am trying to get back into blogging and writing about books after a few months of a creative coma. I am still working on my latest novel, ALLIE MAE DOESN'T GET THE GUY, and my dream is still to be a published author of young adult fiction someday. I'm trying to get better about buying groceries as opposed to ordering takeout. I'm trying to work on my mental health.

There's a lot going on. There are moments of devastation, when I look at life and how long it is and how hard it is and I just despair. But those pass. 

They always pass. 

Hey, I love you guys. Thanks for reading this really long post. Let me know how you're doing!

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Mourning New York, Forcing Myself to Look Ahead

Leaving felt so natural, and I barely cried as I drove away; yes, even as I snapped one final photo of the Empire State Building through my side-view window, I didn't feel the pang.

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In fact, I did tear up a little; but I'm pretty sure I was just forcing it. I knew I was supposed to be crying...mourning...grieving...and even though I couldn't feel those emotions naturally, I tried to make myself. To assuage the later pain. 

Didn't work.

The later pain, when it came, wrecked me. It stole my breath and left me curled in a ball under my covers, unable to appreciate the fact that I'm in Italy, because all I could think about was how I'm not in New York

I look at pictures on Instagram and my heart shudders. I read about the broken subway in the paper, and I'm overcome with nostalgia. Every time I close my eyes, my eyelids are imprinted with the sight of my Brooklyn apartment, which I can't believe I left.

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It was a beautiful apartment. Spacious, light-filled, with a balcony (!!!) and two wonderful roommates. It had a big living room where I used to sit to read the paper, write some articles, watch TV, a kitchen with two. separate. sinks, and my roommate, Rachel, quickly became one of my best friends.

The night before I left, Rachel and I went out to dinner together. We toasted to my future, stuffed our faces with pizza, and laughed about Jane the Virgin.

And all the while, it wasn't real. The fact that I was leaving this city I loved with passion, the people I'd grown to depend upon, the sidewalks and routes that had become home to me...it wasn't real.

It took a few weeks for it to really sink in, and when it did? It struck with a viciousness I hadn't expected.

I've described it as a physical ache. I miss New York so much that sometimes I feel nauseous. I miss it so much I'm surprised I don't get a spontaneous nose bleed.

New York was...the city that captured my heart. People used to ask me why I loved New York. It's dirty, they would say, or too fast-paced, too mean a city. It'll chew you up and spit you back out, wrinkled and broken. I would shrug and tell them the simple truth: that it was home.

When I stepped out of the rented car on my first adult visit to New York, back in 2013, I just felt this overwhelming sense of belonging. Like I understood the city, and it understood me, and we just made sense together.

After that moment, I made it my life's mission to get back. And for a beautiful two years, that's where I lived.

Do you think you'll live in New York forever? my friends would ask. They didn't; they had plans to eventually move to California, or the suburbs. Yes, as long as it makes sense, I responded.

How was I to know it would stop making sense so soon?

I sometimes fear I'm a rat abandoning ship too early. I look at all the times over the years I've moved or quit a volunteer job that was draining me or switched to a better-for-my-health job, and I think maybe I'm a quitter. But at least I wasn't going to quit New York.

Except I did.

I think I don't just miss the city, I miss the person I could dream of being while I was there. I miss the fast-talking, no-crap-taking, power-walking, laughing girl I was when I first got there, the girl I dreamed I would be again in a few weeks, a month, perhaps a year.

Because those people who told me New York would chew me up? 

They weren't wrong.

It is a hard city. It's frantic, and it's massive, and getting from one place to another is a job in itself, and there's little room for screwing up. 

It's a hard city, and it wrung me out and hung me on a line to dry, and I couldn't get back up. 

So I left. And I miss it every day, with nearly every breath. It's constantly on my mind, how much I miss it, how much I want to be back.

But.

But I can't be back. Not right now. The truth is, I can't function the way I did for the last year I lived in New York. I was working 40+ hours a week, plus 6-12 hours of commuting, plus either in a deep depressive episode or else trying to add 15 hours of freelance work, plus having a social life, plus reading, plus sleeping, plus this, plus that...I just couldn't do it. I couldn't afford it, financially or emotionally.

I want to keep looking into the past. I want to keep my eyes trained on New York and plunge ahead speedily with the single goal of getting myself back there. But that's no way to live.

So, as hard as it is, I'm forcing myself to turn my head and look forward. I've decided that I'm going to live in Columbia, South Carolina, for at least the next year. I'm going to commit to a job, an apartment, a cat, a church, a community. I'm going to pour myself into that life and those people and not treat any of it like it's second-best, because right now, it's best. It's the best place for me, and it's the best I can do, and it's my best option, and so it's not second-best. It's first-best.

I'm going to rejoice and "bloom where I'm planted." I'm going to keep my eyes ahead on the horizon, and if it never changes from Columbia, or if I move and travel and have myriad adventures, or if I'm shortly back in New York, I'm not going to look back at what I've given up. I can't afford to keep beating myself up over the past.

Yes, I miss New York. Viscerally. 

But I'm not going to let that stop me any longer.

On the Dreaded Move Down South, and My New Love of Clouds

I don't know about you, but I've never really appreciated clouds as much as they deserve.

I just never really noticed them. They were there, I assumed, and occasionally would dump rain upon me and I'd duck my head and scramble as my broken-down, cheap umbrella flapped in the wind, but that was about the extent of my relationship to clouds.

I think I can easily blame this on New York City. It's just such a city, you know? Either you're in Manhattan, with tall buildings blocking sight of the clouds, or you're in the outer boroughs and so intent on what you're doing and taking in the architectural beauty that you ignore nature.

That's what I have a tendency of doing; ignoring nature in favor of the man-made structures that astound.

I have this theory, though, that it's just as easy to worship God through urbanity as it is through nature; because the ultimate creator of everything is, in fact, the God who inspires men to build; it's just in architecture it's more indirect.

But that's off-track. I just, I have a thing for buildings. I adore them. 

So, yeah. Buildings catch my eye. I could write a thousand odes to the beauties of architecture, the wonders of the metropolitan, the glories or the urban jungle. I never thought I would find myself writing about clouds.

It's just that there's so much more space down here, you know? I can drive for miles without leaving the city. The buildings are short and the roads wide and half-empty, and my eyes drift upwards, to the sky, and there...there are the clouds.

Remember that game we played as kids, where we lay on the grass, shaded our eyes with our hands and pointed out the clouds? We used our imagination to create parallels between the clouds and something else we knew, so instead of just seeing a cloud we saw Snoopy, or a sandcastle, or that man from church.

It's a great game, and it's most kids' first introduction to what it means to appreciate what's up in the sky. I have fond memories of playing that game, laying in the sun while my skin baked, breathing in fresh air and soaking up Vitamin D.

I think, somewhere along the way, I forgot about that game. I forgot to look up at the sky and wonder at what the clouds are doing. They're so simple, you know, and there are so many bigger things to think about — there are so many work-related things to stress over and catch-up dates to plan and packing to dread. There is just much to do that does not involve staring at the sky.

That's a pity, isn't it? 

I've said it before, but things seem to move at a slower pace in the South. And they're bigger. There's more time to take in the sights, and one of the sights I've been loving has been that of the clouds. Do me a favor, y'all, and the next time it's light where you are, glance up. Look at the clouds. Snap a photo. Send it to me. Let's talk clouds. 

And let's talk about how it took the thing I feared for two years — leaving New York, moving back to the South — to get me to notice and appreciate my new favorite natural phenomenon. It's just...isn't that the way it always is? You fear something, you dread it, you name it the Bogeyman, monster under the bed, Boggart in the closet, and then when it happens, when life throws you in the direction you never wanted to go, you find something you adore. 

I love New York, and I miss it, today for the first time with a fierceness that surprised me. But I had to leave. I put myself in a box in Brooklyn, and I had to jump far away in order to get free. And I'm so excited to be heading to Italy this week, so exited about all the adventures I'll have there. I'm excited to come home and see what home holds for me the second time around, where I end up, what God has in store. 

The life I was living the past few months in New York was strict and rigid and inflexible. I'm so excited to have flexibility again. So excited get to rant and rave about something new, something unexpected — something like clouds.

Let's adventure, shall we? Look at the clouds, and while we're at it, see what else we notice that might have been hidden before.