Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On learning to love New York.

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February has been a travel-heavy month for me. I spent one weekend visiting a college friend in Evanston, IL and the following weekend in the Berkshires of Massachusetts for a winter getaway with friends. On both weekends, I had a somewhat startling realization- that I missed New York. I woke up on a sunny, mild morning in Evanston, looked out the window, and was struck by a distinct sense of longing for the place I now call home. During the last leg of my trip home from the Berkshires, I felt strangely content as I waited in the cold for a bus on a busy East Harlem street corner.

This is new to me. Sure, I feel a palpable sense of relief every time my car curves around the final bend in my parent's driveway, but that is different. That is permanent home. This sense of missing an adopted home is new to me. You see, I never missed DC. Sure, I looked forward to walking in the door of my dorm/apartment/house after a trip and releasing my load from my shoulder, but I never looked out a plane window onto the buildings of the National Mall and felt any sense of homecoming. And when I left the city last August, it was more of a sense of fleeing than anything else.

This sense of attachment to New York started to gain momentum around Christmas time, as I found myself regarding the heaving masses of people in Midtown with a strange, somewhat insane feeling of endearment. I loved watching everyone simultaneously turn their palms skyward at the first hint of a snow flurry as I ran through Central Park on a Sunday afternoon. The Christmas tree sellers on every street corner felt poignant to me, with their strings of bare-bulbed lights illuminating their piney goods. I selected a wreath of my own and walked home along Broadway with it slung over my shoulder.

Is New York perfect? Of course not. On occasion, a packed rush hour subway car full of sharp-elbowed people will make me briefly question my choice residency. And sometimes after I haul heavy groceries home and heave them up 4 flights of stairs, I long to get into my car, drive down a quiet, uncongested road, park in a parking lot, and shop at a spacious grocery store full of affordably-priced food.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that we don't love places themselves- we love our experiences in those places. I loved Nairobi, for instance, because I loved who I was there, not to mention the family-like group of women that surrounded me. Although I was completely out of my element in that city, I felt most authentically myself.

And so far, I am loving my New York experience. I am thrilled with my newfound ability to maintain a morning running routine. I'm grateful for how generously my friends have made space for me in their lives. I am thankful that the person with whom I spend most of my waking hours, my neighboring coworker, is a wonderful and hilarious person. It may have taken a few months and a bit of patience, but I finally feel like I own this life of mine.

Monday, January 16, 2012

on hands.

One of the most noticeable differences between this current chapter of my life and the ones preceding is the way in which creativity fits. Throughout my student life and months of unemployment, I enjoyed the flexibility to push aside whatever I was doing when the urge to create struck. Moreover, I had the luxury of using my hands in different ways every day. I sewed, I cooked, I crafted, I sported. And it felt fantastic.

Now, I have an adult job that involves spending 8+ hours per weekday typing away on a computer keyboard. I'm still creating, but not as frequently as in the past. What was previously spontaneous now must be scheduled. So if I want it to happen, I have to make a conscious effort to fit it in around the income-generating activities that fill my days. And that has taken some getting used to.

When I was home over the New Year's long weekend, I spent a lot of time using my hands outdoors as well as indoors. I swung an ax and hauled firewood alongside my family, helped my mother gather seaweed from the beach for her garden, and cooked some meals for 4. It felt good- really good. A sense of mental acuity and vitality pervaded those few days. The whole weekend served as an excellent reminder to not let that kind of activity slip out of my day-t0-day life. I might not have as much time and space to do such things in New York, but the fact of the matter is- I feel better when my hands get as good of a workout as my brain. And so I will make room, one way or another.

making time

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas 2011

Now that I'm a citizen of the working world, long gone are the days of luxurious month-long Christmas breaks. Even though my holiday was compressed into 4-day long weekend this year, there was no shortage of merry and bright Christmas fun with the family at home.

Life may be in a state of constant flux for us young folk, but Christmas stays the same year after year.

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ready for santa

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we are serious about chocolate

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Monday, December 5, 2011

December.

Balsam fir and butter in the oven are two of my favorite scents.

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Coincidentally, December is my favorite month.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Roots and webs

In addition to finding a good, affordable yoga studio and obtaining a NY Public Library card, one of my priorities upon moving to New York was finding a new church.

I'm a Unitarian Universalist (UU)- something I don't often discuss here on this blog. Discussing religion, both in person and online, makes me uncomfortable because of the myriad opportunities for misunderstanding and judgment, so I generally shy away. But I will say this: I was raised as a UU and its principles helped to lay the foundation for the values I hold as an adult. While I did not regularly attend church during my late teens and the first couple years of my twenties, I resumed semi-regular church attendance during my last year of college. UU sermons are (at least, in my experience) thought-provoking and challenging to the mind. More often than not, a UU service presents tough questions rather than hands down easy answers, and I like that about my faith. It's free of dogma.

Today's sermon centered on thankfulness, as I imagine most sermons do during this time of year. The title was "Absence of Limit," and it focused on infinity: the infinite things we have to be thankful for, the infinite ways we can show our gratitude, and infinite ways in which we are connected and bound to one another. It was a great sermon- the kind that has my brain swimming in thoughts long after leaving church- and far too eloquent for me to sum up in just one sentence.

The minister's words were particularly timely for me today, as I've been thinking a lot about both thankfulness and the support of others during this time of life transition. Although I talk about the challenges of carving out my own life in New York, I cannot forget the fact that everywhere I go in this city, I am supported by a web of roots.

My roots in New York are varied- some are deep and old, while some are newer and fresher. When I attend this particular church, I sit in the same pews as my grandparents did. When I ride the subway to Queens, I travel through a tunnel built by my ancestors. When I make weekend plans, I meet up with the familiar faces of friends (many of whom I became acquainted with through this very blog). When I feel the need to escape my roommate-filled apartment, a family member is just a subway ride away. These roots intertwine into an invisible web that surrounds me. If I should lean, the web is there. And for that, I am very thankful.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Baskets, patience, and pastries.


the new 'hood, via iphone


I've long believed that the best measure of patience is how long you're willing to hold out for the right thing- be it a job, a living space, a relationship, etc.

By that measure, I am a very, very patient person. I waited a long time to land a great first job. I waited a long time find the right house for my senior year of college. And I'm still waiting for the right significant other.

And yet, I find myself feeling particularly impatient with my adjustment to this new life of mine. The transition from old to new was swift and dramatic: one day I was unemployed and living at home in the woods with my parents and by the next week, I was working a 9-5 job in Manhattan and living in a walk-up apartment with 3 random roommates. I got the package deal: 3 major life changes, 1 low price (actually, one very high price- moving is expensive). A new job, new city, and a new living situation.

Almost every day that I've been here in New York, I've felt as if I am living out someone else's life. I've been wearing someone else's shoes while my own life just sits off to the side, waiting for me to return and resume it. But this life that feels so foreign is my life now. I just need to let myself adjust and grow into it, and that will take time. Perhaps a lot of time.

On the day before I left home for college in 2007, an older relative of mine gave my apprehensive self a wise piece of advice. She told me not to think of life in terms of losses and gains, but as an ever-expanding basket of experiences that you're constantly adding to. Everything that you've ever done is right there in your arms, she said. You lose nothing. This wasn't exactly a revolutionary thought, but it was just the shift in perspective that I needed in that moment. I've carried her words with me ever since.

Today, I took a walk in the park with a friend (and new neighbor) before work. We bought ridiculous chocolate brioche from a nearby bakery and meandered beneath the autumn-hued trees while eating our breakfast. Sun filtered through the leaves and cut through the fog that shrouded the riverbank below us. I was far too involved with my pastry and the conversation to pause and take a photo, but the image is in my head. Another item to add to my basket.

Monday, October 31, 2011

It's about time.

When I graduated from college back in May, I expected that it might take me a little while to find a job. The national unemployment rate was (and remains) 9%. Entry-level jobs for liberal arts grads were in high demand, and I knew that I'd be competing against a slew of highly qualified recent graduates.

What I didn't expect, however, was for it to take me 5 1/2 months to find a job.

On October 20th, I was driving home on the highway after some errands when I finally got the phone call I had been waiting for. I somehow managed to avoid running off the road while the HR guy ran through the details of my job offer from one of the country's major environmental non-profits. I was offered a development assistant position in their New York City office, focusing on foundation relations. Not only was this was the exact job function I had been aiming for, but it was in the field I had spent 4 years studying in undergrad. The required move to NYC stirred up mixed feelings (a topic for another post) but I reminded myself that I always said I would only live in the city for the most ideal of jobs. And this was pretty much perfect. I accepted without hesitation.

In processing this complete 180 of life's course, two emotions dominated: relief, and gratitude. Relief that the anxiety-provoking job search had finally come to an end and gratitude for everyone that helped me get there. At the risk of sounding like I'm giving an Oscar acceptance speech, I am immensely grateful to the family, friends, and friends-of-family and friends who supported me, encouraged me, maintained their faith in me, invited me to distracting social events, sent job leads my way, worked the crap out of their networks to connect me with job leads, listened when I wanted to unload a rant on them, and mercifully avoided the topic when I didn't want to talk about it. In particular, I am endlessly grateful to the person whose connection opened the door to this job for me.

So now I live in Manhattan. My first day of work was today, Halloween. It was a whirlwind of introductions, HR orientations, and filing to familiarize myself with the 100+ foundation grants this non-profit receives every year. I have a lot to learn in these next few months, but I couldn't be happier about it. Real life, commence. I'm ready for you.