When I first moved to NYC a few years ago, I dealt with my emotions surrounding the move, all the homesickness and loneliness, by packing so much exploring and sightseeing and running around town into my days that I didn’t have time to think about how scared shitless I really was. I had wanted to move to a city since college, but prior to this experience had always chickened out and stayed close to home. Close to places that felt safe and familiar and comfortable.
In what had become a typical Saturday afternoon for my family, we set out to attack an itinerary so urgently jam-packed, you would think we were expecting NYC to implode sometime soon. The day oozed typical New York summer with 90 degree temps and air thick with humidity, trapped and held in the asphalt streets and concrete sidewalks, compounded by the heat thrown off the never-ending caravan of cars and buses passing by. It was a day where the moment I stepped out of the air conditioning, sweat formed at the hairline on my neck and dripped lazily between my shoulder blades before settling in the curve of my lower back, tacking my shirt uncomfortably to my skin.
The ridiculous day we planned quickly turned infuriating after boarding the wrong train, finally getting on the right train, missing our stop, and hiking what felt like several thousand blocks in an attempt to find someplace with a public toilet my son could use. Exhausted, irritated, and ready to call it a day, we descended the stairs onto the mezzanine of the subway station, walked past a group of hooded ninjas performing under the watchful eyes of a handful of New York City’s finest, and went down yet another staircase to the platform for the train that would take us to our apartment.
On the platform, it felt as if I was standing in a steam room fueled not by water, but by urine and garbage and body odor. I became lightheaded. I need a deep breath. The laughter of the teenagers behind me, the whining of my six year old, and the tears of my two year old were muffled and far away, more like echoes from the pit of a deep well. Why doesn’t this station have a board that tells me how long until my train comes? The stations uptown have boards that tell me how long I will have to wait. How long do I have to hold it together? My fingers began to tingle and my insides were twitching, like the engine of a car just turned off after a long trip. I needed a deep breath, but it was trapped inside me. There was a wave building up inside my chest that couldn’t crest. When is the stupid train coming? I can’t stand here. I can’t be still. I must be in motion. My vision blurred and I was no longer in my body. Everything was out of my control, and then, from the corner of my eye, I saw the elevator door open. I lunged into it, hissing at my husband, “Get in here now.”
Back on the mezzanine I ran, leaving my husband and children standing just outside the elevator, confused. The stairwell leading up and out was my only concern. I wove through the sea of people, toward the daylight illuminating the top of the stairs. I was out. The wave crested. I caught my breath, walked to the curb and put out my hand, tears welling up in my eyes. Taxi, take me home.
I’m glad it feels like home now! I moved from CA to NJ (20mi from NYC) 4 years ago so I totally feel your pain. Your descriptions were so vivid – I really felt like I was right there with you.
Oh yes you totally feel my pain!!! While the city does feel like home now, there is still something about it. Every time I leave to visit family and come back I have to totally re-adjust again. There’s no place like it…the lifestyle, the pace, everything! Thanks for taking the time to read my piece and for your kind words 🙂
I’ve never been to NYC, I imagine it to be like Tokyo but with different people that are probably way more stylish than me and a larger Statue of Liberty (Tokyo has a mini one). Good luck in “The City!”
I’ve never been to Tokyo, so I can’t tell you for sure if your imagination is on the mark. The whole stylish people thing freaked me out when I moved here. The thing that’s cool about style in NYC is that it’s completely individual. When I lived in the midwest, I felt like there was a style uniform, and if you weren’t in it, you stood out like a sore thumb. The first event we attended here, I stressed for weeks about what to wear, because I wanted to “fit in”. Turns out by trying to “fit in” I stuck out the most. The things people were wearing were all across the board, but they all looked fabulous because they all looked comfortable. They were wearing what they liked and what they looked good in.
As much as I would love to think I am a part of the fashion and glamour that is NYC, the reality is I am rooted solidly in the mom carting around two boys crowd, which means I am generally looking anything but stylish!
Not true Andrea, you always look great! Continue being you 🙂
It’s hard to be stylish when you barely make it out of your yoga pants each day 🙂
I’ve lived right outside NYC for almost my whole life, so I’m quite familiar with those platforms. My first panic attack ever was brought on by a particularly smelly and humid one. I could feel this one. Very vivid.
Oh Michelle, so you totally know what I am talking about. Glad to hear I described it in a way that makes sense and feels real to someone who has been in my shoes. That’s a big compliment! So tell me, does it get better the longer you live here?
I live in a small town and cannot imagine moving to such a metropolis as NYC. While I know the opportunities are increased for all kinds of growth I just am too old for such a radical life change.
As a native small town girl, I understand your hesitation :). I believe growth can happen wherever you want it to. Some places just force it out of you at a more rapid and seemingly uncomfortable pace!