On not loving New York

When it comes to next year, there’s really no denying that New York is the logical, sensible place for Dave and me to move.

There’s a wealth of career opportunities for me there, and a wealth of top-notch residencies for everyone’s favorite med student. Dave’s mother wouldn’t wake up every morning cursing me for taking his son to a state that doesn’t border New Jersey. I could have a Shake Shack burger whenever my heart desired.

But facts don’t necessarily predict feelings, and the sad fact of the matter is: I don’t want to go. I really, really don’t.

Part of the reason is that the residency process, for all its heartaches and headaches, is actually a great opportunity to try something new. Dave and I are both pretty attached to the East Coast on a long-term basis – we know we want to live here when we grow up – so why not experience another part of the country now? It’s just three years. I’m scared that if we don’t go soon, we never will. And while Dave – the kid who’s lived within a half hour of his parents for his other life – is OK with that option, I’m not.

The other reason has less to do with alternatives and more to do with Manhattan itself. I’m just not smitten with it, and I feel like the City That Never Sleeps And Charges You $7 For A Latte is best left to those who are.

Of course, like every Penn grad, there was a time I did love New York, at least the idea of New York, and was convinced I would live there after college. As preparation for my eventual role in the mass, post-graduation exodus up I-95, I spent the summer between my junior and senior years living on the 17th floor of a building that straddled Gramercy and Murray Hill, working two unpaid internships that were apparently totally illegal.

My friend Jon was killing a few months before moving to England for grad school, and together we tried valiantly to embrace our low income status. The majority of our diet consisted of 99 cent Gray’s Papaya hot dogs and $5 footlong Subway sandwiches we would split down the middle (iceberg lettuce on one side, spinach on the other), capped by the occasional dinner at Daniel when my parents would come into town. Jon cooked Ramen noodles in an electric tea kettle, the only appliance in his sparse, un-air-conditioned NYU dorm room.

That all lasted about six weeks. Toward the end of July, a serious heat wave set in, and we escaped to an Upper East Side boutique hotel, blowing $100 on a sushi dinner at Geisha while we were at it. Go big or go home, right?

In a way, the summer was fun – I’m sure I fancied myself semi-Bohemian, like I was starring in my own Coach-wearing, Trader Joe’s-shopping version of Rent. I liked a lot of things about New York: the tall buildings, the weird people, the late nights, the walkability. In many ways, it felt like I was coming home, like these were my people, my city. After all, I’m high-strung. I’m loud. I hate Times Square and tourists and others who insist on walking slowly. I was pretty much an instant native.

The problem is that the things that make me most New Yorker-ish are also the things I would most like to change about myself.  I want to calm down, not stress out. I have judgmental tendencies as it is, so why would I want to live in a city where “status is everything,” as Alex from Real Housewives so wisely opined?

Now, I’m sure most people are perfectly capable of living on that island without having it bring out the worst in them. But you’re probably unsurprised to learn: I’m just not one of them.

The insecurity, the jealousy, the “why haven’t I eclipsed Andrew Ross Sorkin by now, anyway?” thoughts permeated my head that summer. Against the pre-professional back-drop of Penn-in-NYC, the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do after college was all the more terrifying. I developed a complex about people in finance (try working iBanking hours while attending school full-time, I would whine, to no one in particular), a complex about people who were trying their luck at journalism (it’s impossible, I would say, you/I/we’ll never make it.) I felt disheartened and excluded by a lot of what the city had to offer. Whether it was true or not, I was convinced I had neither the cash nor the connections to really be a part of the big apple.

Since then, some things have changed. I made it into journalism. Wall Street tanked. I surround myself with people who are more likely to be talking about cardiothoracic surgery or Congress than their bonuses. I’m a little more confident, a little more level-headed.

But there’s still ample evidence on this Web site that I have a long ways to go when it comes to Calming The F Down (see: my India trip, last Thursday night.) So why not give myself the best chance possible of actually following through with my perennial New Year’s resolution for a couple of years? I hear there’s a whole state, right across the country, that specializes in that whole ‘laid back thing’ I’m so desperately trying to master.

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2 Responses

  1. This post deeply upset baby Jacko. That is all.

    • I’m sorry Jacko! You know, right after posting this, I did have a little pang of guilt, and I couldn’t immediately figure out where it was coming from. But then I remembered: we had such a nice time together that summer! I was super stressed and a tad bitter about all the career/graduation/journalism stuff, but it was made so, so much better by all of our dinners together. It still makes me smile to think about. So, Baby Jacko, I owe you a nice, long post about my favorite part of NYC: 7 E. 17th St. That is all:)

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