Over the past ten years there have been moments when I just want to pack up all of my stuff and move elsewhere. I’ve considered Nashville, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, back to England or France, and then something changes and I stay put. It’s like a cycle, I get tired of living in a city amidst millions of other people, where rents are sky high and where you have to work like a maniac to make any kind of ends meet. When we found out we were pregnant I went into a kind of “oh my god we are never going to be able to afford to raise a child in NYC” phase. Neither Cesar or I have family here, actually none of our family is even remotely close, we both work(ed) in the service industry, not the most stable of industries, and shared apartments with other people. So we kind of decided on the spur of the moment that we would move to California as soon as we could after the baby was born. We signed a lease on a one-bedroom apartment in Flushing assuming that was all we would need as we would be out of here before the lease ended.
I think I went through another one of my “I’m so sick of New York” phases.
I’m not ready to leave this city just yet. We may not have family here, but we have a lot of friends. We may have realised that we couldn’t afford daycare or a nanny, but we could afford for me to stay home and be with Luna 24/7. We made some tiny sacrifices (gave up Brooklyn to live in Flushing, stopped eating out and started cooking more etc), and Cesar does have to work 60 plus hours a week still, but we are making it work. Some days I wish that we had been a lot more frugal while I was pregnant and we were living off both of our wages, but most of the time I am glad that we just enjoyed it while we had it.
I’m just not ready to leave here yet.
When I landed in NYC nine and a half years ago I had no idea what to expect. I had been bouncing around different places for the previous couple of years (from France to California to Israel to California to London), and as much as I knew I didn’t want to be in London, I had no real idea where I DID want to be. I was offered a job on a temporary visa in NYC and within a month of signing the job offer I landed at JFK with 3 suitcases and no idea where I would be heading with my life. It was an amazing adventure. I started off on the Lower East Side, moved to Spanish Harlem, then the West Village, then Bushwick and finally ended up here in Flushing. I remember those first weeks, roaming around the city, discovering the areas, dropping into bars on the LES, too shy to really speak to anyone, too intrigued to not dare to go in. I wrote poems from the fire escape above Rivington St, discovered my first rat-in-apartment in Spanish Harlem, learnt how to live way above my means round the corner from Bleecker St and learnt to rein it in on Troutman St.
I have worked hard and played hard, sometimes both of them too hard, spent the equivalent of weeks of my life stressing out about the one job that brought me to New York and finally had the guts to just get up and leave (not in the most thoughtful of ways, but it really had just come to that), and then worked in bars and restaurants and even a bookstore. I have walked all over the city and taken thousands of photographs, from store fronts and buildings to churches and street art and people and street signs. I found my favourite places and was lucky enough that those place lasted as long as they did, and some are still there (Darkroom, Motorcity, Cake Shop, 200 Orchard, Taqueria, Le French Diner, Bowery Ballroom, Grit n Glory, the Highline, Willburg Cafe etc etc). I have made so many friends, some I no longer see or speak to, others I see occasionally and others who are still here. Some I met when I first moved here, others along the way. I have met some amazing people, people who I would do anything for and vice versa. I have met some downright horrible people too, but that is just part of life, with the good you always get some of the bad. Some friends have left the city to start a new chapter of their lives, and others are still here, doing the same thing or doing something completely different. Over the past 10 years I have seen people evolve and change and grow up, just like I have done myself. I have seen myself as so wide-eyed and then become slightly jaded to gaining some of that hope back again.
Basically, New York has become my home. I may have been born in England and grew up in France, but I really grew into myself in this city. I made it my home. I went from that girl who didn’t know where to go and who didn’t want to grow any deep roots, to planting myself here. I never said I would be here forever, but I never really thought about leaving in any real, concrete form. I made myself a home.
I’ve had so many experiences here, experiences that I probably wouldn’t have had anywhere else. I’ve seen so many shows, most of my favourite artists, more than once, I have met some of my inspirations, I have been lucky to meet so many wonderful people, and I’ve learnt how to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world on a budget and still feel like I am living. I’ve seen old places be knocked down and new places get built, I’ve seen streets change and places disappear. I’ve seen unpopular areas become super popular and places change beyond recognition. I remember my first weeks in the city when I walked all over the place, no map in hand, just following the roads and hoping to find something interesting, music in my ears and small digital camera in hand. I saw a Buddhist monks’ parade along Fifth Ave, people sunbathing in Central Park, walked through street fairs, discovered Whole Foods and found that I could buy Pringles and juice at 4am from the deli on the corner, just two steps from my apartment. In the subsequent years I have found quiet places to reflect and read, hidden graveyards between two apartment buildings, places where I can run, bars to drink and not drink in, restaurants that feel like home, and I still know that there are many, many places I haven’t yet discovered.
The more we actually talked about really moving, the more we realised that it wasn’t a real possibility to move right away anyway. Both Cesar and I are super independent and even though I’ve been known to move on a whim before, this time it is a little different. We need to be responsible and save enough money to move, to be able to rent our own place and be sure that we will be able to find work on the other end. When we finally decided to give ourselves more time I found myself feeling a little lighter all of a sudden, and it dawned on me that I wasn’t ready to leave NYC. Not just yet, anyway. There are so many things that I would like Luna to see and hear and experience, even in her young age, and even if she won’t actually remember it. It’s not as daunting as I once thought it would be, raising a child in the city.
I have thought back at how we moved to Holland and France when my sister, brother and I were so young, and that my mother and stepfather made the decision because they wanted a better life for all of us (England in the 80’s obviously wasn’t a wonderful place to live). I think for now that we have a pretty good life here in NYC and I’m not quite ready to change it yet. I know we will all be happy no matter where we end up, as long as we are together, but it is going to stay New York for now. Who knows what will happen next year, or the year after, but for now we are staying put. We may renew our lease in January, or we may move back to Brooklyn, somewhere near the ocean, that has yet to be decided. There are still places where it’s possible to live decently, you just need to find them and not be too bothered by the commute.
I look back on myself just under ten years ago, sitting in a cab on my way to the city from the airport, knowing the minute I saw that skyline that I was home. And it still is for the time being.