New Yorking: a verb

I am resurfacing, finally. Life in New York has been equal parts draining and exhilarating, ego-boosting and bruising. I’ve produced a lot of work and learned a new industry. I’ve navigated most of this concrete maze. I don’t love New York the way some people do, but I am warming to it.

2015 was a year of frantically treading water, of feeling pulled by an undertow of responsibilities and bills and comparisons. I bobbed and sputtered a few times.

I now live in the West Village. Or is it Greenwich Village? Let’s just call it “The Village.” My apartment is a cozy walk-up wedged between Indian and Italian restaurants. Coincidentally, there is a Georgian restaurant called Old Tbilisi a stone’s throw from my doorstep. I stop in once every few weeks for good, overpriced khinkali and the chance to eavesdrop on conversations in Georgian. I’m rusty but I can still discern story lines.

I run along the West Side Highway often. There’s a clear view of the Statue of Liberty, some patches of grass and trees. I can wave hello to New Jersey and breathe in the rank, fishy waters of the Hudson while dodging strollers. The other runners are, like most non-tourists on the streets of New York, insulated in invisible bubbles of podcasts and phone calls and imminent business. Every footstep is tracked and recorded and relayed to Global Positioning Satellites and displayed on graphs and charts and synced to their fitness logs. Running regimes are complemented by regular Barre classes and hot yoga and juice cleanses and offset by nights of cocktails and champagne and dollar slices of pizza. Balance is attacked with vigor and noted in self improvement journals.

I work in Midtown East. Every day I challenge myself to beat the traffic lights along Third Avenue from the subway to my office building, less for efficiency and more to combat the boredom of walking the same path twice a day, five days a week. Suits, laptop bags, clicking heels, honking horns, disgruntled traffic cops, muddy puddles, far more cigarettes than I ever remembered seeing in America, coupons for lunch specials, disabled veterans with plastic cups of spare change. Tiny obstacles and tokens in my daily Mario Kart routine.

I’ve dipped my toes in the bright, rich, tasty, sparkly stuff of New York night life. Not being a tall, heavy-lidded model, I tend to blend into the surroundings and can objectively watch the animals at their watering holes. I’ve decided I prefer dimly-lit wine bars with espresso machines behind the counters.

And what about community? The greatest of the gifts my travels gave me? I’m working on building one. It’s not easy here. The sheer density of humans makes meeting people easier than anywhere else, but meeting the same person more than once requires work and luck. Clubs and organizations rise up around shared hobbies (books, microfinance, French) and young professionals gather around open bars to support their preferred causes (Young Members Supporting Museum X, charity balls to donate used Sperrys to orphans in Sri Lanka). But community built on serendipity and kindness? A guileless search for friendship? That seems to get rolled over by the great machine of time management and prioritization and networking.

But I’m still kicking. There’s good stuff here. There is opportunity and creativity and energy. Culture and capital and lessons to be learned. But staying above the surface requires constant vigil. The riptide threatens to suck you down into a murky world of missed rent payments and sub-par performance evaluations and self-medication and emotional vampires. That undercurrent empties out on the shore of Mom and Dad’s house in Minnesota, if one is lucky enough to have that option. For others, it’s a plastic cup of spare change.

I can’t say when I will be traveling again, but for now I hope you will join me in exploring this loud, concrete island.

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22 comments

  1. Hi Meghan, I am a new reader to your blog and I have enjoyed your post. Happy New Year and I hope that you find love for New York soon. I may be moving to Florida for work and although I have some family there, I know it will be a big change for me, especially on my social life. Good luck! 😀

  2. Pingback: New Yorking: a verb | Hill On Wheels

  3. Convert or no convert, I for one love the fact that your updates are now from NYC. A city I miss way too much. Wishing you a very merry Xmas and a New Year full of new experiences, people and places (in NYC or elsewhere). A big hug from Athens

  4. I’ve missed your posts – good to hear from you again! Keep ’em coming! I visited NYC in 2008, stayed for a week – its an overwhelming city. I loved the Art Galleries – main reason I visited, but would never go back. Even if I could, which I can’t. All the best for 2016.

    • Thank you Alison, so good to hear from you again. There is a wealth of great art in New York and it’s something I try to incorporate into my life as much as possible (especially since I work in finance with numbers all day, I need the balance). I’ll gladly serve as your window into this city since you can’t visit in person!

  5. Hello again! Welcome back to the WordPress.

    Tammy’s been trying to get me to visit NYC ever since we got married, and I’m reluctant. Not really a big city type of guy. Perhaps if you continue with the New York posts, I’ll stumble across something that’s more my speed, and I can meet her in the middle… :0)

    • Anglophile! It’s been far too long. I’m eager to catch up with your blog. I’m not a full NYC convert yet, but I will gladly share my insights. Not sure if it will encourage you and Tammy to visit or run fast in the opposite direction. 😉

  6. I’ve been to NYC for work and I can’t imagine living there. But I’m sure it’s like most places – there’s good and bad with everything. At least there’s fun shows and interesting art and beautiful green spaces! I wish you the best of luck, and you put it perfectly – there’s always a room at Mom and Dad’s if you need it 🙂

    • You’re right, Erin. It is a very intense place, for better or worse. I sometimes miss living in a quiet setting but I am grateful for all of the opportunities New York provides me. And luckily my family is still nearby in New Jersey, so home is a lot closer for me than the hypothetical Minnesotan I mentioned! Great to hear from you and thank you for commenting.

  7. Meghan!!! So glad to see you back on your blog.

    “I can’t say when I will be traveling again, but for now I do hope you will join me in exploring this loud, strange, beautiful concrete island.”

    As long as you keep that spirit for exploration alive. There’s beauty even in the least beautiful places.

    • Rosie, so good to hear from you here! Thank you for checking in and reading this. It feels good to be writing again and even better to know that this community still exists. Looking forward to catching up on your blog and sharing more about life in this confusing city!

      • Meghan I’ve no idea how I missed your reply! Sorry! I don’t find as much time for my own blog these days whilst I’m copywriting for another company… But I’ll come back to barefoot soon! Hope you’re managing to make sense of it all, and still relishing the feeling of writing your way through your experiences! 🙂

    • Kim, I’m so glad to have been able to capture a bit of what you experienced in New York. I think it is an acquired taste. Like I said, it’s growing on me and I’m finding paths to happiness here. Thank you for reading. 🙂

    • Thank you Jess, I’m glad you enjoyed it! There will be much more to come (hopefully with an occasional dash of travel outside New York and even the U.S.). Not sure I can guarantee it will all be well written, but it will at least be honest. 🙂 Take care!

    • Leah! Thank you for the well wishes and for reading this! I’m glad to hear your friend and I share some perspectives on life in New York. This city often feels more a difficult person (a loud one requiring a lot of individual attention) than the backdrop for my life. But learning to “New York” (I’ve made it a verb) is certainly possible, even for the least New York-ish among us (… and an adjective).

      Looking forward to catching up with your blog soon!

      • I can totally see that. I wouldn’t consider myself very New York-ish, so I admire you for being able to New York, and relatively quickly! 😉 I deliberately moved to a city (Seattle) with a pretty different vibe, haha. But that’s not to hate on New York – I have really enjoyed all of my visits there. Would love to hear more!

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