Farewell, New York
On the end of a very special chapter
In a very unexpected turn of events in this 2019, I am moving to the Bay Area to start a new phase in my career after having spent four years and a half living in Brooklyn, commuting to Manhattan to work, and getting energized — and slowly burned out — by the hum of the city. Out in California, I will be joining the amazing VR/AR team at Facebook as a Product Designer!
While getting ready for my departure, I have been reflecting quite a bit on this transition. A new life costs you the old one. For me, moving away means leaving behind all the things that my experience in New York was. But it also involves giving up on all the things it was not and that I hoped it would become in the future — for that, I partly blame unrealistic TV shows and movies. It might be too much to call it grief, but I feel it strongly as my relationship with the city dwindles.
There is also more resistance in me than when I moved from Munich (where I was working in 2012) to Cambridge to study at the Harvard GSD, or than when I drove a U-Haul with my few possessions from Massachusetts to Brooklyn. This time I will fly to a much warmer and sunnier place, which makes for a perfect location for a Southern Spaniard like myself. There should be no struggle, right? Looking hard at it, my guess is that this is what age does to you. It has made me feel more reluctant to change a routine I know well while living in an apartment I absolutely love, and less inclined to leave a city that just a few years ago I could not wait to be a part of.
If it is not clear already, I am sad to write the end of this very special chapter in New York. However, I must also say that life in the city has required an immense amount of commitment and energy from me. As a result of this, I have suffered from burnout for most of my time here. I know that I am not alone and that I am not the first person to leave New York feeling utterly drained. This is why I have to admit that I am also relieved to finally part ways and get off this exhilarating-yet-exhausting roller coaster ride. Best of all, I get to do that by embarking in an incredible opportunity to continue learning and to design new products for the VR/AR world thanks to Facebook. Nope, I can’t complain.
Bittersweet as this goodbye is, I thought the next few paragraphs would be my attempt at putting together a comprehensive list of things that I had a chance to explore while going into my thirties and while living in New York.
I told myself that I would write in minute detail about the astonishing evolution of immersive technologies and that I got to witness as just 4 years ago I was developing a mobile app (really, a proof of concept) using a piece of cardboard and two 35mm lenses — the Google Cardboard. Fast forward to now and the industry is about to make available to the public untethered VR headsets with inside-out tracking like the Oculus Quest. I can’t wait.
I imagined that I would follow that by describing work and challenges at a young VR startup and all the valuable lessons I learned during my three years there. I also assumed that I would share how difficult it is to break from the mental labels of whatever it is you went to school for — architecture in my case — and to pivot your career in a different direction that is better suited for you and your interests.
Next, I figured that I would outline how I have been finding my voice as a woman in male-dominated environments and the responsibility I now feel to make things easier in whichever way I can for girls who will join a STEM field in the future.
In addition, I pictured that I would give an in-depth perspective on what it is to live and to work in the US as an immigrant, as someone who needs to prove her worth every number of years, who must abide by strict travel limitations on occasion, and who suffers the emotional impact of not being able to visit a sick parent or meet the new members of the family back at home.
On less intense topics, I planned to share the smile I get on my face thinking about the autopilot mode most of us go into every morning while swiping our MTA cards to get on the subway only to be brought back to reality when the reader does not work and our legs hit the turnstile. Beep. Swipe card again. Beep. Try one more time. Beep. The person behind you gets visibly frustrated — how dare you waste their time — and moves over to the machine on the right.
In my head, I went through the three apartments I have lived in and I thought that I would write down how each experience taught me something important as I got to grow in New York. I would have discussed that Williamsburg was the first neighborhood I chose because that was the cool area of Brooklyn in 2014 — yeah, I know. I would have continued by talking about Bushwick next to tell you that rent is a commonly talked-about topic among New Yorkers and the main reason why people move farther away from work as the housing prices hike up every year. I would have ended this section with a long ode to Park Slope saying that I found the first apartment that I felt was my home, that I had a favorite coffee shop — if you are wondering, go to Colson and get their sourdough and their chocolate eclair -, and that I got to enjoy Prospect Park throughout the seasons.
Furthermore, I created a thorough list of reasons why I love Brooklyn and why I admire those New Yorkers who can deal with Manhattan as a home while I prefer to see its fast pace from the other side of the river. I hoped to be able to solidify here my memories of those beautiful sunsets spent on rooftops discussing life and drinking white wine while enjoying the view and the killer skyline.
By then, I contemplated finishing with a description of how the geographic distribution of lovely people throughout the different boroughs of the city makes meeting a larger group of friends — the way we do in Spain — quite an epic task and that as a result, I got to develop some of the most meaningful and dedicated one-on-one friendships of my life. I also thought that I would write about how heartbreaking it was to watch some of those friends go yet how proud it made me to see them succeed and start afresh somewhere else.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I saw this list as a much longer and more nuanced recount of things to remember and worth sharing with others. Then I thought it over and I realized that no matter which stories I chose or how many words I used, they would never suffice. I decided to keep it intentionally brief because, truth be told, a blog-like piece was never going to do justice to what I lived in the city. My experience in New York has definitely been one for the books. I hope this article showed a glimpse of that.
Thank you, love.
Farewell, New York.