The Longest Year

Ashley Mayer
Nov 24, 2019 · 3 min read

Today marks one year in New York City.

Exactly one year to the day since I flew here by myself, collected the keys from my broker in the dark, went straight to Target to buy an air mattress and other essentials, and got caught in a downpour. I remember sitting in my empty living room at 10pm on a yoga mat I’d somehow deemed to be as necessary as hand soap and toilet paper but still have never properly used, completely drenched and feeling rather sorry for myself.

But then I changed into dry clothes and walked half a block to the neighborhood restaurant. I sat at the bar, planning to be thoroughly engrossed in my phone as I consumed two glasses of wine and the most indulgent dish on the menu. But my phone didn’t stand a chance. Over two hours I met what felt like the entire neighborhood, including a very sweet older couple who handed me a cocktail napkin with their address and insisted I “come visit anytime.” (I wish I could say I did.) And at the end of the night, I wasn’t allowed to pay for my (at least) three glasses of wine.

Moving somewhere new after 11 years in the same city should have been much more stressful than it was. But I was also starting a new job, and I didn’t have much energy left over at the end of the day to contemplate whether I was happy or lonely or had made a terrible, terrible mistake. I was so tired at night that I couldn’t even summon enough imagination to worry about the creaks and whispers of the very old (circa 1848) apartment we’d rented. Then my partner and dog arrived, and my month-long window for fear and loneliness closed, completely squandered.

But it wasn’t just that I was distracted and tired: New York, and New Yorkers, were SO nice. At first I didn’t trust it. Why did this very interesting person want to meet me? I guess ‘growing up’ in the same industry and city over 11 years had made me careful (read: paranoid) about mixing friendships and business. I never wanted someone to think my friendly overtures came with work-related motivations. Social and professional climbing were impossibly intertwined, and I was determined to be accused of neither. But in New York, somehow these concerns seemed childish. People were interested in meeting other people because people are interesting! Even when the impetus was professional, I was constantly shocked by how little we talked about work. The word “transactional” slowly faded from my vocabulary.

I think some of it must have also been me. In San Francisco, I had my friends and my routines. I was always friendly (I hope), but I wasn’t exactly signaling my openness to new relationships and experiences. I was fiercely protective of my time. Moving made me excited to meet new people and hungry to learn about my neighborhood and city, and I think that showed. I went from being a default no person to default yes. Sometimes the world you get is a reflection of what you’re giving.

Time also slowed way, way down. The years in San Francisco had started to run together, broken up only by the biggest of moments: a new apartment, a new job, a new relationship. After moving, everything was new and important, beginning with details like where I would buy my morning latte. Milestones could be as small as the time I successfully navigated a more complicated but faster route on the subway. Or when the host at my favorite restaurant recognized me. Or when someone I was meeting for the first time knew someone I’d just met the week before. I also had some objectively big life milestones, ones that could have wiped everything else into blurry oblivion, but I won’t look back on this time as “the year I started my new job” or “the year I got married.” Every detail is vivid.

This has been the longest year of my life, and at 34, that feels like a gift.

Ashley Mayer
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