Choosing New York
Lately, my Google search history is comprised of travel sites and airline pricing. Aside from a yearly trip back home, I am not going anywhere. Travel is expensive and short lived. Every couple of months, I am plagued with an anxiety that I will unexpectedly lose my job. Feelings of inadequacy and paranoia about what my boss really thinks of me become overwhelming, and I begin to think of an escape plan in case things go south.
I am not particularly tied to my job emotionally. It provides the financial stability I need to pursue college and one day a career in writing, all while helping to support my small family. I enjoy it, and find pleasure is being there, but it is not my End Game. All the same, the fear of being kicked out of my hard earned position leads me to feel like I am being kicked out of New York.
So I plug in my laptop and Google random cities. And I research these cities until I know street names and popular restaurants and local government officials. But the worry sinks in, and the comparisons begin, and is it really worth it to leave New York just to escape the theoretical shame I would experience during my hypothetical unemployment?
After cities like Denver and Boston, I search towns. Small towns in Connecticut that bear resemblance to Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. Slightly larger towns like Wilmington in North Carolina that I visited once as a teen and became enamored with. Small towns carry no similarities to New York, therefore how can I be disappointed if they are not even on the same scale?
That’s when the fear of boredom strikes, and I’m left feeling stressed out in this small town that I don’t really live in because they don’t have a 24 hour public transportation system or massive libraries that are so prestigious you are not even allowed to check out the books they house. At this point I close my laptop, walk to the window, and stare into the vacant Brooklyn street, two stories below.
Most of the people I know are not from New York. I love meeting people that were born here. They don’t know of any place outside of here, and they love to talk about other cities and towns they have visited, and how maybe one day they will move to California because at least it is warm there, but you know, their entire family is here and their job is here and maybe California isn’t that great anyway. When I was nineteen and actually unemployed, I applied for food stamps at the Human Resources Office in Bed Stuy, and the clerk there asked me where I was from. When I told her California, she expressed surprise, and then informed me that everyone was leaving New York to go west, so what the hell was I doing here?
My son was born here, has lived his entire short life here. I wonder if he will stay here. I wonder if I will. I have no experience with the New York City public school system and that worries me. I have no experience taking a young child on the train, except for when he’s strapped to my body, and that worries me. And what if I do decide to leave in five years down the line, but by that point he loves living here, and becomes bored with our new home, and decides to move back here when he is eighteen? Would I have stolen a youth of excitement and busyness and chaos in exchange for a peaceful consistent existence?
Boredom and stillness are my biggest fears. It takes me 40 minutes from my South Brooklyn apartment to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 40 minutes, I can climb up those glorious white steps and sit in the sculpture garden under the skylights, under the same sun that glares at California, but know that it is shining in a completely different gleam as it rests its rays on the ivory bodies of Grecian art. I can sit on this bench and watch German tourists gaze opened mouthed at what I have seen a million times and could continue to see for the rest of my life.
The hardest part of living in New York is deciding to stay. But I cannot imagine how hard it would be to decide to leave.