The trouble with New York City is that once you leave it you have to make something of yourself. Not that I was indolent when I lived there. I studied for my Ph.D. I worked numerous jobs and volunteered at the zoo. I didn’t live some goofy Sex in the City lifestyle, but I lived. I took my dog to Prospect Park. I occasionally caught bands at the Bowery Ballroom or Mercury Lounge. I had a favorite place in Chinatown and a favorite place for bagels. I regularly wandered the halls of the American Museum of Natural History. I navigated the subway system without a map.
I didn’t feel enamored of the city, or overly impressed with myself for living there. I was just there. But then, if I ever felt doubts about what I was doing with myself, if someone asked me what I did, the fact that I did blah blah blah sounded a little cooler because I did it in Brooklyn.
And then one day, despite my intentions to the contrary, I wasn’t living in New York anymore. I found myself apologizing, “we didn’t leave on purpose, what happened was…” I schemed about how to get back. Working on a dissertation and working part time at a park felt like just as much torture and fun (respectively) as it did in Brooklyn, but it didn’t sound as cool to do it in West Hartford, Connecticut.
There is absolutely nothing cool about living in Connecticut. That fact alone is not in and of itself a bad thing. I’m not a trend-chaser. The fact that my wardrobe has evolved from offensively dorky to forgettably neutral is a big step for me. But these days, as I look about me and try to make sense of what I’m doing with myself, there are no distractions. I can’t just dash out and do something interesting or attend some stimulating event at the drop of a hat. I’m alone on the front steps listening to birds chirp and complaining like an old woman about how fast people sometimes drive on this quiet suburban street. The town really should put in a speed bump.
Leaving New York was an accident, but with great purpose I don’t think I’ll ever live there again. What am I weak? No, I could “make it” there. I did, for years, and loved it. In fact, New York is too easy. It is so incredibly cool that you can just slip into a complacent, self-congratulatory torpor.
Life in Connecticut reminds me of meditating. It’s intimidating to be left alone with your thoughts, to gaze so deeply inwards, to be exposed without the bright lights of the city that never sleeps to distract the eye. But I like this calmer, contemplative life. I’m ready for the challenge. Plus, if I can impress you, impress myself, with my life in Connecticut I must really be doing fantastic things with my time.