I was originally going to title this post My Farewell Letter to New York and quickly changed my mind. You see, once New York becomes a part of you, you never truly say goodbye. She’s the one who got away. As I sit here now, in my dark apartment, it has becoming strikingly obvious how different my life is now. Just two weeks ago I sat in bed with the city lights beaming in through the windows. Because that’s what happens when New York becomes a part of you. You go there as meek, timid Dan Humphrey, and you see her, Serena van der Woodsen, for the first time. And, My God. It stops you in your tracks. And you don’t have a choice but to love her and accept her for who she is. Drunk, sloppy, sex on the bar, doing coke in a hotel room Serena van der Woodsen. Always hiding something and keeping secrets Serena van der Woodsen.
You will move to New York and the smell of urine and trash will overwhelm you, especially in the summer months. Then it’s steaming urine and trash. You’ll see rats run in front of you in packs and cockroaches scurry towards you. Some of them will be bigger than some of the dogs you’ve met. The lights will be so bright they’ll hurt your eyes as they beam inside of your apartment and you’ll wonder how you’re ever going to get any sleep. See, I know this because I’ve done it. I was overwhelmed by all of it, until I wasn’t. All of a sudden she became a part of me and I didn’t even see it coming. I was mesmerized by her. Truly stunned.
That’s why this decision was so hard. New York was the first place I ever truly felt alive. Frankie was born in Brooklyn, so I joke with him all the time that he never had a choice. He was born there, and lucky to be. But I chose this place. This filthy, scary, smelly, exotic place. I saw it from a plane window and it captivated me. I spent half my life wanting to be there and I finally got there. And now it’s time to talk about leaving. Of course that’s harder on me. This is everything I’ve ever wanted, everything I’ve ever worked for.
I’m the type to romanticize everything in my life because *Taurus* but also…why else are we here, if not to create our very own movie? So every morning walk with Kiah around the block, I would wave to the owner of the newsstand behind my building and he would say, “morning!” and I’d smile to myself. It’s the part of the movie where the music gets really upbeat and chipper. The sun is shining, dogs are out, people are hustling to make the train, and ahh, Trinity church bells ring.
I say good morning to our concierge, make small talk, wait for the elevator, and walk to the corner apartment that has 16 foot ceilings and is filled with natural light. I feed the pets, I turn on the shower, and I stare at the piece of art from The Met that was casually donated to Salvation Army that I thrifted last year.
The middle chunk of my day is pretty regular, aside from the few glances I take out my window, and the church bells next door that notify me it’s time to take Kiah out again, and then it’s lamp o’clock. I turn on all of the romantic lighting that I’ve picked for each room, knowing it’s not necessary, because the real show will be in just a few minutes when the city comes alive.
The lights turn on and I go up to my roof just to stare. And now here I am, in Charlotte, NC, in a tree-lined, tucked-back, a mile away from everything kinda neighborhood. And it’s different. And if I’m being honest, it makes me question every single bone in my body that told me to leave in the first place. But I have to be really, really honest with myself and go down that list of reasons to remind myself, so I figured I’d let you guys in on it, too.
We got our notice of renewal and the rent had increased from $3,750 a month to $5,200. Anyone from New York reading this is rolling their eyes because that’s actually very reasonable rent. The increase is huge but it’s worth every penny of that. And it’s not just our apartment, it’s everyone in New York that’s facing the same truth. Tons of people are moving back into the city, Whole Foods are popping up like cockroaches, and young(er) people will pay every bit of whatever the cost is. Because they are mesmerized, too.
Frankie and I had to be real with ourselves. What were our 5 year goals? Where did we see ourselves? What did we want most? Truthfully? An apartment on the Upper West Side overlooking the park. Kids. No kids. Doesn’t matter to me. That’s what I want. And to be working for myself. Realistically where would we be? Stuck in the rat race, no chance of having kids in sight, and a very sad savings account. New York is expensive. And not just, like, oh, cabs are expensive! No, everything is. McDonald’s is expensive.
So we made a plan. Let’s look for another apartment in New York. Manhattan or Brooklyn, it didn’t matter. And for me this was a huge testament for how badly I wanted to stay in New York. I loathe Brooklyn. I don’t know why. Sue me. But we checked out apartments in Brooklyn, Little Italy, Lower Manhattan, Upper West, Upper East. You name it, we looked. Except for The Bronx. Frankie had somewhat of a different plan and wanted to apply for apartments down South. We put both plans together and left it up to The Universe. Fate. God. Whoever wanted to take accountability for this.
Frankie and I picked out two apartments–one in North Carolina and one in South Carolina. Meanwhile, I was applying to about thirty in New York. Frankie would come home from work and I’d have three emails sent out, two calls in to a broker, and an open house appointment set up. None of those panned out. Not one. In fact, most of the apartments were rented out sight unseen to whoever won the bidding war. Yeah, bidding wars. For apartments, you guys!!!
Then one day we got a call from the complex in Charlotte saying we were approved and that an apartment would be available to rent starting September 2nd. It had just been done being renovated and our lease in New York was ending on September 3rd. It was perfect. So we took it as a sign from The Universe, Fate, God, or whoever wants to take accountability for this, and we accepted.
I don’t know if this path will lead me back to New York, but I sure hope it does. Leaving New York was harder than leaving my husband, by far. And I can’t explain that to anyone who doesn’t know what it feels like to be a part of the city. But I know now why they call it The Big Apple. It’s not whatever story they tell you on your tour. It’s not whatever you’ve Googled. It’s The Forbidden Fruit. The Big Apple. Because once you take a bite, it’s over. You’ll never be the same.
This past week I watched New York Fashion Week videos and couldn’t believe it. New York still looked the same. How? I’m gone. Shouldn’t she be feeling the same ache in her chest that I do? But that’s the beauty of New York. She’s still there and she’s not going anywhere. I doubt she’ll be much different at all the next time I see her. I’m sure she’ll still be messy, loud, chaotic, and somewhat stressful. But I know she’ll welcome me back, with arms wide open. One day.
For now, all I have to do is close my eyes and I can see those bright city lights coming in through my window.