By Caitlin Abber
This past weekend my partner and I drove from our Brooklyn apartment to my parent’s house, about thirty minutes outside of Boston. This is a trip we take every few months, as my sister had a baby last September and I just can’t get enough of his sweet face. On occasion we will also stop around New Haven, where my partner’s family lives, and have dinner or a brief visit with them as well, if time permits. Then it is back in the car, checking the traffic updates and waiting until we see that pretty New York skyline.
I’ve wrestled a lot with the distance between where I choose to live and where my immediate family resides. For a while I lived in San Francisco, and at one point I did not see them for an entire year. Not too much had changed in those twelve months, but I can recall times when I had wished I was closer to my parents so I could help them move from one condo to another, or I longed to have seen my mom when I was going through breakups or feeling particularly lonely. Wanderlust is in my blood, but I hate that it so often takes me away from those who gave me life.
On this weekend’s trip to Boston, I was on my iPhone, reading a post on Gawker. The author — the talented L.A.-based writer Cord Jefferson — is an ex-New Yorker who fled the Big Apple because it was giving him a huge headache. He writes, “In New York you can’t even see the stars. And not only do you feel like hot shit because of all the big things going on around you, the city itself makes you feel literally large, like you’re living in a filthy dollhouse.” Yikes!
Of course, like most of us, Jefferson did not always feel this way. He started out his New York life with the same chutzpah and enthusiasm so many young people embody when they embark on big city living. He writes, “As sick as it is, I sort of liked making people feel bad about how boring and common their home was when compared to New York. When people would come visit and complain about prices, crowds, weather, fast-pace, or rudeness, all I would hear is, ‘You’re tougher than me. You’re tougher than me. You’re tougher than me.’”
Before we got on the highway to head back to Brooklyn, my partner and I stopped at a farm near where I grew up. When I was a kid, the farm was just a stand that sold corn and tomatoes in the summer. But now it was a sprawling 4H, with a greenhouse, a store, and a small petting zoo. We bought some grain pellets, and spent forty-five minutes letting baby sheep, fuzzy cows, and friendly goats lick snacks off our hands. I felt a gushy, melty feeling in my heart each time one of the sweet animals would nuzzle my arm or moo at me for more treats. The air smelled of hay and dung and nothing else. It was a completely pure, happy moment, and it made me feel totally alive.
“I’d deliberately forgotten that life outside New York is just as pure and valid as life inside New York,” Jefferson writes, “which is a hazard of the City just the same as street crime, and one that’s far more prevalent”.
I don’t feel particularly tough living in New York, in part because I have adapted to the inherent grittiness. I work from home and have a garden and a boyfriend and a cat. My daily life, in so many respects, is peaceful and quiet. But I understand what Jefferson is getting at. There are days when I read about some sexy, emaciated socialite who hangs out at the hippest clubs in town and I wonder if I am wasting my youth slow cooking pulled pork and watching “Friday Night Lights.” What is the point of living in the city if you aren’t experiencing everything the city has to offer? Maybe I would feel cooler if I just puked on Delancey Street one last time. For me, the appeal of New York has always been the possibilities, and that I don’t have to be just one type of person all of the time. Some weekends I may stay in and be domestic, and others I may lose to beer and shot specials and roof top parties. The city is vast and my choices are endless. On any given day I can be whomever I want. Including someone who misses her parents and dreams about fresh air — something that a New Yorker, no matter how tough they might be, experiences on a daily basis.