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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Transitions are Hard

Alternate title: Transitioning Back to a Lifestyle of Which you Were Previously Comfortable but Not So Much Anymore Because First Transition Must Have Been Successful.

When I first moved to NYC, it was some of the hardest times of my life. I'd made the decision to pave the way for a new life for us, even though I had no apartment, no permanent job and not many friends. I stayed with a high school friend I hadn't seen in years who lived way down in Brooklyn. He was just as lonely as me and worked the night shift at a bakery in Staten Island, so we never even saw each other long enough to commiserate.

One of the weirdest transitions for me was actual transit -- the MTA. I hated waiting for that Q train outside in all types of weather. I couldn't stand that half mile walk to the station, especially in the rain. And when I finally got a seat on the train, I couldn't believe people would just squeeze right in to the seat next to me. Strangers were always squished next to me on the train -- and it baffled me that they didn't think twice about it.

The train ride to Manhattan was an hour and 40 minutes. 

It was hard getting used to a small apartment. The last two years in college I shared a house with friends. I was used to two levels, four bedrooms, two bathrooms. A yard. A deck. Space. And now I was shoved into a tiny living room that I shared with countless roaches.

The neighborhood was almost entirely Jewish, save for my friend and I. This meant there were no creature comforts for me to grab onto. The grocery store -- which was closed on Saturdays, of course -- didn't have egg nog at Christmas. There was no bacon, egg and cheese option at the Dunkin' Donuts. That Ash Wednesday I spent the entire evening shuffling around looking for a Christian church. I was unsuccessful.

Then the call came that my car was sold. My parents were thrilled. I hung up the phone and tried not to cry. There was no turning back now. No more personal space while traveling. No more control of when we get to go. Back to waiting for a train that, when I finally get on it, I'll be stuck on for close to 2 hours with nothing but my sad thoughts to entertain me.

Thinking back on it, I'm not sure how I found the willpower to stick with it. I guess I just knew it was part of the transition. I knew eventually I'd get a job, I'd find a place in a neighborhood right for me, Rob would move down and we would be together. Those were the only thoughts that kept me going.

And it all worked exactly like that. We moved into a great apartment near his brother in a neighborhood we loved. We were 20 minutes from Manhattan. Everything was open on Saturday. My taste for bacon shifted to kielbasa. Instead of the weekend car trips our friends back home took, we explored the city on foot. We walked to Williamsburg for bagels every Saturday. We learned the patterns of traffic and knew when it was safe to cross the street. We watched the neighborhood grow and flourish. We stayed in Greenpoint for 8 years.

And now here we are making the reverse transition, and I realize how deeply rooted in the city I am. I'm already nostalgic for that terrible G train. I've learned to love being shoved in with the other straphangers -- it meant we were all in something together, trying to succeed in the city, taking the same route to Grand Central. We're schools of fishes traveling in packs, trudging up to the sidewalk, breathing the same polluted air, off to walk the rest of the way to the offices where we try to make something of ourselves.

It's funny how I used to want a car so badly, but this time, buying a new car was a process I didn't enjoy. We ended up buying the same make and model of the car my parents sold years earlier. It's ten years newer and it has a hatchback instead of a spoiler, because I'm 30 now, not 16. I've only driven it a handful of times. I've found I'm a little shaky behind the wheel now.

Our new apartment will be the top level of a house. It has two bedrooms. There's a deck and a yard. It has its own washer dryer. There's a private driveway where we'll park our Subaru. 

We're already planning to walk everywhere.

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