1) I don't miss my car like I thought I would.
I'd had Lil Red since I was 25. She made the journey from Oklahoma to Canada and somehow, with rear wheel drive and no snow tires, survived 7 winters. Even when I moved to the semi-pedestrian city of Toronto, I couldn't let her go. She was fast. She was hot. She was small. She was filled with memories. Most of all, she was a gift from my father.
From 2002-2005, I was working 30 hours a week and going to college 6-12 hours a semester. I didn't want to go into deep student loan debt, so I paid my tuition along the way. Dad promised that if I graduated college with a 3.5 GPA, he would buy me a car. I really didn't need the extra incentive to excel in courses; my own self-satisfaction and basking in the pride of my parents would've been enough. But come on...it was a red convertible.
I never felt spoiled driving Lil Red. I felt grateful. It was only a decade prior we were on food stamps and I was borrowing my track coach's lawn-mowing shoes because we couldn't even afford Wal-mart tennis shoes. My dad was finally in a position to show me the kind of generosity many fathers wished they could for their children.
Despite my nostalgia, the car was a material possession I could not afford to keep in Manhattan. I needed the money from the sale to help pay for my expensive move.
Saying 'good-bye' to Lil Red
It was a wistful goodbye to that chapter of my life behind the wheel, but I still get tune-ups. It just that these days, they're for my feet. Pedicures are not a luxury anymore. It's just mandatory upkeep for my new wheels.
A little over a year later, I'm fully pedestrian and loving every step of it. I can hail taxis with the best of them, and navigate the subway tunnels with near ease. I walk to work every day and never grow bored of it. There's characters at every intersection and I'm constantly entertained by the stuff New Yorkers say. You can also feel the city at your feet in a way that you can't from the seat of a car. It's pulsing with life. Sometimes I wonder where the conductor is when one person briskly walking north, and another hurriedly walking east, just barely escape a collision with each other. It's a walking symphony and I have a front row seat.
2) It's not always Sex-y in the City.
I walk to work with headphones on most of the time. Many of us pedestrians do. With the right song, you can really hit a good stride and feel like the star of your own music video with the sun kissing your face and the wind whipping your skirt at just the right flirty height. That music video in your head comes screeching to a halt, however, when your nose gets a whiff of the real Manhattan.
There's nothing like a wave of piss and gunk, just simmering on the street, to turn your healthy sidewalk stride into a stumbling dry-heave.
There was a moment last fall when a couple of tourists walking next to me in Hells Kitchen asked aloud, "what's that smell?" Without skipping a beat I answered, "That's NYC."
It's not just the smell. There's real, live rats. Some of them even terrorize us on the subways. There's cockroaches. Cockroaches so big they could qualify as a roommate on your apartment lease. And then there's the reality of almost zero green space for everyone's precious puppies to poo and pee. It's an obstacle course dodging the doo on the sidewalk.
My front yard that needs no mowing
Like I said, I love my pedestrian life, but it isn't always Carrie Bradshaw glamorous. My life is more like Smells in the City than Sex in the City, and the public dry-heaving keeps me humble.
3) I'm stronger than I thought I was.
I love an adventure but I don't really relish change. Moving countries is uncomfortable, and sometimes, for an uncomfortably long time. It took me several years to settle into Canada and its culture, but once I did, I flourished. I'm proud of the career achievements I made there, and I'm even more proud of the friendships I cultivated. Those folks kept me upright during very tempestuous times, including the dissolution of my marriage. I was a professional success, but a failure in my personal life. My friend-family loved me in spite of it. When I got the opportunity to pursue my dreams in NYC, my friend-family selflessly relinquished me back to my homeland.
I literally am living the dream. I have a cute apartment in midtown Manhattan and an interesting career, but I catch myself whimpering when the 40 hour work week easily balloons into 60. I had a better work-life balance in Toronto and my best friend was just a subway stop away. Starting over from friend-scratch can be trying. Starting over from romance-scratch is even harder. The vulnerability and time it takes to turn strangers into sidekicks sometimes seems insurmountable--until I remember I've done this before. And I can do it again. And I want this. I've wanted this since I was that awkward teenager embarrassed we had to use food stamps to pay for cereal.
"I need a vacation"
In this wild city, I have permission to be my brazen self. I've been told before I'm too aggressive, but in NYC I'm allowed to have late nights, obnoxious laughs, and loud phone conversations. My aggression has come in handy when confronted by hawks and hustlers on the street. And beware the crude man who mistakes me for a naive, starry-eyed tourist.
I don't have to apologize for wanting to put my career in sixth gear, when many other women my age are slowing to first. Everyone else is here to do the same thing. To be the best in their industry. To test their limits and capacity in a city that could crush you in an instant if you're not careful.
I'm stronger because of my friendships and my family that keep me and push me. On the phone with my dad today I remarked that nearly all of my friendships are long-distance, and it's a testament to them that they've remained solid through wear and tear.
Dipping my toes into Coney Island with new friend, Kristen.
I don't have much time for written reflection these days, but I thought it was important to mark a year of Survival in the City. I spent my NYC anniversary on Coney Island with a new friend I made in NY. Turns out, you can find great sidekicks just about anywhere if you open your heart to a little change.
We stuffed our faces with Nathan's famous hotdogs and cotton candy, slurped Brooklyn lager and squealed as we rattled from tall heights in a cage on the historic Wonder Wheel. Dangling from a 95-year-old amusement park institution I thought, "what a scary, eccentric ride it's been," and "can I go again?"