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Saturday, July 01, 2017

The only reasons I go to New York are...

When I first moved back to New Jersey in 2013, the state where I grew up and lived until age 17 (although I was born in New York City and spent my first three and a half months in the hospital there), I experienced a lot of FOMO. There was always something cool happening in New York and while I lived in Red Bank at the time, and we had some cultural offerings, they were nothing compared to New York, and nothing book-related save for one very short-lived literary event production company.

I was very wasteful when I lived in Red Bank, hopping on that hourly New Jersey Transit train to Penn Station whenever I felt like it. I can't change that, but now that I live much closer to Philadelphia than the Empire State, I've realized that I can live without everything New York has to offer. Do I miss my friends? Of course, but I do my best to stay in touch by email and phone and text and social media, and see them when I do travel there.

Which brings me to the rule I made for myself, which is part of my nesting and saving plan to put some action with my words of the year: I'll only go to New York for family, flights, work or with my boyfriend. See, it's two and a half hours each way and $42 dollars, not to mention somewhat draining to rush to catch the bus. I just did the calculations and realized that 10 trips to New York cost, at minimum, $420, not counting subway fare and any money I'd spend there. There's dozens, probably hundreds, of amazing cities and places I've never been, so why go to one I lived in for over a decade all the time when I could take that same money and save up for an actual vacation?

In June, I broke that rule because I wanted to see some dear friends. It was a lovely visit, but one better suited to someone in a far better financial situation than I am. I miscalculated my schedule because I normally work my hourly job on certain days, but had rearranged it because of a family trip to Denver (I paid for the flight using JetBlue miles and scored part of our stay for free with Kimpton Karma Rewards). So I left work two hours early, adding on to the cost of the trip in lost income. Now, in that one case, was it "worth it?" Yes, but the price tag reminded me that until I'm entirely debt free, I have to make seeing friends part of my other trips.

So today, I'm hopping on an 8 a.m. bus because my grandfather is being given an award by the French Legion! Now that's a reason to make the trip. I'm also going to see a friend, who's joining me at Untitled Space Gallery for an exhibit, Secret Garden, I really want to see (if I can take photos of the art, I'll post them on Instagram. Would I have FOMO if I never got to see that exhibit? Maybe a little, despite my promise to myself to cut that emotion out of me once and for all, but I'd be fine. What I've learned becoming a Jersey girl again is that there is real life happening all around me. I volunteer at my local food bank. I work out at my local gym. I got to lunch with my neighbor. I take walks in my neighborhood. I try to ignore the big box store that treats its workers like shit that's opening nearby.

I'll be in and out of the Big Apple a few more times this year, the next two times to head to JFK for family trips (a bachelorette party in New Orleans and a quick summer visit on Martha's Vineyard with family members who lived across the globe), then in September when I'm teaching an erotica writing class at Sexual Health Expo (SHE) in Brooklyn. I may have one more flight out of JFK, though I'm doing my best to fly from Philadelphia these days. My hope is that I can winnow down my New York trips to a handful a year, not because I don't love certain aspects of the city, but because the whole point of nesting and saving was to have enough profit to decide where I want to go next, to have financial freedom. Spending so many hours on a bus or in a car just to go to the same place ad nauseam isn't my idea of a good time. It may sound obvious: Find New York draining? Don't go. But old habits die hard, especially for me, so figuring out how to stay more focused on the life I have now rather than the life I used to have is challenging. There are still services I use exclusively in New York, a city where almost every block I walk down has a memory attached.

Today I'm looking forward to seeing family, friends and art...but also to getting back home where I belong. The other big thing that's changed is that I'm a tourist. I have to look up which subway to take to get places. There are always unfamiliar sites. I got disoriented and overwhelmed by a city I used to think I'd never leave. It's a compelling and always buzzing and gorgeous city, but it's not mine anymore. My way of thinking and acting is slower, calmer, out of sync with the pace of NYC life. I used to think it was a shame that I changed, but now I see that it was just part of growing up. I'll be doing another post about how my business has done the first half of 2017 and how much I've nested and saved (spoiler alert: not as much as I could have), but I think it's safe to say it would've been a hell of a lot harder to do as well with all the distractions, wonderful as they are, of New York. I'm glad I live close enough to see my family who live there and who travel through there, and to occasionally catch up with my friends, but I am very happy with my Jersey girl life and whatever comes next with it.

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