On living in New York


Hi guys. It’s been a while,  and here’s the reason. The truth is I’ve been struggling a fair bit. It turns out uprooting your whole life and moving to the other side of the world is hard. Who would have thought?? Of course I didn’t imagine it would be a walk in the park, but I guess I didn’t anticipate the sorts of things that I would struggle with and the way that they would affect me.

Some days I’ve felt like my head is going to explode. The never-ending sounds of traffic, construction, alarms and ambulances, and the constancy of people everywhere, the inability to ever be alone, to ever feel any sense of space and solitude is hard for me. I’m somebody who needs time alone, who needs peace, who needs time and space to connect with nature. Of course there’s plenty of natural beauty in New York city, but you can’t just walk out your door and be confronted by it like you can in Australia. It takes an effort to go and see it and sometimes that effort – getting on a subway, dealing with crowds, loud noises, stairs, people everywhere – is more than you can muster.

I’ve felt totally uninspired, which is strange in a city so full of life. Despite moving into a beautiful new (old) apartment I’ve felt no desire to pretty it up and do all the things that would normally bring me so much joy. I haven’t even wanted to read blogs or seek out inspiration anywhere. It’s strange because in a city as buzzing with creative energy as New York I expected to feel the opposite. I thought I would be constantly flooded with exciting new creative endeavours at every turn and be so brimming with new ideas I wouldn’t know where to start. I knew of a lot of amazing businesses in New York from Australia and I guess I expected them to be just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe they are, but what has struck me is that there is just a lot of ordinary, everyday stuff going on here. Which shouldn’t be surprising, really – there is ordinary stuff going on anywhere. I guess the thing with New York is that it is so huge that it’s almost like a whole series of small towns right next to each other. So something amazing can be going on a few blocks away and people won’t know about it. It’s particularly the case in Brooklyn, where people very much stick to their neighbourhood, or even their block. It’s both a good and a bad thing – it creates a very strong sense of community (we were ‘welcomed to the block’ when we moved into our new place!), but it also limits people’s view of what’s going on in the broader community. For example, just about everybody I speak to here (including people in really creative fields) have never heard of any of the amazing creative businesses that I have been following for years from afar – businesses that I consider to be huge and defining – and they are only blocks away from them. It seems so crazy. I think in Australia we are very outward-looking and always like to be aware of what’s going on elsewhere in the world because we are so aware of our isolation. I’ve been really surprised by how insular a lot of people are here and how disinterested they are in what’s going on in the rest of the world, or even the rest of the country (or city, for that matter). Of course there are people that aren’t at all that way, but I guess I expected New Yorkers on the whole to be a bit more outward-looking than that cliche you have of Americans who never travel outside America and insist they ‘don’t have accents’ (I’ve heard that claim from more people than I can count here! Wha…??). I was really disappointed that my lecturer at the New York Botanical Gardens, where I was studying Plant Science, was totally focused on New York native plants to the point of being disparaging of any plants from any other region in the world, which just seemed ridiculously parochial to me. Of course there are a lot of really open-minded, interesting and interested people here, and a lot of really exciting, creative, amazing, independent businesses and endeavours going on, but like anywhere, you have to seek them out. And I guess in time I’ll manage to do that more.

In the mean time, last week I reached breaking point. The constant noise, the crowds, the trains, the feeling of a thousand things constantly happening at once had all got too much, and I decided I desperately needed to get out of town. We booked a B&B in the Catskills, hired a car and hit the road.

Oh my God, it was amazing. I can honestly say that the second I stepped out of the car I felt like a new person…well, actually, I felt like myself again, instead of whoever it was I had been the last few weeks. We stayed in Ulster county, which is only around 2 hours from New York, but it is so incredibly beautiful and wild out there. We went hiking in the woods, explored some picturesque little towns, picked wildflowers, went swimming in a breathtakingly beautiful swimming hole and climbed up the most spectacular waterfall. It reminded me that whatever crappiness is going on in your life nature is always out there, just quietly doing something truly amazing and not caring if anyone notices. It totally refreshed my spirits and I came back feeling so invigorated and inspired. I’ve been running around in a frenzy of creativity since and it feels great!

Once I get back into the daily grind – going to work, doing the laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills, finding a damn print shop to print that stupid form for something or other, dealing with the seemingly endless hassles resulting from losing my handbag with my whole life inside it (!!) – I’m sure the sheen of our little trip out of town will wear off. But now that I know that natural paradise, and that feeling of being at peace again, is only a couple of hours away, I think I can handle it all a whole lot better.

This entry was published on August 13, 2013 at 2:49 am. It’s filed under inspire and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on “On living in New York

  1. Awww much love gorgeous lady! Big hugs! xxxxxx

  2. What a beautiful, inspiring description of the complexities this move involves. Keep going to those parks!

  3. codfishhouse on said:

    Wow – this is a really, really great post! I love your honesty. I’ve never been to New York so I can only imagine the hectic pace. Your post though hasn’t deterred me from going at all – particularly because I will only go as a very short term visitor. It’s just a great overview of your experience so far and I love that you have dared to open your heart and share it with us. Your weekend away sounded really beautiful. I wish you many more wonderful weekends away!

  4. Anna, I agree you have written a brilliant, insightful piece on moving to an urban jungle and its impact on you. It also says a lot about you as a person.

  5. Thanks so much, everyone! Your kind words and support means so much to me 🙂 codfishhouse, I’m glad my post hasn’t deterred you from visiting New York – it really is an amazing city!

  6. Ros Jennings on said:

    Dearest paragon, the honesty of your reflections on the past few weeks was both painful and – yes – inspiring. It’s such a cliche to think ‘culture shock’ but of course that’s what it is in so many ways. And it’s not as though you have never lived in big overseas cities….I know you will absorb all the great stuff and deflect most of the rest. In the meantime I miss and love you. I’m also emailing you! Love Ros

  7. Kim Seiffert on said:

    Hi Anna,
    My friend Sarah Hannah sent me your link because she knows all too well that I have experienced this exact same thing. I lived in NYC for 2 years and just reading your post brought me back to the lost days I had when I first moved there, I actually got a little teary.
    NY can be a soul sucker and at the same time it can be the most exciting and inspiring city, with opportunities around every corner. It used to drive me crazy when people would tell me how lucky I was to live there, because I knew I was lucky… deep down, it was just hard to appreciate when all you want is a taste of home and a moment of peace.

    High on my list of recommendations is regular escapes, Upstate is gorgeous as you know, but regular escapes to parks and hiking (the Palisades is super close in NJ) is good for an Aussie soul. When all else fails, go to Toby’s Estate and get yourself a flat white and a Tim Tam! I am coming to NY next year to get married so I’ll be touch with you, but in the mean time if you want to ask me any questions or vent any more, my email is please, please don’t hesitate to get in touch… I cried on the subway…I get it!

    • Hi Kim! Thank you so much for your lovely comment! It makes such a difference to know I’m not the only one who feels this way and to know I’m not crazy for not feeling lucky all the time. Thanks so much for the tips, too – I will definitely have to check out the Palisades and I think I might need a trip to Toby’s Estate some time soon! Sarah emailed me recently about doing flowers for your wedding next year, which I would LOVE to do, so please get in touch when you are at that stage, and in the mean time you may well hear from me when I’m having a not-coping-moment! I really take great comfort from your words, so thanks again 🙂 x Anna

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