During my “last supper” tonight, my roommate asked whether I’d heard about the recent hate crime in Union Square. Ever since we moved in together a year and a half ago, I’ve scoured the news cycle and reported all the craziest stories back to her at the end of each day, so when I told her I was unfamiliar with the situation, she was surprised.
Earlier this month, a man went on a racist rant downtown before assaulting — and killing — an innocent passerby. The victim fell to the ground and cracked his skull, slipping into a coma before dying at the hospital.
“The guy apparently said, ‘I’m going to punch the first white man I see!'” Jen explained. “And so he did.”
“I can’t believe you hadn’t heard about it,” she said. “You’re usually the one telling me about all these horrible things happening in New York and the world. It could get really depressing.”
“I unplugged earlier this summer. And it’s been awesome.”
An hour later, I finished my Blue Moon and met up with Tom and Meagan at Pony Bar. On the cab ride there, I pondered Jen’s comment about me totally missing a major local news story. It was a shock to the both of us because I’ve been obsessed with the news for our entire friendship, in part because I worked in media for so long. Once I decided to break away from that scene, I changed my internet habits. I unfollowed certain news outlets on Twitter (no more NY Post or NYDN), became more selective about what I read, and limited my computer time. I got off my couch, walked around the city, interacted with people, and lived life on foot, not online.
I’ve changed since moving to DC (which came before NYC) three years ago. That marked the beginning of my long, memorable, turbulent East Coast journey, and while I’m sad to put a stop to the stream of memories right now, I know I’ll make even happier ones on the West Coast. I can truly be myself there, and I can turn to family when things get rocky. And they will be rocky, even in sunny California.
While packing for my flight, I found a crumpled piece of paper in my giant red suitcase. It’s a receipt from the Best Western in Falls Church, Virginia, where I lived at the start of my DC career. Though my friend and I had locked down an apartment in Virginia, we couldn’t move in until the end of August, so I spent my first night at the cheapest hotel in the neighborhood. Because I’ve always been a little bit fearful at night, I slept with the lights on and didn’t even go to bed until 2:00 a.m. My mind has a weird way of convincing me every room I’m staying in is haunted, and if I’m unsettled or stressed about something, the irrational theories pull me in, a distraction from what’s really bothering me.
What I did three years ago is similar to what I’m doing right now. My plane to California departs at 10 in the morning, and here I am typing away in an unlit room at 2:18 a.m., refusing to go to bed despite orders from multiple friends who want me well-rested before my cross-country flight. Maybe I don’t want to sleep because when I wake up, it will be time to leave the Upper East Side apartment forever and my decision will finally hit me. No more grabbing bagels at Bagel Express or sugary coffee at any of the three Dunkin’ Donuts on my block. There’s no Dunkin’ where I’m going, and there won’t be any decent bagels either (sorry, California, but bagel masters you are not). No more toting around my metro card or sweating profusely on the subway platform among dozens of people who’d rather be in a taxi or traffic, anywhere but underground.
Like the girl I was three years ago, I’m leaving behind a city that caused me immense heartache and heartbreak. I said farewell to my college town in May 2010 and wouldn’t let go of a certain someone until spring 2011, when I simply got tired of asking myself over and over again why I’d always be number five to this person. If I couldn’t be his number one, I feared, I could never be anyone’s number one. Now I’d just say this: what kind of person needs 5+ lovers to feel loved?
I’m not going through anything like that right now, but I have some unfinished business in NYC, and I guess that means I made my time here count. If I’ve learned anything from dating in my 20s, it’s that closure is overrated — having a backbone and standards is not. Don’t dwell on the folks who can’t, or won’t, face you when they know they’ve been awful. They might keep quiet out of guilt, and you could say this makes them good at heart. But shame and embarrassment don’t humanize these folks — they make them cowards, and life is too short to cry over cowards.
People in New York always ask where I’m from. No one has ever assumed I’m a native New Yorker, and though I’ve lived many places, it’s hard to pinpoint what’s considered home to me. I lived in LA until fourth grade, resided in the Bay Area until high school graduation, attended college in Tucson, Arizona, got my first job in DC, and finished my media career in New York City. I’m a mixed bag, but what really matters is where I’m going, not so much my past.
Don’t misunderstand me — my past has been interesting. Through all my adventures and misadventures in NYC, I was never, ever bored here. I was temporarily bored in DC, but mostly I was cold. Make a California girl walk a mile to the subway at 4:30 a.m. in January and you’ll definitely see her at her worst. You won’t find me doing that, or trying to trudge through this, ever again:
I ended my NYC adventures on a high note because I spent the last week visiting with great people. Without sounding too cheesy, I was touched by those who reached out. It was hard saying bye, as there’s always the possibility that we’ll never see each other again. I hope that’s not the case, and I’ll do my best to visit as much as I can, but as I’ve said before, it’d be hard to get rid of me. As long as there’s an internet, my work will always be available, and I’ll be up at all hours of the night on g-chat, waiting to talk to another crazy person awake at that hour.
So long, for real this time.