Make it Anywhere


Collin and I had a lovely weekend in New Jersey and New York, where Collin ran the ING Marathon and had his personal best time of 3:20.  I got to see lots of friends, and had a lot of fun, and it was wonderful.

But I’m so, so, so glad to be home.

Look, I know this will forever bar me from the Cool Kids Club, but I just don’t like New York City.  I find it deeply exhausting and more than a little depressing.  It’s exacerbated by the ten-year-old in me feeling left out because by all other accounts New York is “the greatest city in the world,” but when I’m there I just want to go home where I can walk at my own pace and assume strangers are nice and rarely if ever wonder if people sprawled on the sidewalk are dead or alive.  What do the Cool Kids see that I don’t? And am I really such a whiny brat to think that if you’re going to have a massive public transportation network you should make maps of it readily available?

So I said to Collin a few times  this weekend (maybe more than a few times), “Don’t make me move to New York.  Remember we can always live in New Jersey if you have to take a job in New York.  Isn’t this PATH train great? Let’s never, ever move to New York, OK?”  He told me not to worry about moving to New York, as it’s not a big area for the kind of research he wants to do.

But you know where is?  South Africa.  And you know that whole “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere” bit? Well, I do not think that people who can make it in New York can necessarily make it in South Africa.  [I suspect they'd also have trouble with rural Montana, or, I don't know, the Kamchatka Peninsula.]  Really, the line should be “if I can make it there, I’ll make it in other First World cities.”

But that is neither here nor there, because I cannot make it in New York.  Dudes, I can barely make it in Pittsburgh, and it is the most livable city in America.

I’ve told Collin I’ll go where he needs to go when he finishes his PhD program, because his career is looking to be awesome.  He’s told me that he doesn’t want to go to South Africa out of deference to me.  But how many “don’t make us move there” cards can I really play?  Maybe I just need to toughen up.  But I hope I can do it in some kind of trainer hell-metro.  Cleveland, maybe?


  1. we can start our own cool kids club b/c i could never live there either. can’t be there for more than 36 hours. that’s enough to hang out, sight see, party, sleep and brush my teeth and bounce.

    sorry NYC, just not for me.

  2. I love New York. But I also love Pittsburgh. Where you and Collin should stay.

    You know what city blows? BOSTON.

  3. Key point about making it in other first-world cities. People talk about the vibrant scene and culture of NYC, but it’s nothing I can’t find in small special corners of middle America, on my own terms, and with much less of a chance of it reeking of so much pee, either.

    • When I was younger (too young to drink in bars) I would have ceded the point that New York stays open later. But now that I am older, I don’t really need to stay out drinking any later than 2. But I am also kind of a square.

  4. When I was younger, I thought NYC was the coolest place, ever. Sooo much more sophisticated than my dinky midwestern city. Which I was leaving as soon as I possibly could. And as a costume designer, *of course * my new home would be NYC or London.

    And then… something changed. For one thing, I realized that 1) freelance designers rarely make big bucks and 2) living in an expensive city when you’re broke can be grueling and leave you feeling bitter. I also realized I like sky, trees, a slower pace of life… and I’m hopelessly forgetful and lose my wallet, cell phone, and car unlocked so often, I depend on the midwestern friendliness of strangers, LOL.

    And strangely enough, after realizing how important it is to me to live close to my family, it wouldn’t surprise me if I ended right back in my midwestern city. And be thrilled to find myself there (esp. after living in a lovely but tiny college town, with even less to offer as far as culture goes).

    Thankfully, my husband feels the same way… which always makes me laugh, because I used to want to date someone who was 100% citified and sophisticated as all get out. Now I tend to find those types of men affected. :-P
    Sometimes I wonder if I’m “letting down” my more… adverturesome? younger self. She would have scoffed at the idea of wanting to stay home and play scrabble with a husband vs. running around sampling NYC nightlife. And sometimes I wonder if maybe I’ve just finally embraced my inner dork/homebody.

    South Africa sounds like a huge adventure, but I also think it’s good to know when you aren’t “up” for something yet. I’m still trying to puzzle out the “whose job needs take precedence” issue.

    • Hahaha, yeah, I lost my phone this weekend. For like, the third time this year. I am hopeless and totally rely on the kindness of strangers.

      And as for being close to family, that’s a big deal for me. Right now my family is split on opposite coasts and I am in the middle, and it’s really hard and lonely to only get to see them a few times a year. The idea of being SO far away as being in another hemisphere is even more unacceptable to me. Especially as we get to the years where nieces and nephews potentially enter the picture.

  5. …and how about St Louis??? That’s a great city!!!!…you can even live there for free!!!!!….talk about most livable cities!!!!!! ( you could be miserable with the in laws but it could still be for free….)…we could even make a whole apt for you in the basement!!!!!…….no NY…no South Africa……..free….St Louis!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. As someone who has lived in NYC (Queens) for about a year and a half, I don’t really like it and I can’t wait to move on to other eastern seaboard cities (or just to move back to Boston, ahhhh, Boston). I see what people see in the city. You can get pretty much anything you want, any time you want it, which is what leads to the stereotypical NYC sense of entitlement. There is a wealth of cultural resources for the rich and poor alike. The city is beautiful, particularly if you avoid those areas where most tourists spend allllll of their time. And there is this neat sense of community, of live-and-let-live, that comes from spending every day on crowded sidewalks and overstuffed metal tubes hurling through hundred-year-old tunnels under ground. A lot of what is great about NYC takes a while to tune into.

    However, I am also firmly in the get-me-outta-here camp. The city is tiresome and grueling and alternatively too hot or too cold, and as an adult newcomer, I have found it to be extraordinarily isolating and loneliness-inducing. But we’re here for another 1.5 years as E finishes law school, at least, so maybe some of those feelings will dissipate with time. Orrrr maybe I’ll start a countdown clock at some point, who knows.

    I know what you mean about the “Please not here!” cards. I have been trying to convince E to move away after law school since before we even got here. It’s hard, because New York would be the most ideal for his career. But probably not for my career, or for my mental well-being. So, we’ll find some compromise. We’re thinking of trying DC or Baltimore next!

    • It is interesting to me how lonely New York can be when there are so. many. people. in it. But it seems to be a common complaint.

      Also, as much as I like DC and Baltimore (as a tourist, I’ve never lived in either), I think it is fair to say that they have nothing on NYC as far as the weather goes. Always too cold or too hot indeed. But I guess that describes most of the Eastern Seaboard, and that’s a big region to rule out.

  7. Kerry-who-lives-in-Cleveland was saddened by that last sentence :(

    But Kerry-who-is-from-Chicago definitely agrees with the dislike of NYC. I’m definitely an urban dweller, but NYC is just too DIRTY. Trash everywhere, drives me nuts.

    • To be totally fair to Cleveland:

      a) I initially ended that sentence with Detroit, but it seemed too mean. Then I thought I could get away with Cleveland because I live in Pittsburgh, and we’re supposed to rag on the “Mistake By the Lake” as much as possible.

      b) I actually find it a really nice city. I had an excellent day there on Election Eve 2004, where a friend and I took the first Greyhound in and last out so we could see the Kerry rally with Bruce Springsteen (the first time I saw him live, which as a Jersey girl, is like baptism). During the day we just wandered the streets and talked to people about the election and I’ll never forget it.

  8. I’ve only spent a grand total of about 7 days in New York, but I’m not a huge fan either. Rather, I should say that I wouldn’t want to live there. I know it’s a vibrant, incredibly diverse, giant city with a lot to offer everyone, but I feel I’d sink into a deep depression if I spent too much time there. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it’s how I feel, and I’m not taking any chances.

  9. I also don’t care for NYC. It’s fun for a short trip, but I just don’t like feeling pressured. And when I’m there, man, there is PRESSURE.

    I’ll take PGH over NYC any day. :)

    • Pressure! Yes! I think one of the first times I realized I didn’t like New York was ordering lunch there back when I was in high school. I didn’t know what I wanted when I got to the front of the line, and it seemed like the cashier and everyone behind me started to close in like a vice of rushed people. I operate at a different pace.

  10. I totally get the NYC thing. No disrespect to the people who love it but it completely overwhelms and terrifies me and steals all my money. Go to the Cleve! Also, Boston rules. Maybe I am partial since I lived there and now live close by but it feels nothing like NYC to me. Also, probably don’t take my advice since I never know where the cool kids are

    • I used to really, really want to live in Boston. Now that I’m out of college, I think I might feel really old there. Last time I visited I was like the only person on the T not wearing cutsie wellies over leggings.

  11. Ugh. I’m not a fan of NYC either. Each time I visit the city I’m lugging around some big dorky duffel bag and checking Google Maps on my phone once every twenty seconds. It stresses me out.

    But DC. Is. Awesome. Faster paced than Pittsburgh, I’m sure, but it’s not too nuts. Plus, it feels more like a really big town than anything else – you’re always running into someone you know. And our public transportation system is The Best/kind of a deathtrap [but totally easy to navigate w/maps posted everywhere].

    • I’m a patriotism geek, if that makes sense, so DC has a special place in my heart.

      But what do you mean when you say the Metro is kind of a deathtrap?!

      • Back in the spring the FTA conducted an investigation of the Metro that turned up some, uh, less than stellar findings with regard to safety.

        BUT the good news is that the negative report forced the transit authority to address a lot of the previously unacknowledged safety issues. Meaning it’s not really a deathtrap. (Although, even if it were, it’s so absurdly convenient that I would probably ride it anyway.)

  12. Ok, so I will be the one person who disagrees – I live in NYC and LOVE it. I love the amazing diversity of experiences that I can have just within a 20 block radius, I love the food, I love that I’m never alone when I walk down the street, even at 2 a.m. I exist here without a car, which would be extremely challenging almost anywhere else in the country. I superduperLOVE that it is a place a lot of people come to and work in, most of my best friends from earlier parts of my life (as well as my husband’s!) have made their way here during the past 2 years, and when someone’s coming through for only a weekend, it’s pretty awesome to have those late night bars to make the most of our time hanging out. We’re moving in June to Philly, so the next 7 months are going to be a bit of a loveletter to New York, but it IS possible to live here and not lose your mind :)

    • I’m glad you love NYC. I hope you love Philly. It was my first “big city,” but it might feel puny after New York livin’. Hopefully not in a bad way.

    • Yeah, I was about to jump in too. I don’t live there anymore and there’s a lot I don’t miss about it. But there’s still no doubt in my mind that NYC is the greatest city in the world. It’s all the things you mentioned, plus the fact that it’s just a magical place. It hasn’t been overtaken my super grocery stores and you still have to go to five stores to get seven grocery items — mostly local and often ethnic. It’s full of the kindest people in the world. People don’t realize that, especially if they’re “just visiting” (of course you’re not going to like it if you’re just visiting; it’s too overwhelming and you can’t dig deep into the city), but it’s true. I can get through a day of my life without once dealing with a stranger — getting in a car, going to the places I go every day, etc. By default, in New York, you deal directly with MILLIONS of strangers every day. It makes people have a high threshold for tolerance of others and really does instill a kindness and patience that you don’t get living anywhere else.

      I might never live there again, mostly because of the cost. (But at least I know what I’m paying for in New York. I have a hard time accepting cities with similar costs of living that have no public transportation beyond midnight, etc.) Not living there again makes me sad. It’s a joke to say that any other city can compare for arts, energy, diversity, FOOD, etc. But I’ve come to terms with it. I know from where I speak, incidentally — I’ve lived in New York, Chicago, London, Paris, Seattle, Boston, and Pittsburgh. New York is the best city. But Pittsburgh is my favorite!

  13. Ahhh I know the “please don’t make me move there” card all too well. We played that game back in 2007, and we’ll be playing it again in 2015. In 2007, the please don’t make me move there city was Rochester, Minnesota, and I’m a little scared about what cities will be up for grabs in 2015.

    I also think it’s great that you are so supportive of Colin and his PhD, because honestly sometimes I forget how important it really is to support the boy in his ambitious endeavors. Colin’s lucky to have you!

    I too do not like New York City. I lived there for a year to “explore” and it was just so, so exhausting. It’s hard to breathe. There are no trees. I don’t like how congested it all is. I realized that I love wide-open spaces, running on the beach, parks. All good things in my book. I bet Cleveland has great parks. ;)

  14. I really love the urban core and bustle, I love diversity. I love brashness. I love the crazy mix of cultures and the sense that things are happening around every corner. I love the food. I love the musuems. I love the bodegas. And, for all those reasons, I love NYC. I’m still sad I never got to live there, but I’m lucky that my BFF is a New Yorker and I expolore with her. (I even know the subway routes in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn. But I also just love maps.)

    It’s funny, I’ve never quite felt right about any place I’ve lived, which have all been big cities. I loved Boston for being urban-yet-historical. I adored Madrid for more reasons than I can enumerate. When I moved back to LA, I missed public transit and urban density so much it hurt. I wasn’t supposed to be here. But in LA, I find I like the space and easy access to nature that’s woven through the fabric of the city. I like the yoga. I like the farmers markets and fresh food and summertime. And I like the incredible diversity here too. I just have all the driving and the ways that our cars/distance can impede human interaction if you don’t overschedule yourself after work/on weekends (I overschedule.)

    Every place I’ve lived or spent real time has worked its way into my bones. I love them all, yet they’re all flawed. I made a decision to focus on the parts I love and set aside the parts I don’t. There’s a lot I love about NYC. I really wish I’d had the chance to experience it as a resident, especially while I was in my 20s. Because as I entered my 30s, I’m finding that space and quiet are more important than hustle-bustle. But maybe I’m just saying that because Jason gets exhausted by NYC and there’s no chance in heck we’d ever move there. This is our life. Here in LA. And it’s alright, overall.

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