It’s strange coming back to the United States after living abroad for so long. Yes, I’ve been back and forth throughout my time in Georgia, making regular trips to work summers in Baltimore and coming home for occasional holidays, but there’s a difference between visiting home and moving home.
That said, I have moved home, but I haven’t. I’ve come back to the US, but I’ve been living in New York, which is a new, exciting, and strange place for me. Despite its familiarity it sometimes feels like I’m visiting a foreign land. Like this is just another of my world-spanning adventures. And so, it is.
During my funemployment I sat for a couple dozen interviews and wrote about one hundred different cover letters. My resume went through countless rewrites as I tailor-made it for each job I applied for. It was a long, grueling, sometimes draining process. I would go through long dry spells that would sap my willpower and discourage me to no end. In these times I often found myself thrilled to receive a rejection because it was better than the endless silence that most often results when transmitting your resume out into the void.
These periods of relative despair would be followed by sudden torrents of responses. After weeks of radio silence, my inbox would become awash with interested employers who were hoping to follow up with me. I had interviews in Tbilisi, Baltimore, Washington, and even Billings, Montana. In these halcyon days of funemployment I was on fire!
By the time November rolled around, I was starting to really see results. A series of strong interviews was coming to a close and a bureaucracy’s wheels had finally nearly completed one circuit. As I browsed Facebook one morning I saw a post by an old schoolmate* from Maine. She was looking for talented smart people with XYZ experience to work on an exciting new project. Feeling pretty talented and smart, and knowing I was at least experienced with X and Z, I sent her a message. This began one of those floods of activity described above.
My informal interview went great and I asked her, “When would you want me to start?”
“Yesterday. How soon can you be in New York?” One week later I found myself arriving at New York’s JFK airport with a few suitcases and a head full of apprehension.
New York was not and is not my final destination. I was simply asked to come aboard for six weeks of training in the Big Apple. Since six weeks is too-short-to-rent-an-apartment and too-long-to-crash-on-a-couch, my boss opened up his home for me to live in before making our big move after the New Year.
While my trip thus far had been welcomingly familiar–Dunkin’ Donuts at the airport, delicious bagels at home in Maine, the ability to text and call my friends and family without calculating time differences–my arrival in Brooklyn spelled the beginning of the strange.
I rolled up to Park Slope in a taxi that I didn’t have to haggle for. The price just ticks up as you drive! No more bargaining with sleepy scruffy old dudes to get the price I want! When I found my way into my boss’s house, I entered a world I’d never known before. This house is probably worth fourteen million dollars. I was lodged on the top floor where I had roof access (see the header above) and my own enormous closet. In the mornings, my boss’s wife recommended that I take the elevator down to the pool and use the shower there as it has the best water pressure. Keep in mind, this is a private house with an elevator. The pool is beautifully tiled in a Mediterranean style and though it is small, it has a motor so you can swim against a current. My boss is a big swimmer.
Oh, plus there’s a sauna.
My first day in New York saw me doing a trial run to the office to make sure I knew how to get where I was going. My office is in the heart of the financial district of New York City, a few doors down from the New York Stock Exchange. My boss’s corner office overlooks the World Trade Center Memorial and underlooks (?) the new One World Trade Center building. The view from my desk extends east over Brooklyn and south past the Statue of Liberty to New Jersey. Yes, I can see the Statue of Liberty from my desk.
This was my new, unfamiliar life.
Thankfully, it includes a lot of familiar faces to help me smooth the transition. In addition to the woman who I went to high school with and who hired me, there are loads of old friends living in New York! It is an attractor for people of all shapes and sizes, right? Why not scores of friends?
On my first weekend in town I met up with my good friend Tyler from high school. We had had an awesome circle of friends back in the day, and I like to think of Tyler as being my rogueish partner in crime when it came to making our own way. Our friend Dan used to have these fun all-night parties at his house where everyone would play Super Smash Bros. and eat pizza all night. That’s it. We were sickeningly well-behaved. Tyler and I quickly bored of the Smash and found other adventures to embark upon. There was the time we spent the whole night playing Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and brute-forcing some of the trickier puzzles. Or the time we began writing and programming our own video game teasing our friend Jared for his multitude of crushes. Or the time we decided to take a walk around the block. Living in suburban Maine, however, meant that the block is an eight mile loop. We nearly made it before Dan’s irate father picked us up in his car, furious that we had wandered off into the night without telling anyone. This became a tradition of ours.
Then there was the time Tyler and I met up and had a delicious home-cooked meal at his house just north of the city! I got to meet his lovely girlfriend and we had a blast talking and laughing over meatloaf. A few weeks later I was lucky enough to get to see Tyler as he headlined his first Opera, playing the titular character in Markheim, a very dark and scary modern opera about a jerk driven to murder. Tyler played that jerk with an intensity that had me on the edge of my seat.
I was also lucky enough to be able to regularly meet up with my dear college friend Jay! We had a bunch of adventures around the city–getting awesome meatballs and watching Birdman, strolling through parks and ducking into record stores and chess shops, exploring the hipster-est place in all of hipsterdom at Brooklyn’s night market. But most familiarly, on a cold and rainy afternoon in December, we met up at a coffee shop and played a few games of chess.
Jay and I used to be the poster-children for Georgetown. Not in any formal sense, but picture this: You’re a prospective student (or the parent of a prospective student, the choice is yours!) touring colleges to decide where to submit your applications. You get a bit overwhelmed by the choices. The beautiful campus begin to run together, but you still have your favorites in mind. “Oh, my favorite song was playing in the cafeteria at Dartmouth!” “That interview guy at Swarthmore sure was eager…” “Hamilton College is picture perfect Americana, right here!” “Son, if you go to Bates we can commute to Lewiston together and I’ll take you out to lunch every day!”
Walking around Georgetown you hear about the historic buildings and the active student body. You chuckle at “Red Square” and wonder how on earth anyone thought it would be a good idea to design Lauinger Library to look like a cement bookshelf. You learn that the Exorcist was filmed on campus and that Bill Clinton is an alumnus. You curve around the back of Healey Hall to see Dahlgren Chapel as your backwards-walking tourguide tells you how active the student body is and what it means to be a “Student Athlete”. And there you see two strapping young undergrads playing chess as the cherry blossoms cascade around them, the perfect picture of scholastic health.
Jay also was my companion on my first ever trip to Georgia. We had such an awesome time, I decided to stay for almost five years!
Being able to regularly see and spend time with some of my closest friends has made the transition back to life in America so much easier. It has dulled some of the reverse culture shock (Though, I tell ya. That Brooklyn Nightmarket was a helluva culture shock.) and made my brief time in New York infinitely more enjoyable.
I have since left New York and arrived at my final destination for the time being. Tune in next time to find out where life has taken me now!
*Regrettably, I have picked up a few Britishisms in my years teaching in Georgia.