Brooklyn to Minneapolis
“There’s only X amount of time. You can do whatever you want with that time. It’s your time.” –Lou Reed
That’s a quote I like from a book I bought from an independent bookstore in Brooklyn the last time I visited New York City. The book, Brooklyn to Mars: Volume One by Markus Almond, is a collection of writings he first published as a DIY “zine” in 2012. Pounding out inspirational quotes, advice, and reflections on life on an old typewriter in his Brooklyn apartment, Almond’s little “magazines” soon attracted a following and started selling out at his local bookstore. As I thumbed through the small book at the same shop, I felt it could be a helpful and motivating thing to own, and it would be a fond reminder of Brooklyn when I was back in Minneapolis.
Yes, I was back in Minneapolis. I’ve been back in Minneapolis since September 1, 2015.
So what happened to living in NYC? Did I fail at the New York “dream?” Was I just another casualty of being chewed up and spit out like so many other people who attempt to conquer this concrete jungle of 8.5 million people? I experienced a lot of struggles, heartbreaks, and failures: I lost friends, I lost money (a lot of it!), I lost jobs, I nearly lost my sanity some days, and one might say I lost my health when my RA exploded unexpectedly last July.
Despite the self-esteem crushing mishaps and setbacks, I did have some successes while living in New York City last Spring and Summer. The best things I gained were the surprising and wonderful connections I made with new friends. Sadly, I didn’t meet two of them until the very end of my stay in New York, but I’m happy that we’ve been staying in touch regularly, despite a thousand miles between us.
Not totally freaking out when a giant raccoon climbed through my 3rd story bathroom window at 3 AM could also be considered a success, I suppose (that’s a long and hilarious story). Surviving the suffocating heat and humidity of the subway stations can also go on that list. I’m still surprised that I never witnessed anybody keeling over on the platform while waiting for a train–I certainly thought I was going to several times. Not strangling my self-absorbed roommate who was apparently allergic to cleaning the toilet is another one.
Even taking mental abuse from a condescending, manipulative hedge fund businessman I was a personal assistant for, was worth it. I gained a fascinating glimpse into the hedge fund world of insanely rich people, and I got some entertaining stories thanks to him. Now, a year later, I can still laugh about my boss getting crazy “OCD” on me one day, yelling at me because my notebook was touching his precious wooden desk. What? I remember I looked at him dumbfounded as he smirked at me. Ridiculous. The mere fact that I didn’t fling myself out of a skyscraper window after working for him for only a couple weeks is definitely a victory to be celebrated.
Life in NYC was often tough and stressful, but the fact that I actually moved there, by myself, increased my confidence and showed that I could do it. RA didn’t stop me from going after the things I want in life. Maybe the outcome of that wasn’t what I expected or hoped for, but at least I did it. And I could do it again, really.
RA did throw a giant wrench in my plans, however, when my entire body was severely inflamed from the end of July onward, making it difficult to leave my apartment, never mind go to work. A steroid I.V. infusion was prescribed by my rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery, along with a high dose of prednisone. Neither helped much. My body was on fire and I couldn’t do anything to extinguish it.
Also stressful, due to a huge debacle and error from my health insurance in Minnesota, I wasn’t covered in New York except for the rheumatologist at HSS, whom I got special approval to see. Limping around my stifling little attic apartment, barely able to get out of bed, or dress myself, I made the decision pretty quickly that I needed to go home and get my health under control.
On the plane ride back to Minneapolis, I couldn’t tell if I was relieved or sad to leave; it was probably a combination of both. The crippling RA flare-up I had been battling against was clouding my judgment and my feelings. My entire body was in agonizing, searing pain, and all I could think of was getting home and collapsing on the couch in the central AC with ice wrapped around my ankles. I didn’t have the energy to give New York a proper goodbye–I felt too tired and defeated.
After being back in Minneapolis for some weeks, and feverishly going to lots of medical appointments, I began to reflect more on my NYC experience and my return home. I tried to not beat myself up about leaving, feeling like a failure and a loser, but sometimes it was hard to not have those thoughts cycling and recycling in my head.
Moving to New York City is hard for a healthy person, I tried to console myself. And it’s true; it is extremely difficult for “normal,” able-bodied people to live there who aren’t also fighting against pain and sickness on a daily basis. I realize this, yet I still have some trouble reconciling with myself that it’s okay that NYC just didn’t work out as planned.
Many things happened that spring and summer: some bad, some crazy, and some very good. I’m grateful for all of it. “It doesn’t matter what you attempt,” says Almond. “It doesn’t matter if you fail. It doesn’t matter if you go bankrupt or break a bone. You will heal and you will smile again.”
I tried NYC, and while I thankfully didn’t break a bone (the jury’s still out on “bankruptcy”), my spirit did feel broken. There’s no shame in not “succeeding” though, and who knows, maybe I’ll find myself back living in that magical city someday. Whatever happens, I know that I won’t let RA stop me from trying–or smiling.