I don’t recall ever having my sights set on the big apple. In high school I would dream about moving to Paris and, later, it was Russia (Petersburg). Then for quite a while, it wasn’t so much where I lived but what I would be doing there that mattered. Over time I accumulated a growing list of disqualified places/regions/nations/categories of population density/generalized local cultural orientations.
When we relocated to Vermont 5 years ago, I made the choice purely based on location (place, region, population density and local cultural orientation). Jason had a job and I had only the suggestions of the likelihood of future employment in my chosen profession. Five years, 3 countries, 5 different institutional affiliations at distances ranging from 60 to 12,000 miles from home, and being away for stretches as long as 10 months at a time, I have accepted the fact that Vermont is not going to work for me, occupationally speaking. We are moving to NYC where I will join the faculty of Pace University.
A couple of years ago we actually passed up a similar NYC opportunity. We had just returned from China and were suffering from reverse culture shock, I was commuting to Yale for a postdoc, life was crazy. The opportunity to move to the city arose and, despite the fact that I knew it was a great opportunity, every time I thought about giving up on Vermont I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach. I wasn’t ready to leave. Maybe we just needed to give Vermont more time, I reasoned. As we walked away from the chance to relocate to NYC, I remember thinking to myself that I must be crazy – absolutely barking mad. How could I pass up the big apple?
Fortunately, I am getting a second bite at the big apple and this time it feels right, the logical place for someone who wants the world at their fingertips and who plans to carry out research in Singapore, Sweden and China while maintaining a garden in Montpelier, Vermont. We are excited, and thrilled to have long-term jobs in the same institution/city/region/country/continent. I am very excited about my position and my colleagues. I am not worried about managing the move. If there is one thing that we know how to do it is relocate, chose schools, acquire and set up apartments, and generally figure out the system of every life in new places (and the NYC bonus is that we are already in the system and the operating language is English).
I do have a few concerns, however.
1. In general, I am looking forward to living in Manhattan, but sometimes when I am checking out the street view of building with an available apartment and I see that canyon of a narrow lower-Manhattan street with the skyscrapers coming up on either side, I groan. Theoretically, I prefer the upper west side (I have always loved Riverside park), but commuting logistics and school options make downtown a better choice. We’ll be happier in our everyday lives, I’m sure, but all the same, the concrete jungle…
2. Everyone and their uncle seems to be an expert on New York City – restaurants, schools, neighborhoods (and metro-area alternatives), subway lines, parks, politics. I am a very independent person and it is grating on me a bit to have so many people telling me what I ought to do. I have a little more patience for actual or former NYC residents, and I think it is great that folks seem to have such attachment to wherever they lived in the city. All the same, just stick to the facts please, folks. We’ll use the data to come to a good conclusion about what will work for us.
3. I am bit worried that NYC is too beaten a path for me. I generally seek the less obvious location. For example, when I go to San Francisco I am always shocked by the extent to which people are willing to wait forever to get a table at this year’s hottest restaurant. My strategy? Find out what last year’s hottest restaurant was because, chances are, there is hardly any wait there or, alternatively, try new places. Remember a couple of weeks ago when, in a tight alley, they found that bit of landing gear from one of the 9/11 planes and the landing gear was found because of work being done for the formerly controversial “ground zero” Islamic center? Yeah, well, we are looking at apartments right there. I hope that it feels OK to have home be so in the thick of things. It is certainly an uncharacteristic move for me to put myself in the heart of the heart of it all.
4. I am a bit worried about the NYC-centrism of New Yorkers. We’ve all had that experience of talking to New Yorkers and feeling a bit rankled by the parade of phrases like “The X is much better in New York,” “NYC is the only real city,” “after living in NYC, I can’t X”, “well this is quaint, but in NYC we X.” Don’t get me wrong, NYC is great and I find it to be a comfortable, comprehensive, friendly, well-appointed city. All the same, the first time I went to NYC after living in China, I laughed out loud. It was like one of those moments when you return to something that, as a child, you thought was absolutely enormous and incomprehensibly crowded and then you see it with mature eyes and it is nothing of the sort. “Isn’t this cute.” I thought to myself. NYC may be the only real metropolis in the US. In the global scheme of things it is a great city, but it isn’t the only city. I hope that New Yorkers don’t run me out on a rail.
We’re apartment hunting in 2 weeks. Let the games begin!