Sometimes I love it in New York. I feel capable and competent and energized. I feel like my kids are having amazing experiences. I feel like this is exactly the right place for me.
Sometimes I am tired and overwhelmed. I feel that everything and everyone is so superficial and insignificant. I feel uncultured, uncouth, poorly dressed, and in possession of a naïveté that can never be remedied. I feel lonely, too, because, although I have met many wonderful people, I can’t really say that I know anyone here, or that anyone knows me.
At such times I am ready to head home to Montpelier where I will take a long walk in the woods while my ears acclimate to the silence (for those of you who don’t know – the first day or so back there is this strange sound – the sound of silence, which literally rings in your ears), have some meaningful conversations with my neighbors, then go home to put on my most comfortable and least fashionable clothes and make a loaf of bread and a big pot of lentil soup, from scratch.
That’s how I am feeling today. I think a lot of it is just that I took on a bit too much last week and this week, and I am tired. But I think, also, there is something else – all the things you cannot talk about, and the useless words you are supposed to use to fill the empty space.
Things you can talk about:
- The weather.
- Liking people’s hair, clothes, accessories, and general appearance.
- School, problems with school administration at the District level, and what middle and high schools everyone is planning to send their kids to.
- Where you are going over vacation.
Things you cannot talk about:
- Business (money or class inequality)
- Anything particularly personal or meaningful (a couple of times when I first arrived here I asked questions that were too personal and got the standard response: “I’d rather not say.”).
As I am so busy, I am often fine with the way we are tongue-tied here. All the same, on a good day the superficiality of everyday small talk is torture for my introverted self. In place of chit-cat, I generally prefer to sit quietly with other people, sipping some tea or some wine, sharing thoughts intermittently and seeing if a conversation arises. Given my social awkwardness (awkward for everyone else, that is, as I said, I am fine with those silences) and considering that very, very few NYC conversations move beyond the world of small talk, it is almost a wonder that I engage in any dialogue at all.