by Jen Chau
...so what happens when you take the girl out of New York City?
I have always been a die-hard New Yorker. Was born here, raised here, have lived my whole life here...aside from the four years that I lived on the Wellesley College campus amongst lakes and geese. Had to get right back to the pavement and shade-less streets! I am the type of person who has a visceral reaction upon re-entry to the Big Apple. If I'm away, I am absolutely ecstatic to come home. Goosebumps spread across my body as the warm city air hits my face or as I catch my first glimpse of the Empire State building's shining lights in the night sky. I have never seriously considered living anywhere else because New York makes me happy, through and through. I even love riding the subway with all of its stinky-ness (literally and attitudinally). :) I love being around lots of people. I love the activity and the energy of New York. I have always been in love with this city.
Feeling this way, and for so long, I was slightly concerned when planning for a five week stint in Boston this past July. I knew that I was going to be exceptionally busy with work, but I was slightly worried about being gone from New York for so long - it would be the longest since college. When in cities with which I'm not terribly familiar, there is an element of loneliness that follows me. When I don't know where I am, I tend to feel isolated...potentially confined to a hotel room (or dorm room in the case of Boston). I knew that I couldn't let myself fall into this feeling this summer - that I could do something about it! So I thought about it. What makes one feel at home? Part of it is the people you love...but you can maintain relationships from afar. What about the things you have? Eh...I'm learning not to care so much about possessions. How about the rituals? The things you do that you find comforting? Bingo. This got to the root of home and happiness for me.
So I made time to research a couple of things that I knew would make me feel grounded in Boston. One of my closest friends lives in Boston, so I made sure to carve out time to spend with her. Each weekend, we spent time in her kitchen laughing, catching up, and talking about the good things in our lives. I found a yoga spot and a meditation center...and a few nearby cafes and bookstores, of course. I joined the gym on campus. Perfect. I had all of my go-to spots...but in Boston. The interesting thing is that I never found the time to meditate or go to yoga, but knowing where they were, and knowing I had the *choice* were almost just as comforting as going.
Needless to say, I had a great summer. I felt as "at home" as I could while in a temporary dorm room in Boston. I surprised myself with the feeling that I could actually live there and find happiness there. And this isn't about Boston. It's about anywhere. And me carrying home and happiness with me wherever I go.
I never thought that "home" was transportable. But it is. It's not physical. It's a feeling and a state. It's knowing that you can find what you need to sustain yourself regardless of location. It's a feeling that you can connect with people in X city, X town. It's a feeling of happiness and contentment - so strong that nothing can shake it out of you. It's a feeling that you can make yourself happy and safe no matter whether you're in New York City or Boston or New Orleans or Milwaukee. For one day or one week or one month.
In the past few weeks I've been to all of the aforementioned cities for work. I expected to be spinning a bit more than I am. Truth be told, yesterday I had to remind myself of where I was as I was walking around and the specific street I was on reminded me of somewhere else.... :) But I'm not the stressed person that I used to be when needing to pick up and go and pick up and go. What is making the difference for me is that I maintain the things that I love no matter where I am. In all of these different places, there is one constant. Me. So I can make sure to do the things that make me happy.
It's different for me to think of myself as the thing that grounds me no matter where I am. But it's a great thing and makes me hopeful. It opens up plenty more doors than when I was the stubborn New Yorker who wondered why anyone ever left. :)
So, you can take the girl out of the city...she'll just pack a journal and make sure she knows where to find the closest cafe. Happiness? Check!