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Goodbye, New York

February 24, 2012

Last July I was walking in Soho and came to a cross street. While waiting for a break in traffic, a young man wearing dark jeans and an olive parka walked up and stood next to me. I glanced over to share a smile and noticed he had a French bulldog puppy at the end of a leash.

“A Frenchy!” I cooed. “They’re my favorite. Can I pet her?”

He took a hard look at me, wrinkled up his face in thought, and said, “No. I don’t think so.” Just then the traffic cleared and the man and his pup crossed the street.

And so my “Why I Hate New York” list was born.

Without even trying, the list grew to over fifty items: “My three-train commute to work,” “The woman on the subway who didn’t offer a pregnant lady her seat,” “The men who only call after midnight,” “The twelve dollar bowl of Cheerios,” “The guy in McCarren Park with life-sized suspenders tattooed on his chest.”

The slightest social infraction prompted an entry in my Moleskine of hatred. Once my roommate asked me to split the cost of a stamp we used to mail in our rent checks, and I couldn’t scribble “Cheap assholes” fast enough.

I didn’t tell anyone about my little secret, worried they’d find it obsessive or – even worse – ask to see it. A dangerous request considering there was a 98 percent chance they were on it.

Three months and two notebooks later, I took a break from the hate mongering long enough to question why I was doing it. Did I find it therapeutic? What was I planning to do with all the material? Was the whole thing a joke to me? Though I didn’t have specific answers, one thing was sure: it wasn’t making me any happier.

“Negativity only begets negativity,” I thought. “What if, for a change, I started recording things I loved about New York? If I put positive energy out into the world, maybe it will come back to me.” I vowed to retire my pessimistic ways and put on my happy hat.

Here’s the part where I tell you my life took a complete 180 and love began to pour into me like an eight-dollar glass of ginger ale in Times Square. (That’s a thing, by the way, and you better believe it made the list.) But five months into the experiment and I can honestly tell you I’m no happier than when I started.

That’s not to say I haven’t witnessed some beautiful acts of kindness or met some inspiring people. I’m thankful to the group of women who invited me to join their book club when I asked them what book they were discussing at a bar. And I couldn’t be prouder of the trivia team I joined, at first knowing only one person, that finally took home the title last week. But when I add the pros to the cons, it doesn’t change the fact that I constantly feel like I’m walking around a crowded party looking for a warm face to talk to.

“The first year is the hardest,” everyone told me when I first moved here, as I’m sure they told you. In a way I expected to wake up on the 366th day and instantly love this place. Surely there had to be an element of magic involved, because goodwill and friendliness weren’t speeding things along.

I initially moved to New York for my dream job, and I’ve been here for a total of one and a half years now. And while you may think that’s not enough time to give the city a chance, I’ve lived in enough places to know when something feels right. And this doesn’t feel right.

That New York City isn’t for everyone is about as shocking as the fact that Paula Dean has diabetes. But what’s less obvious is that you don’t have to feel ashamed for not cutting it. In the wise words of Jay Z, “The city, it’s a pity, half of y’all won’t make it.” I’m okay admitting that I’m a member of the half that didn’t make it. But that just means there’s a whole other half out there that’s thriving, and I sincerely hope you’re* one of them.

*Unless you’re the asshole who wouldn’t let me pet his puppy.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Lauren L permalink
    February 24, 2012 2:08 pm

    Great essay. We’ll miss you, Holley! (Also, about the Jay-Z song, I feel like you did “make it” – you just didn’t like it, which is totally understandable)

  2. Zach permalink
    February 24, 2012 2:19 pm

    Ah the list! Yeah, we absolutely made our rapidly growing list.

    Though now I think I need to get some suspenders tattooed…

  3. February 24, 2012 2:42 pm

    Are you coming back to San Francisco, sure hope so! dk

  4. Joell permalink
    February 24, 2012 7:06 pm

    You know….baltimore has been called the “way nicer new york”…want to just move here instead? (please move here!)…..(you better move here….)

  5. February 27, 2012 8:58 am

    great post. i’ll miss you, holley! all the best to you, and hope to see you soon. xxxx

  6. Jess permalink
    February 27, 2012 1:44 pm

    I love you for many reasons – not giving up ’til you find the right fit is one of them. Make it work (or come back to SF).

    – J
    Fellow city trotter

  7. March 13, 2012 10:26 am

    Just found this blog entry as I’m preparing to move out as well. I’ve only been here for about four years now, but I figured out after only 6 months or so that I wouldn’t be a long-time NYC resident. It’s no fault of the City, it’s just that some of us thrive in different environments (as you pointed out). But, and I’m thinking you’d probably agree, it’s been a pretty good experience overall, living in this City, and I’m taking a lot of those lessons and contacts back with me. I hope you can look back and say the same.

    Best of luck to you wherever you land, from another soon-to-be-former NYC resident!

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