I haven’t written here in a while because my doctor told me not to. I’ve briefly mentioned my back problems before, and earlier this summer I saw a new doctor, and she told me that literally the only thing that seems to be wrong with me is that I spend too much time sitting at a computer, and then too much time carrying heavy things around with me whenever I’m not sitting in front of a computer. The muscles on the right side of my neck, back, and shoulder have become immensely sensitive, and now even if I carry a slightly heavy bag on my right shoulder for even just fifteen minutes, I can already feel that entire side of my body begin to tense up.
I told her that I would absolutely not stop sitting in front of a computer because it is my job to sit in front of a computer, and I need my job. What I didn’t tell her is that I also refuse to stop sitting in front of a computer because it’s the only way that I can write — my handwriting has gotten messier year after year, and writing by hand just kind of pisses me off at this point. Zero patience. I also don’t see much difference between slouching over a pad of paper and slouching over a laptop. So, while I haven’t been writing here, you better believe I’ve still been writing.
So, I realize that this whole back problem is my fault — I’m the one who’s been leading this lifestyle, I’m the one who has the power to change it — but selfishly, and I’ll admit somewhat childishly, I also place like 25% of the blame on New York.
When I first moved here two years and two months ago, I told myself that I would give New York two years to really make it work. I would try to make friends, I would try to succeed at my job, I would try to find a few places in the city that I really loved. And I did make friends (though the primary reason that many of us became friends is that we all really dislike New York); I did find three places in New York City that I truly love (a bar, a bookstore, and a train station); and I did succeed in my role at my job (I was promoted, and I got to spend three months in my favorite city on earth, Paris).
And I gave the city two full years, like I said I would. And I absolutely hated it, like I thought I would. And so I am leaving.
As soon as I decided I was leaving, my back began to feel better. I also tried to stop carrying heavy things around with me as much as possible, and I started working from home most of the week, which also helped. I now get up from my desk frequently to stretch, I do yoga every week, and I try to sit up straight whenver I have to be at the computer for long periods of time.
Apparently my lifestyle was the only thing hurting my back, so I am changing my lifestyle, and part of this means changing my city. I’m grateful that I have an opportunity to do this, because I know not everyone gets the chance to leave a city they really hate. I’m keeping the job, I’m keeping the friends, and I’m keeping a few mementos from my bar, my bookstore, and my train station, but I’m leaving everything else: the crowded subways, the overpriced restaurants, the interminable lines to get into every bar or restaurant or store, the strange smells on every single sidewalk, the hecklers on Brooklyn stoops.
I’m also leaving behind all of these ugly thoughts I’ve started to have ever since moving here — ugly thoughts about perfect strangers whose only crimes were being too close to me on the subway, or yelling obsenities outside my window, or whispering obsenities to me as I walk by, or being a teenager in literally any context. I think part of this is 2016’s fault — has there been a stranger year? — but part of it comes with the territory when you’re living in a tiny city with a massive population, where you can’t ever really get a moment alone.
All of these heavy things that I’ve hated and carried with me– I finally get to just put them down, leave them behind, and go.
And, look — I just want to finish this by saying that whenever someone tells me it is their dream to move to New York, I don’t try to discourage them and I certainly don’t think they’re idiot. Well, if I do think they are an idiot, it’s probably for another reason. But if they ask me my opinion of the city, I give it. And I know that my opinion of New York is strictly that — an opinion — and that some people really do love it here.
And I think those people would be super happy to know that someone who hates their beloved city so much is finally leaving it. That’s one more open spot in a line waiting to get into a bar, and one more subway seat for someone who really wants it.
“I could not tell you when I began to understand that. All I know is that it was very bad when I was twenty-eight. Everything that was said to me I seemed to have heard before, and I could no longer listen. I could no longer sit in little bars near Grand Central and listen to someone complaining of his wife’s inability to cope with the help while he missed another train to Connecticut. I no longer had any interest in hearing about the advances other people had received from their publishers, about plays which were having second-act trouble in Philadelphia, or about people I would like very much if only I would come out and meet them. I had already met them, always. There were certain parts of the city which I had to avoid. I could not bear upper Madison Avenue on weekday mornings (this was a particularly inconvenient aversion, since I then lived just fifty or sixty feet east of Madison), because I would see women walking Yorkshire terriers and shopping at Gristede’s, and some Veblenesque gorge would rise in my throat. I could not go to Times Square in the afternoon, or to the New York Public Library for any reason whatsoever. One day I could not go into a Schrafft’s; the next it would be the Bonwit Teller.
I hurt the people I cared about, and insulted those I did not. I cut myself off from the one person who was closer to me than any other. I cried until I was not even aware when I was crying and when I was not, I cried in elevators and in taxis and in Chinese laundries, and when I went to the doctor, he said only that I seemed to be depressed, and that I should see a “specialist.” He wrote down a psychiatrist’s name and address for me, but I did not go. […] All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore.” Goodbye to All of That, Joan Didion