New York

Goodbye Forever New York, You Stupid Piece Of

by Jackie D on August 23, 2016

Leaving New York - Jackie TravelsI 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


Job Perks: Nerding Out on the Internet

by Jackie D on March 10, 2016

“The substance of what it means to be a geek is essentially someone who’s brave enough to love something against judgment. The heart of being a geek is a little bit of rejection.” – Felicia Day, one of the original Internet geeks. I saw her speak at Housing Works about her memoir and she is just the greatest.

The other “job perks” posts I’ve written so far have related to cool events or discounts that I’ve been lucky to experience working in the travel industry, but there are also a lot of quieter, smaller-scale perks that are part of my daily routine.

One of these, though it’s becoming less and less a part of my job these days, is creating content. This means written content: blog posts, tweets, photo captions, blurbs for e-mail newsletters or website copy; and it also means visual content (curating photos to use, trying to figure out how to create infographics, swearing loudly at said infographics).

Creation, basically. And the Internet. Creativity and the Internet are two of my favorite things in life, and even though it means that I am staring at a computer screen all day and sometimes pulling my hair out trying to figure out why a certain graphic I’m working on doesn’t look the way I pictured it in my head, it means that I am doing what I love on a daily basis, and, by extension, nerding out pretty hard in the process (which is my third favorite thing after Creativity and the Internet).

I think I’ve been creating things on the Internet for an average of 10 hours a day ever since I first discovered the Internet over a decade ago. (this math is based on how buff the little muscles in my typing fingers are: a true measure of time and Internet usage.)

My friends and I were all over AIM and Napster and creating playlists and such when we were 12 and 13, which I think is when my generation really started hard with the Internet. Shortly after that, I discovered FanFiction (shut up, most of you knew about this) and that’s how I spent so many of my nights in high school, staying up until midnight writing stories and posting them anonymously to the Internet for strangers to read. When I was at school, I’d write notes for stories in the margins of my math and religion and science notebooks during class.

In college, social media happened. Facebook launched in 2004 but really blew up around 2006 — my freshman year of college*. So everyone my age had this weird balance of trying to discover this whole new college world outside of our comfort zone versus trying to discover this whole new Internet community at the same time – a community that allowed us to still see what was going on with our friends back home.

My high school friends and I had — and still do have, to this day — a private Facebook group where we’d post weekly — sometimes daily, during a particularly dramatic week — updates about boys, classes, boys, mostly just boys, and then sometimes boys. Instead of staying up late every night writing love letters to the Internet in the form of fan fiction, I’d stay up late every night writing love letters to my friends on Facebook.

Now, of course, the Internet has taken over all of our lives, and so in a typical day I wake up, check my e-mail on my phone, read through Twitter on my way to work, spend literally all day at work doing social media things, scroll through my Tumblr feed on my phone on my way home, listen to a Spotify playlist or a podcast, get home and put on Netflix while eating dinner, maybe read through a few blog posts or update my own, go to sleep. Of course, this isn’t my exact schedule every day — I do see daylight sometimes, under protest.

But I love it. The Internet is my absolute favorite thing. And when people start to protest that the Internet is ruining all of our lives and the ways that we interact with each other, I can’t help but roll my eyes.  I wish I had a whole folder full of text messages, Facebook group posts, e-mails from my friends and my parents and my grandma and the occasional pen-pal, FanFiction comments,  hilarious tweets, and beautifully written blog posts, so that I could shove this folder at those people and be like, “Do you see all these little loving messages and funny jokes and insanely beautifully written articles and insanely beautifully crafted photographs and insanely useful Pinterest DIYs that probably wouldn’t have become part of my life or your life or anyone’s life if the Internet had never become a thing?”

So I am grateful. First of all for the Internet, and second of all for having a job that requires me to be on the Internet for most of every day of every week, which is probably how I’d be spending my time anyway even if I didn’t have this job.

*I know that MySpace happened before Facebook but weirdly, I was never that interested in MySpace. I think I thought that MySpace was too cool for me, and I was probably still writing FanFiction around this time, so that hypothesis was absolutely correct.

More Job Perks:
15 Trains and 22 Cities in 10 Days
Snapshots from a Business Trip to Canada


2015: Happy Alone

by Jackie D on January 1, 2016

IMG_80382015 was a big relationship year for a lot of my friends. One of my best friends from childhood got engaged in February (and I’m going to her wedding in a week), another celebrated her 1st wedding anniversary in May. One of my New York bffs and one of my LA bffs have been going through some of the milestones you pass when you’re in your first serious “grown-up” relationship. Another of my New York friends just got married in December.

And they are all so happy, and I am genuinely so happy for them. We’re at that age where things either become really serious or they don’t; friendships begin to change because people begin to separate into “coupled people” and “single people.”

For that reason, 2015 was the year where I was more aware of being single than I have ever been before. At times it was slightly frustrating and a bit scary — I’ve been watching so many of my friends go off into relationships while I am, in a way, left behind. Instead of planning a romantic weekend away with someone, or booking a “couples trip” with other couple friends, I’ve been planning a few trips to take by myself, or making myself dinner alone at home, or falling asleep at night with a book on my face rather than an arm wrapped around me.

2015 was a big year for me in terms of my job, which is going really well, and I think it would be easy to look at that and say, “Oh, well you’ve been spending so much time focusing on your job that you haven’t had time to focus on a relationship.” But I hate that argument and I don’t think it’s fair that so many people still believe that a person can only have one or the other: a successful job year, or a successful relationship year. I also think it’s unfair to my friends who have had great relationship success this year — it doesn’t mean that they haven’t spent time focusing on their jobs, or that they are doing poorly career-wise.

Of course, there is a little part of me that thinks: if you really, really wanted to be in a relationship right now, wouldn’t you have tried harder to make it happen? I definitely could have put myself out there more this past year, although 1. that takes a lot of energy and I blew off a few dates because I realized I’d rather focus that energy on something else, even if it was just reading or cleaning my room or going to see a movie; and 2. I’m not exactly sure where the “there” in “putting myself out there” is — bars? Dating apps? Pizza? Definitely pizza.

I don’t even know exactly how to classify how it has felt this year, to just be really, really aware that I am single. I got a sweatshirt that says “Happy Alone” from one of my favorite companies because when I first saw it, it made me laugh. When I wear it in public people have one of two reactions: either they laugh like I did (kindred spirits!), or they look at me like they don’t know whether they should feel sorry for me or not.

I saw a girl post an Instagram photo of herself wearing the sweatshirt and she noted in the caption that she bought it not because she was happy being single (she wasn’t single, she was in a relationship) but just because she was happy spending time by herself, reading, drawing, watching TV, just enjoying those quiet moments alone where she didn’t have to talk to anyone or share her personal space.

Events or circumstances of this past year have forced me to be alone several times — I was the only single person at a bachelorette party, I was date-less at the wedding I attended, I showed up alone to a volunteer meeting to start working at that bookstore I’ve mentioned dozens of times, I’ve gone to bars by myself on the occasions when the only 3-4 friends I have in New York were busy, I’ve gone to movies alone, restaurants alone, museums alone — alone, alone, alone.

I’ve also never craved alone-time as much as I have this past year, living in this crowded city. There were times on the subway when I’d have to shut my eyes and turn up my music and tell myself, just three more stops, three more stops and a few blocks and you’ll be home, alone, away from all of these loud people, just alone in a room where it only smells like you and the walls are clean and nothing has spilled on the floor and no one can ask you for money. Alone, alone, alone.

It helps that I know that I have friends I can text whenever I want, books that will keep me company when I’m alone in a restaurant, Twitter feeds & articles that will remind me that the world is bigger than my relationship status, and a job that challenges me and offers me the opportunities that I dreamed about when I was a kid.

Most importantly, I know that being alone in 2015 doesn’t mean that I’m going to be alone forever. I mean, I guess that’s a possibility, but let’s cross that bridge when it’s been 50 years. For now I’m fairly certain that it’s just an alone-phase of my life, and so I am trying to enjoy it, to relish in the quiet, the lack of drama, the ability to focus on my own needs/wants/interests without having to take anyone else’s into consideration. I don’t want to look back on this time and regret not getting the most out of it while I could.

As this post goes live, I’ll be headed up the California coast to start off 2016 in one of my favorite ways: taking a solo trip to a colorful place I found when I was browsing the Internet at home one night before I went to sleep — alone.