Faraway

I’ve always taken great pride in being a New Yorker (New Yawka, thank you).  It’s a huge part of my identity.  When I went to college, I thought everyone at my small liberal arts college would think I was *so cool* that I was from the City.  Turns out, they were not.  Upstaters are not fond of New York City, especially when it seems only people from the City can claim the title of New Yorker.  They also do not like the City’s simplified version of New York geography, wherein you have Long Island, the City, Westchester, and then everything else is Upstate.  They like to tell you about Central New York and Western New York, although to be honest, I would just nod along politely and go back to calling it all upstate.

Point is, even when I found myself in a situation where it was uncool to be from NYC I was still hella proud of it.

Interestingly, in England I get much more the reaction I originally expected when I say I’m from New York.  I have used my accent to command the respect and attention of a class of students.  When people notice my accent (and they always notice my accent), they ask where I’m from, and when I say New York, I have gotten an actual gasp of awe.  Even MR has gone on record saying that he finds the NY accent kind of hot (really??).  I’ve branded myself as a New Yorker.

I think I can claim the title.  Both sides of my family settled in NYC when they got off the boat from Italy and Germany.  That makes me a fourth generation New Yorker on my mother’s side and third on my father’s.  I went to NYC public schools.  I taught in NYC public schools.  My cousin is a NYC police officer.  I used to have a super thick accent, along the lines of ‘dawg’ and ‘cawfee’ and most of my family still does, even when the NY accent is dying out.  I even grew up in Queens, which is one of the more ‘authentic’ boroughs inasmuch as nobody goes to Queens unless they’re from Queens.  Or going to the airport.

It doesn’t get more glam than Bell Blvd, people.

My family being in New York was an institution.  It would always be–until it wasn’t.  The transition started a long time ago: distant cousins moved to Florida; my grandparents sold their house in Brooklyn and moved to the Poconos.  My father’s parents followed suit, and my uncle went to Jersey.  But that was all fine, because my parents were in NYC and they weren’t leaving.

Only–rents got high.  My mom kept looking at apartments and realised she could never move because she could never afford a new place.  My dad got sick and my sister lived too far away to help as much as she wanted.  New Yorkers will know that a drive from Croton-on-Hudson in northern Westchester to Queens is too much of a trek to do on a regular basis.  So my parents compromised–they moved to Tarrytown.  At first I hated the idea of them leaving NYC, but as it happens, I find Tarrytown amazing.  Gorgeous views of the Hudson, amazing restaurants, still proper NY food with good pizza and bagels…MR and I visited my parents there and promptly fell in love.  We would move there in a heartbeat if we thought we could ever afford it.  But we can’t, so we settled for visiting.

Actual view of Tarrytown–it is actually that gorgeous.

 

Also delicious NY pizza here. And the bagel place next door rocks too. I am getting hungry.

Only then my sister moved to Massachusetts.  My dad’s no longer with us, so that left my mom alone in Westchester.  She shouldn’t be alone–she’s kind of isolated from everyone because she doesn’t really drive and everyone’s pretty far.  Not just my sister, but to get to her brothers in Staten Island and Brooklyn is easily a couple hours’ journey involving several modes of transportation, including a boat to get to Staten Island.  So obviously my mom needs to move to Massachusetts.  I 100% think she should do this.

But selfishly, I think that my ties to New York are getting severed.  My children will never be able to call themselves New Yorkers unless they choose to move there.  But even then, won’t they be transplants with their British accents?  And can I even call myself a New Yorker anymore?  I don’t live there.  When I go to the States I will be visiting family in Massachusetts, and I almost spit out the name.  Not because Massachusetts is a bad place (I actually quite like it, if I’m honest), but because it’s not NY.  And the bagels and pizza will suck.  So if I don’t live there and don’t have ties to the City, how can I claim it as ‘my’ city?  Do I have to start saying ‘I’m originally from New York’ instead of ‘I’m a New Yorker’?

When I left NY for England I thought I would probably come back.  But gentrification and skyrocketing rents mean that the financially comfortable life we lead in Coventry is well beyond our means in NYC, an injustice that stings.

This is definitely an existential crisis.  I want to go home, but I don’t know where home is.  Faraway is the City that raised me.  That’s part of me, but I don’t think I’m part of it anymore.  I live in Coventry.  I like England and I like Warwickshire, but if I’m brutally honest I still feel like an outsider.  I’m always the only American, and that gets a bit lonely, particularly when I have to explain/ represent some of the idiocy this country gets up to.

So where is home?  I don’t know.

 

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Source: Faraway

You’ve Got a Friend in Me…Have I Got a Friend in You?

 

Friend is kind of a thorny word for me, because I lack so much confidence.  I’m not naturally confident anyway, most especially in social situations, and of course as a preteen I suffered some hard knocks as the unpopular kid.  Being the unpopular kid in a small school (my 6th grade class had 13 kids in it) is particuarly hard because it’s not like there are other outcasts you can hang out with.

I remedied this by going to a high school where I was no exceptional nerd–in fact I graduated dead middle of my class and was revered by it.  Of course THHS had its spectrum of cliques and social groups.  There were definitely ‘cool’ kids and ‘popular’ kids.  I don’t know how these kids would have fared in your standard 3,000 kid NYC public high school, but it didn’t matter.  What was nice is that there were very few outcasts, it felt like.  I was no longer the weird nerdy one.  My friends read just as much–or more–than me.  Several were smarter, which was kind of a nice feeling.  Even better, I found a group of friends who have been my friends for life–I have now known them more years than I’ve not known them.

In college I went back to being the nerdy kid, but this time I had a foundation of friendship and there was a larger student body, so I went on to make friends despite not being anything even close to popular.  I had a rocky start where I went on a trip to Europe with a bunch of kids who thought I was the teflon to cool, as in, it just slid off me, but when I got back I had friends waiting.

What amazed me was when actual cool people, or people I deemed cool, seemed to like me.  Even today, when they laugh at my jokes or want to talk to me, there’s a part of me that’s like ‘Wait–you do know I’m a giant nerd, right?  I mean, I sit around writing fan fiction, for God’s sake!’  I try not to let my freak flag fly, but I’m always afraid someone will discover it, and then judge.

In a weird way, I suppose this means a lack of trust in the people I call friends, and especially people in general.  Because a bunch of snotty 12 year olds walked away from me when I tried to talk to them, I think that everyone wants to do that on some level.  As I type this, I realise how dumb that sounds–aren’t we all at our worst at 12?  And maybe I’m not completely cool, but there are some things about me that are cool.  For example, people here really dig that I’m from NYC, even when I get itinerant about bagels and pizza.  And then I think about one of my coworkers too–he labels himself as awkward, but actually as I’ve talked to him, I’ve never really thought of him as awkward.

I did have a friend who I bared it all to.  We met on a Narnia fanfiction site, and not only was I able to completely geek out with her (although she wasn’t the first–I met some pretty awesome girls through Les Mis as well), we also forged a creative partnership.  And, looking back, her friendship was addictive.  She threw her all into it, and because of that I responded, and we were able to form this Sex and the City, gal pal friendship that you only see on tv.  We would send each other huge missives and talk to each other on MSN messenger virtually every night.  We swore we were best friends until the end.

Until…we weren’t.  The reason those sorts of friendships only exist on tv is that they’re unsustainable.  We sacrificed so much of our personal lives to be the very best of friends to each other.  I didn’t go out with my NYC friends, the aforementioned ones who I had been friends with since 14.  I didn’t try to go out on dates because I didn’t want to give up the close friendship we had.  She in turn let her marriage suffer and didn’t let her social circle expand.  And because we had given up so much for each other, we grew jealous of each other’s separate lives.  It didn’t help that she lived in England and I lived in NYC, so we could never really bring those social circles together.  When I made new friends and went out with them, she confessed her jealousy.  When she declared she wanted to rekindle her love of acting, I fretted about the loss of our creative partnership, even though that hadn’t actually happened yet.  It did eventually, but I think it was more self-fulfilling prophecy.

And so the friendship soured.  Her last great friend deed was to introduce me to my husband.  If you’ve so much as glanced at this blog, you know the end of that is me moving to England.  I thought we might feel better being able to have a more ‘normal’ friendship, not scheduling around time zones and work, but it wasn’t to be.  We became competitive with each other about parenting since we each made opposite choices: I would go back to work, she would stay at home. She was very much about child led parenting, I favoured sleep training and schedules.  She would post links to articles on facebook where people would rant about how sleep training is child abuse (what), and I would take it personally.    She started to go through post-natal depression and I only half recognised the signs, so instead of helping her and supporting her, I wound up criticising her for her lack of friendship.  (I have a whole lot of thoughts about friends with PND and what it means to witness it and how better to support it, but that’s another topic for another time).  She continued to act and I wasn’t very supportive.  I didn’t like the plays she was in for the most part, but instead of focusing on her performance and how she was, I focused on the play and my opinions of it.  Not v. supportive

A year ago we were still clinging on, and I went to see another friend who told me for what it’s worth, you can’t pick and choose things about your friends.  You either have to take all the crazy or none of it.  I thought about this and realised picking and choosing was exactly what I was trying to do, attempting to tailor make our friendship to what it used to be.  I thought perhaps we should redraw the boundaries of our friendship.  After all, the SATC thing was exhausting and not how functional adults behave.  That said, I had a number of highly successful friendships that meant the world to me.  And she did too, so maybe we ought to retry.

I don’t know where things went wrong.  I didn’t go to the play she was next in.  It was the day after I got back and although I love me some Arthur Miller, I was far too exhausted after traveling with a toddler to contemplate the deeper meaning of the American Dream.  Maybe that was the last straw for her.  Maybe she felt I couldn’t mean anything but criticism for her when I suggested we reevaluate things.  Maybe that phrase is scary.  All I know is that when I suggested a discussion and outlined why I wanted it, she unleashed a tirade.  She accused me of saying and thinking things I never meant–or said, or implied.  I guess she had a lot of anger, and it wound up getting released in a fireball of destruction.  I wound up saying she should contact me when she wanted to talk things over.  She unfriended me on Facebook and I haven’t heard from her since.

I don’t know now how I feel about all this.  I do often miss her.  But she seems to have replaced me with a new, intense best friendship.  She did help shape my life in some valuable ways, and it was at the very least flattering to have someone so devoted to me and our friendship.  In some ways it was even enriching, and it gave me confidence.  I could be the nerd and it didn’t matter.  Except I all the times she said she would always be there, no matter what, proved false, and in the Venn diagram of our social circles I see she has already replaced me with a new bff flavour of the month.  If it were not for her entrance into my life, I would not have met my husband.  Yet she completely ignored the birth of my second child–there aren’t many clearer messages than that.

I still struggle with the conclusions I should draw about all of this.  I know now that if a friend is all-consuming, that’s probably not a good idea.  However, that friendship did provide me with some valuable things and it’s sad to see it evaporate completely.  I know that high maintenance friendships are best left to tv shows where the characters only exist in very tiny spheres.  But do I see that friendship as a productive thing?  Would I be friends with her again?  Have I made peace with the experience?

Not yet.

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Source: Friend