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 can’t go home again

So I haven’t posted in awhile.  Like three months.  I’ve been busy with some stuff–getting a job, moving, visiting home, getting pregnant.  It’s exciting times, but it doesn’t exactly leave a ton of room for blogging.  Now though I find things equalizing a bit, or perhaps I’m carving out a bit more time for writing.

Working at an English school brings a whole host of new experiences, but the most striking difference comes not from the cultural differences, but from the fact that the school I teach at now is a ‘regular’ school, with students of all backgrounds and abilities, whereas the school I worked at in Queens, my alma mater, is an honors high school.

I didn’t always teach at an honor’s high school.  In fact, I’ve taught at some high needs schools, sometimes called inner city schools.  Whatever you want to call them, it could be rough.  I’ve had fights work their way into my classroom more than once; I’ve had students curse me out; I’ve heard some sobering tales of home life and taught girls of 15 and 16 who had to wedge their pregnant bellies into those L shaped desks.  I thought I had seen it all, and to be honest, I had seen most of it. Continue reading

Contented Ever After

The (very famous) opening line of Anna Karenina is “All happy families are alike: each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  This is one of those literary moments that became famous because it is a universal pearl of wisdom that Tolstoy shrewdly pointed out.  Most people focus on the ‘unhappy families,’ and all the problems and drama therein–after all, isn’t that the very basis of story even in life?  But I find myself in the first part of the sentence at the moment, settling in to contentment.

I think that’s the exact sentiment–settling in, and contentment.

There is nothing wrong with either of these things, really.  In fact, I’ve wanted both for a long time, and have tried to fabricate contentment all the years when I was alone and something was missing.  In our long stretches apart, the husband spoke very fondly of a time when we could be together and do nothing together.

So here I am, in happily ever after.  All the hullabaloo is over, and I have exactly what I’ve always dreamed of.  And I’m *not* ungrateful.  I’m very content.

Just…happily ever after feels a bit anticlimactic.

I’m not used to a quiet romantic life.  Up until now, my love story has had a sort of novelesque feel–finding someone so serendipitously, knowing we were right for each other so quickly and then making a relationship work across an ocean through sheer perseverance and the wonders of Skype.  The way he proposed so quickly, and as such a romantic surprise, planning a wedding and worrying how we would ever be together with draconic immigration rules getting in the way.

Because our time together was so limited, every second felt precious, and we felt the need to fill it with excitement and activity.  We were always going out somewhere, doing something, and when I arrived at last to live, the fairy tale continued, for we were gearing up then for a wedding.  I thought life had its quiet moments then, but I was wrong.  This is quiet.

After everything, I think that’s what I’m struggling to get used to.  The biggest day of my life, that I hoped and planned for since I was a little girl, is over, never to come again.  That’s an odd feeling.  I don’t think I would want to stage another wedding, not with all the stress of coordination involved, but it’s weird to know that I can’t dimly look forward to being a bride.

And life is so quiet.  Due to visa stuff I can’t work at the moment.  Tomorrow all my fellow teachers will be heading back to school, preparing course contracts, writing out lesson plan calendars, fighting for space at the copier.  In July I thought I’d never miss it, but now I find that I do.  That’s the trick of teaching.  You get to feeling like your life has some real drive and purpose.  But here I am, looking for ways to fill my days.  At the beginning of July, when it was all still like a fairy tale I thought I could happily be a housewife.  That’s because it was still novel, and still this illusion of peace in the midst of turmoil.  Now it’s all to easy to spend the day melting into the sofa cushions and watching bad reality tv while playing iPad games.

I’m *not* complaining.  I am happy to have my story, and I’m happy to be a wife, and to know in a few hours my husband will come home, and we’ll have dinner and live the ordinary life we’ve been craving.  I don’t even dislike the quiet, I’m just…struggling to adjust.  Everything went quiet so quickly.  It’s like when I would visit my grandparents in the Pocono Mountains in the summer.  In New York, even in Queens, there is always street noise.  Even if we didn’t live on a main drag, there was always one nearby, and the rush of traffic, punctuated by sirens and sometimes people wandering about, doing who knows what at 2am in the hours between Monday and Tuesday.  It was its own lullaby to me, and I grew used to the sounds, found the constant company comforting.  Then we would go to the Poconos, where there were no streetlights and the darkness closed around the car as we wended our way up barely paved roads with no sidewalks.  When I would lie in bed at night, all I could hear was crickets.  They were so loud, and so natural, that I missed the rush of the city.  Eventually I got used to the crickets, and they lulled me to a better sleep than I got in Queens, but there was still that period of adjustment, of learning how to cope with quiet after noise and bustle.

What I find weird is how the husband and I are settling in to our old routines even while everything is new.  I’ll happily sit chatting to my best friend while he plays Xbox.  There’s not anything wrong with this, but there’s still a part of me that wonders–shouldn’t we be glued to each other’s sides just that little bit more?  Is all the romance leaving our relationship already?  Probably not–we’re still quite sappy with each other, but it’s just another example of how quickly things are slowing down and how normal married life is.  When I was single, marriage seemed like this fantasy land, a nirvana where one has achieved perfect bliss.  That of course is hardly the case–it’s just life, with someone beside you.  And I’m struggling to get used to the normalcy of that.