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10 Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to New York

I landed in New York on April 1st.

08.29.16
Five Things I learned Since Moving to NYC Man Repeller Carousel

The first thing I learned was how to walk calmly down the street while several conflicting emotions played in my brain like nickels in a garbage disposal. Melancholy, elation, fear, confusion, euphoria, uncertainty. This particular symphony was as beautiful as it was horrific and, if it were possible to prove, I’d swear it aged me at double-speed. This contrast between my internal experience and my external expression dissolved into tears in July – on the subway, specifically — after a breakup. Exactly two months after I defended the long-distance relationship. Irony, palpable.

But long before that, the second lesson made itself known through the crushing, aching muscle in my left shoulder, which strained under the weight of three separate bags. This city is set up for two things: a deluge of activities you can’t anticipate and a sprawling grid that begs you to not return home between them. The New York obsession with tote bags I’d observed from afar suddenly made sense. And often missing from mine were my keys. That was the third: it’s frighteningly easy to forget them when my limbs are already dripping in practical accoutrement. Not that I’m ready to call it a Problem.

I’d gotten said keys in June, when I moved into a four-bedroom on the border of Brooklyn and Queens. This was where I learned the fourth: the sound of rats scurrying through the walls isn’t so bad. It even sounds like a lullaby after a while, if you’re patient. Maybe vermin are the price of admission to an apartment that sits on a street that slopes and then dips just enough to present Manhattan like a pop-up book, sure to startle anyone lucky enough to see it. And if they were, they might also smell the warm air drifting out of the Laundromat to their right, the one that washes and folds, in rapture-like perfection, literal heaps of my clothing for $15. That was the fifth: coin-addled laundry days are a hazy memory.

Where would I squeeze them in anyway, between the working and wandering and thinking and drinking? The sixth lesson crept up on me slowly in the form of a decreasing vulnerability to hangovers. Because socializing is drinking is socializing. Bonding is grabbing a drink is bonding. Long gone are the days of one-cocktail headaches and for that I owe my body equal parts gratitude and sincere apologies. The seventh orbits the sixth and I call it the New York Ten: like the Freshman Fifteen but swap out Cheeto-dusted sweatpants for snug vintage Levi’s that used to have a slouch.

It’s okay it’s okay it’s okay.

A helpful handful of words I chanted in my head on the train in July, when I learned the eighth lesson, which is that the subway is the sixth borough of New York. Ready to have and to hold my tear-streamed face and heartbroken body anywhere I needed to go. I’d courted it for months, navigating its underground nooks and crannies, trying in earnest to speak its language. And then, like the dumbstruck moment you feel the warmth of a love requited, its rumbling timber suddenly felt familiar and it whisked me home when I most needed it.

The ninth lesson lingers in the air 150 feet above those echoing tunnels. It’s a little less like a cocoon and a little more like the moment a ray of sunshine licks your cold skin, sending a pleasurable shiver across your body. It’s the way the buildings shoot up around you and glint in the light then glow as the sun begins to dip below the horizon. It’s the way a buzzing energy radiates off the pavement and into the bodies thumping across it, powering the steps we take with so much purpose and gusto and emotion our skin almost feels too thin to contain us.

The more I get to know this place, the more my melancholy and fear and confusion become a dull hum behind my elation and euphoria and hope. Because even if New York is just a sprawling grid littered with rats and concrete and trash and glass, it’s the perfect canvas for the dreamy chaos that sits behind our solemn expressions. New York is not the center of the universe, it just seems like it to some of us.

Which brings me to my tenth: the air here feels electric because we’re the ones who breathe it.

Feature collage by Lily Ross.

moving-to-ny

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  • Amelia Diamond

    Claire do you make merch yet? I’d like a Claire shirt.

    • CLAIRE CARUSILLO

      check my app

  • Mariana

    “And yet, for months, I swore that my hair was glossier and my skin clearer.” placebo effect maybe. If the mind firmly believe the stuff can help, even without scientific proof, but makes you feel good and does no bad for your health…go for it 🙂

  • Ashley

    You are a national treasure. I can’t wait for you to wear a waist trainer and also do a teatox.

    • CLAIRE CARUSILLO

      i’ll literally do anything on instagram for money. endorsement dealers, pls contact my assistant!!

  • Melissa

    Ugh that tenth lesson though. I just moved here last month, and the first thing I noticed is that everyone at restaurants asks for “To stay or to go” instead of “for here or to go”” like they do in CA. I also realized how much I imagined an earthquake is going to happen because every time I think it here, I have to follow up with uh, New York doesn’t even have earthquakes. I learned that Trader Joe’s is not the same experience as back home, but eating alone here is so much easier – or maybe I’m just less self-conscious? I would never go to a restaurant by myself back home, but have already three times in NY. It does help that I currently live above three bars.

    • Haley Nahman

      Love “to stay or to go.” Such a poetic detail. And agreed re: TJs!

  • Amelia Diamond

    Chills Haley!!! Also the subway as the sixth borough is such a good lineee!

    • Haley Nahman

      Giving you chills = life blood

  • Now this is something that all of us already know, but may I just reiterate that MR is very, very lucky to have Haley on deck. Gr8 prose. As a reader I’ve got only gratitude for this situation!

    • Harling Ross

      ME TOO

      • Haley Nahman

        HARLING

    • Haley Nahman

      EMMA.

  • Cinamaron

    I visited my youngest sister for a week in NYC near the beginning of August. I thought I was starting to get over the NYC feels but you’ve given them to me again. I felt silly feeling so much for a place I’ve visited so little, but I think it’s hard not to form some sort of attachment for a city that is so alive.

    • Haley Nahman

      I was just reading through old journals from my first few trips here. It tortured me! Weird the impact this place can have.

  • woah

    • read this 2 more times since my original woah

      • Haley Nahman

        You’re the best.

  • Harling Ross

    Haley, you are the only writer I know who can turn a listicle into poetry.

    • Haley Nahman

      Harling you’re a hug in person form.

  • Nicole

    I take the vital proteins collagen peptides thing everyday because I also want to be a hot person. Hasnt seemed to work yet but im optimistic!

  • I second the once slouchy but now snug vintage Levi’s (and with all of my other “wide-leg” “oversized” “boyfriend” jeans), only in Paris for me. Moving to Paris isn’t all too different from NYC, although instead of endless nights of Seamless orders it’s endless carbs in the form of baguettes and croissants. Haley, every sentence was a treat to read!!

    • Haley Nahman

      Endless baguettes and croissants sounds so much better!

  • Ashley

    I’m so excited for you to experience your first NYC fall. It’s a beautiful thing.

    • Haley Nahman

      I am so excited for fall.

  • Rose Leger

    Nothing comforted my NYC-newbie nerves like this, so thank you. I’ll be calling it home come Saturday, and desperately look forward to learning all of these lessons for myself!

    • Haley Nahman

      AH GOOD LUCK.

  • Molly D

    11 – You may the right choice! I love reading everything you write.
    I’m moving there shortly. Already fantasizing about crying in public.

    • Haley Nahman

      We can cry together.

  • Christel Michelle

    Um wowowowowoooow Haley!!!!! SO good. Seriously!!!!! I love it. I miss new york, it’s been less than a week. The 10th lesson hit me pretty hard for a sec!

    • Haley Nahman

      Good luck this year Christel! You’ll be back.

  • Sarah

    Idk, I’d probably look at all the research that supports it. I’m a huge fan, never the less. http://www.vitalproteins.com/collagen-supplements-beautiful-skin

  • I read prose like yours when I’m looking for inspiration to construct my sentences less like a third grader with a crayon and more like Shakespeare with a quill. Beautiful!

  • BK

    I both love and loathe scientists/medical professionals for their ability to swiftly and succinctly rupture most forms of health marketing. My mother’s advice about the futility of taking vitamins daily if you eat a relatively balanced died and/or don’t have some sort of deficiency is breathtaking and has saved me a small fortune every time I go to the pharmacist and just hear her voice saying “all vitamins give you is expensive urine!”

  • Avery Hayes

    From your description I’m pretty sure I know exactly where you live, border of Bushwick/ridgewood right? (If so, I also know which laundromat you are referring to probably). If I’m right about your location, I’m the tall dark blonde w/the nose ring & snake on my ankle, I’ve been there for 5 years, say hi!

    • Haley Nahman

      (Hi!)

      • Avery Hayes

        Email me! I don’t know if there is private message on this thing. Averyghayes@gmail.com

        Also are all the comments scrambled round?

  • 808kate

    I LOVE that you guys have the guts to actually call up experts and include their opinion when you report health-related topics. Most sites I feel like do not do that and so just contribute to the vast, vast swathes of misinformation on the internet. Go MR!

  • Carina

    “the air here feels electric because we’re the ones who breathe it.” this is actually one of the best lines i’ve ever heard to describe NYC. MR, Haley is amazing, she’s a keeper.

  • I’ve just moved here (like… 11 days ago) and that first lesson is already ringing true. Psyched to hear about drop-and-go laundromats. Unsure that one the subway will ever love me, though.

    PS how did you turn a list into a piece of poetry that I would like to frame

    • Haley Nahman

      The subway will love you soon, I promise. And thank you so much. WELCOME TYLER!

  • This is the most incredible thing I have read in a really long time. Haley, I wish you lived inside of my head so that I could hear from your eyes/thoughts/words. You have encapsulated the most visceral feelings one experiences when they face everything in life, all highs and lows, at once. Which, I assume, is what New York is all about. I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet you. Sending gravity defying positive vibes your way!!!!! ???

  • snakehissken

    To be fair, you can’t eat a steak every day. It’s expensive and has way more fat than collagen does.

    I just use Great Lakes because I’m poor and cheap, and I want those amino acids for my hair. It still grosses me out a little that it’s made from skin.

  • Kristen Kiehm

    Wow that was a piece of art I just read. So good Haley. You got me from the first sentence, “like nickels in a garbage disposal” and kept me hooked until the very last. “The air here feels electric because we’re the ones who breathe it.” BOOM MIC DROP.

  • Kristie

    yo are the comment sections all scrambled around for everyone or just me? I’m on Haley’s article and just upvoted Ashley’s comment about waist trainers and teatox thinking it was a delightful non sequitur referring to Haley, but then saw Claire’s response and realized it goes with her article… I stand by the upvote in both cases, but fyi maybe something’s up? noticed this yesterday as well.

    • Me too.

    • Fran

      Me too! I’m so confused!

    • Haley Nahman

      Yes it’s a disqus issue! There are a few scrambled up from Claire’s story on collagen (which is a hilarious mix up imo). We are basically just waiting for Disqus to fix. SORRY!!

      • Kristie

        no worries, we’re keepin’ it real down here in the comments underworld 😉 just giving a heads up!

  • Kathy Cappa
  • Evangelia Loizou

    You really need a scientist over there at MR. Collagen is a protein when it passes through your stomach it gets digested like any other protein. So basically it is as if you are eating any other protein..it is not going to make you look better. Stop believing vain air heads that make millions for making things up (yes I’m talking about Gwyneth Paltrow).

  • Shawnee

    The eighth, especially the last sentence. A couple weeks ago I was suddenly overwhelmed with these feelings on the airporter bus ride home from SFO to Marin. I’ve taken it so many times while traveling around the country, but California suddenly felt like home – the familiarity – after moving here 7 months ago. Loved this piece, Haley!

    • Haley Nahman

      Ugh, California!! So good

  • Clare Varellas

    “It’s okay it’s okay it’s okay.” This is so beautiful. Numbers and settings and transitions, oh my. Amazing, Haley!

  • Haley, you nailed every feeling I’ve had since moving to this wonderful, scary, and equally exhilarating city (May!). I’ve felt those same feels and you put them into words I might have used in my journal, if I had the discipline to actually journal. Want to grab coffee?!

    • Haley Nahman

      Parallel lives! DM me anytime!

  • EmilyWilson

    I can almost smell your writing, it’s so gorgeous. Is it weird that the Laundromat sentence was my favorite? Phrases like “warm air drifting” and the “rapture-like perfection” of folded heaps of clothes–I just want to put your words in my pocket and carry them around with me all day.

    • Haley Nahman

      Not weird, laundry just has that effect…..I want to sleep in it.

  • Jolie

    This was such a beautiful piece of writing, Haley! Even as a lifelong New Yorker, I still feel like I’m learning these 10 things everyday — I guess that’s why I’m too stubborn to move somewhere less unique, intense, and complex. After something big like a breakup, it can feel like the city is holding you and buoying you along. I haven’t felt that anywhere else.

  • PCE

    This should be framed and hung on walls

  • Rachel Dlugatch

    Where did you move from? I read in your ‘Get to Know Team MR’ that you went to Cal Poly, and I was wondering if that’s where you made the move from. I ask because I’m actually from SLO 🙂 so I did that move once upon a time (10 years ago!). Anyway, welcome to NY!!

    • Haley Nahman

      Thank you! Moved from SF, but loved going to school in SLO!

  • Rayna Tobin

    Haley, please write a book so I can carry your words with me everywhere I go.

    • Haley Nahman

      Saving this comment forever

  • ella

    Haley! I was so inspired by your piece I decided to write about my 1 yr anniversary in the city (my new yorkiversary, if you will). and also the one commenter who described how when ordering food she noticed the phrasing “to stay or to go” versus “for here or to go”. Feel free to read it here 🙂 http://www.literallydarling.com/blog/2016/09/01/its-up-to-you-new-york/. I linked to this piece and the MR piece about new yorkers giving transplants like me advice. But really, thank you so much for this piece. It really was touching 🙂

    • Haley Nahman

      You’re a great writer!

      • ella

        Ah HALEY! I can’t begin to explain how much that means to me, especially coming from you! Your writing is so effortless and gets me every time 🙂

        • Haley Nahman

          I can promise you one thing: it’s not effortless! I toiled over the above story. Keep at it!!

  • Mercedes Ayala

    I’m happy to hear the air is electric. I’m happy because it means you’re in the right place. I’m happy that your need and thirst for constant knowledge and self-growth is continuing to power your every movement.
    And it is okay.

    • Haley Nahman

      I owe you an email baby girl

  • Alessia

    this is so beautiful, it made me want to move to ny!

  • Chiara Settineri

    This just makes me want to get my ass up and move to New York. Honestly. Even the cons sound like pros…is that a sign??

    • Haley Nahman

      YEP! <3

  • I just love your blog, which I discovered after I bought your book! This post is exactly what I needed now that we’re moving

  • Kimberly PS

    I’m so grateful to have discovered your writing, Haley! Xo

    • Haley Nahman

      Ah thanks Kim!!