I grew up on Long Island and always dreamed of living in New York, so when it came time to fly the coop, I had a one-track mind. My first four years in New York City — the college years — were what I can now safely call a cushy fever dream. I was living in Brooklyn with roommates in a pretty typical setup, but it was technically university housing and it was technically paid for by financial aid. When I graduated and the loan payments received turned into loan payments due, I had no choice but to move back to Long Island. The commute into New York City for work was long (90 minutes, to be exact), but I needed time to save up for an apartment of my own.
This past July, two years later, it finally happened. My boyfriend and I signed a lease on a one-bedroom of our own in Bushwick. To say we took the plunge because we felt financially ready to do so might be overstating it a bit. Neither of us felt particularly comfortable where money was concerned, but after a while, the cost-benefit analysis stopped coming up in Long Island’s favor. We wanted to be in New York. We needed to. The creative energy, the diversity, the incredible access to culture, it all seemed worth the sacrifice.
And I do mean sacrifice. After seven months living in New York on my own dime, reality smacked me right in the face. My college years here felt like a hazy memory. I don’t doubt my decision for a second — I love it! — but I’m also not without the occasional (okay, frequent) longing for the parts of my life I gave up to make it. Here are six things that spring to mind, in no particular order.
An actual bedroom
What constitutes a bedroom is truly redefined inside the sphere of New York real estate. Sometimes they have doors, yes, but sometimes they’re essentially just alcoves or big closets. Mine happens to be a windowless room in the middle of the apartment reminiscent of “the SHU” in Orange is the New Black. It’s so depressing in there that we keep our bed in the living room. We now call the little hole “our dressing room,” like we’re actors in a Broadway play.
Easily done laundry
Most New Yorkers have, at some point, become intimately familiar with a laundromat. The lucky ones graduate to having an old machine in their basement; I’m pretty sure the only people with machines in their apartments are rich or famous or both. My laundry locale of choice (just kidding, I don’t have one) is two-and-a-half long blocks away from my front door. I kill half a Saturday or Sunday every single week schlepping my crap down the ice-slicked, snow-covered, dog shit-strewn street in one of those metal granny shopping carts. Seeing as most of our money now goes to rent, our expenditures are all subject to the same litmus test: Do we really need that? Wash and fold, unfortunately, never makes the cut.
I’ve always been a TV kid. Most of my childhood education was gleaned through the likes of Hey Arnold and Rocko’s Modern Life. During my post-grad years on Long Island I really grew up where TV was concerned — acclaimed classics such as Toddlers & Tiaras and Teen Mom were in my regular circuit. But when I moved away and a cable package failed the aforementioned litmus test, I was faced with a grim reality: I relied far too much on garbage media to entertain me. Shit gets real quiet when the low hum of My Strange Addictions is no longer the soundtrack to your home life.
What needs do earrings serve? The answer is not at all what I want to hear (ear pun not intended). Once-regular shopping-induced dopamine hits have become relics of a former life. I haven’t bought anything superfluous for as long as I’ve lived in Bushwick. I miss it.
Dinner and drinks
Suddenly considering a margarita night with a friend feels like weighing the pros and cons of a down payment on a house. It’s not that I never do it, it’s that weekends no longer feel like the social playground they once were. Plus, the long working hours New York is known for means I’m spending most of my food budget on cheap takeout at 9 p.m. because I don’t have time to cook.
Peace and quiet
Based on the cacophony of music and arguing outside my window, you’d think I lived in a club. The stomping and shouting, the clip-clop of heels around 4 a.m., the barking dogs, the blasting of Teddy Geiger (why?) — none of it is particularly out of the ordinary, except that it’s happening literally six feet away from my sleeping head. I can’t help but miss the quiet of a more secluded home sometimes, but maybe that’s the price of admission when you want to live where the energy is.
All considered though? I’ll take it — the cramped quarters, the loud nights, the empty wallet. The sweaty summers and painful winters and broken subway trains. I’ll even take a soundtrack of mice running through the walls in lieu of TLC narration. I’m not sure any number of lows could possibly counter the highs.
Photo by Ernst Haas via Getty Images. Carousel collage by Maria Jia Ling Pitt, photographs via Getty Images.