So, shit happened in New York, and I moved to San Francisco, where I never really wanted to be. The incident that occurred in New York left me feeling troubled over my life decisions and judgment, but I had my best friend in New York with me to help me (mostly) forget that uncomfortable fact.
The day after she left New York, my boyfriend and I packed up all my belongings from my Brooklyn apartment, bound for San Francisco. In a number of months in the US, I had quickly gotten good at writing goodbye notes on pretty paper, and packing up and leaving.
Moving to San Francisco so abruptly after Candy left seemed like a good idea at the time, as I was reeling from the recent incident, and thought it would be good to get away from the city, recharge, and get my bearings right. Instead, the move resulted in a further shock to the system. I was still emotionally processing the events of the last several weeks, and being in a new environment (especially one that I wasn’t fond of), and moving in with my long distance boyfriend, who I’d had a tumultuous relationship with, left me volatile, irritable, and somewhat miserable.
In the first couple of weeks of our cohabitation, we bickered like children. I wondered nearly every day, if I’d made the wrong decision in moving to San Francisco. All the while, I dreamed of going back to New York. My boyfriend promised me we’d be back in no time, but it couldn’t be soon enough. If things weren’t already complicated, my boyfriend stated that we should close our relationship temporarily, and be monogamous during the time that we’d be living together in San Francisco.
It was one thing to be living with someone and to have to get used to all their quirks, but it had been a number of years since I’d been in a live-in monogamous relationship, and it just added to the list of the things I had to quickly get accustomed to.
In the period after Candy left, I daydreamed about returning home more than ever. There was a yearnful longing that she’d awakened in me, a longing to be with my dearest friends and family once again. Where I’d once longed to be away, now, I desired more fervently than ever to be back in the place where I’d once wanted so badly to get away from.
In these lonely moments, I often recalled lyrics to one of my favourite songs: ‘Home is where I want to be/ Pick me up and turn me round/ Numb, born with a weak heart/I guess I must be having fun’. I felt like a fool, chasing a ghost of a shadow I had found three years in Tokyo. I thought the move overseas would change me for the better, but instead, I was just drifting through life again, effectively in limbo. The dream had ended.
Boston was not a city I had a strong urge to visit, nevertheless, I ended up there for one night in June, spontaneously and unexpectedly. My then-boyfriend had meetings there, and suggested I come, despite that I’d have to see the sights on my own. He described the city as “small and quaint”, with not much to boast for, except good seafood, which was enough to sell me on visiting.
On a Wednesday morning, I was scheduled to take an Amtrak train from 34th Street Penn Station, to Boston South Station. The return trip from New York to Boston on Amtrak, with one business class seat, and one coach seat, set me back around USD300. I was excited as it was my first time catching an Amtrak train, and I went to Penn Station at the time I was advised to come. Unfortunately, due to “police activity” on the train route, my train to Boston was delayed at first by an hour, which kept increasing little by little. All passengers were finally allowed to board at 1:55pm, just over three hours after the initial scheduled boarding time.
The specific train I was on, was an Acela Express, so the travel time was slightly shorter than if I had caught another Amtrak service to Boston. The trip was scenic in some parts, and we passed Stamford, New Haven, and Providence before arriving in Boston. I got there around 4:30pm and was starving, so my agenda was to get some food as quickly as possible.
I got an Uber to a lobster roll place in Boston North End. The lobster place, called Pauli’s Northend, was highly reviewed on Yelp, but looked like a fairly casual eatery, and didn’t include table service, with customers picking up their food at the counter once it was ready. I opted for a hot lobster roll with butter. The price was around USD22, and the roll was fairly small, about the same size as a lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster. The roll had everything good about a traditional lobster roll- soft bread, warm pieces of lobster, soaked in a rich butter. My only complaint was that the lobster roll was too small. I was finished in two bites, and decided to appease my seemingly insatiable appetite, by a second course of dinner.
With that, I walked nearby to Union Oyster House. The restaurant claimed to be “America’s oldest restaurant” and was established in 1846.
While walking to the restaurant, I passed by Old North Church, and decided to stop in and have a look. Old North Church, as with a majority of the historic churches in Boston, was free to enter.
Though it was early for dinner time when I arrived, around 5:30pm, the hostess informed me that it would be over an hour wait for a table in the restaurant section, but that I could be seated at a booth immediately if I desired. With that, I took a seat at a booth, and was brought a copy of the menu immediately. Booth seating, while there is no wait, or a limited wait, compared to the restaurant, also features a limited menu, comprising of appetizers and oysters or mussels, which suited me fine as I’d just eaten.
I opted for a bowl of the clam chowder, and mussels, cooked in a white wine sauce, with garlic, and served with a crusty garlic bread. The clam chowder was creamy, rich, and flavoursome, with the accompanying sauce that came with the mussels accordingly so. I also enjoyed the complementary corn bread that came on the side.
After my excessive dinner, I decided to stroll around the nearby area, and passed Massachusetts State House, the building that housed the seat of government for Massachusetts. Massachusetts State House is located just up the street from Boston Common, so I strolled down to the park after that.
Boston Common was a lovely park with pristine and unkempt lawns, but its size in no way rivalled that of New York’s Central Park, or San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
I’d walked the park in about 15 or 20 minutes, and then decided to go to back to the hotel to retire for the evening.
The next morning, I said goodbye to my then-boyfriend at the hotel, who had another full day of meetings, and shortly after, set out to get breakfast and then go about my day.
While walking through the city, I stumbled upon a Japanese coffee chain, Ogawa Coffee, and decided to breakfast there. Though my train back to New York was scheduled for around 1ish that afternoon, I intended to see as many of the sights as I could. Boston’s city center enabled me to do this, as it is small and the entirety is easily walkable within a couple of hours.
Following breakfast, I went for a stroll around Boston Harbour.
The weather in Boston was fine that day, around 25 degrees Celsius, and not humid. After walking Boston Harbour, I walked back over the bridge and into the main city area, which didn’t take more than 20 minutes.
From there, I walked to Old State House, and paid the $5 entry fee. Old State House is a historic building which previously housed the seat of state government and operated as Boston’s City Hall. The building now operates as a history museum.
Following my visit to Old State House, I walked leisurely down the street, and stopped to admire Boston’s Old City Hall.
After stopping at Old City Hall, I walked past Granary Burying Ground, Boston’s third oldest cemetery, founded in 1660.
The environs of the burying ground were lush, green, and leafy, with tall trees that created lots of pockets of shade. As such, it had a calming effect on the walker, and made one forget that they were in a cemetery.
From Granary Burying Ground, I walked through Boston Common to Old South Church, which took me around 20 minutes. On the way there, I passed another historic church, Trinity Church.
Old South Church was very pretty to behold, with its dark wooden interior, and stained glass windows.
Following my visit to Old South Church, I crossed the street and walked over to Boston Public Library, established in 1848. Boston Public Library is the third largest library in the United States, following New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress.
The library’s architecture was beautiful, and impressive. I enjoyed exploring the large halls and rooms. There were a number of people studying, while tourists, like myself, gawked and took photos.
After looking around Boston Library, it was nearly 12, and time to head to Boston South Station to catch the Amtrak train back to New York. Before going to the station, I stopped to get a quick lunch at James Hook and Co, an eatery serving lobster rolls and various seafood dishes.
After getting lunch, I went to the station and sampled some food items at a market just across from Boston South. When I got to the station, the train was already on the platform, but was somewhat delayed again, due to the same reason as the day prior.
All in all, I was content with my solo adventures in Boston for the day and prior afternoon. The city was small, but charming, and I had managed to tick off a majority of the major sights, in addition to enjoying good food.
After nearly three and a half months in New York, a fiasco occurred in my personal life, so ridiculous it could have formed the basis for a plot in a Woody Allen movie. And the worst thing was, both myself and all my friends had seen all the warning signs. I’d been heavily cautioned otherwise, but as I was wont to do, I threw caution to the wind, and did as I pleased. The sudden turn of events left me mortified and traumatized.
Consequently, I decided to pack up and leave New York briefly, and run away to San Francisco to be with my on again, off again San Francisco boyfriend, who was so willing to accept me despite my flaws, and the emotional roller-coaster we had been through in the past several months. I was down in the dumps, but I really had nobody to blame but myself for the way things had turned out, and I had been prepared to accept the consequences of my actions once I went down that path. However, I was grateful that the circumstances hadn’t been worse.
In hindsight, I thought I would use the move to challenge myself in different ways and grow as a person, but looking back on the past several months, I had really only used it so far to engage in hedonistic pursuits. And while it was fun for awhile, it wasn’t really challenging or fulfilling to live in that way.
It was with these reflections in mind that I packed up my belongings from my Brooklyn apartment, and said goodbye to the city that I’d had a tumultuous relationship with, for the past three and a half months.
The next day, I arrived in San Francisco thinking about how I’d left only 4 weeks earlier, and that I had left intending never to come back this year. Ironically, I was now back to live, temporarily.
I had been in New York three months and I was failing at life.
After some deep and serious self-reflection, I had decided that my short experiment with polyamory came from the wrong place- rather than a desire to be open and honest with all my partners, I wanted to have my cake, and eat it, too. I realized I was not cut out for juggling multiple relationships, and that I was using polyamory as a blanket to engage in my desires, without considering the ethical repercussions of it. While I should have ceased this behavior, I didn’t. I was being the most callous and selfish I had ever been in my life, and I blamed it all on the move, that I was going through a lot of emotions. Really, it was my lack of regard for others’ feelings, and inability to feel love for more than one person, while I was juggling these multiple relationships.
Several weeks earlier, I experienced my first New York heartbreak, and consequently fled to San Francisco. After a tumultuous 10 days there with my San Francisco boyfriend, I returned to New York and tumbled right back into the home of the New York man whom I so adored, while my other New York lover, fed up with my indecision and lack of consideration for him, stopped seeing me. He said something particularly concerning to me: I think what you want, and what you think you want are actually two different things. And maybe you’ll reconcile that in the future. It was a haunting insight into my persona, one that deeply resonated with me, and I sought the truth in his statement in the coming days.
All the while, I was sort of loafing around, picking up the job hunt again, doing some writing, and wondering if I was cut out for expat life. I was certainly facing more challenges than I anticipated with the emotional challenges of living away from home, and wondered if I hadn’t bitten off more than I could chew with this international move.
After my first couple of weeks in New York, I found myself in a relationship with someone I had met in San Francisco a couple of weeks prior. However, for one reason or another I had been dissatisfied with the traditional relationship model for some time, and had had the desire to expand my horizons and experiment with polyamory. New York, a truly cosmopolitan city, facilitated my hedonist tendencies.
After nearly two months of living in the US, I found myself with 3 lovers that I was extremely fond of, while also dating several other people whose company I enjoyed. I was very happy with the current set up and didn’t see myself conforming to the traditional relationship model again anytime soon. One particularly glorious day before my bliss shattered, I was sitting on a sun-drenched residential rooftop overlooking Manhattan, at 4pm on a weekday, gorging on berries and reading. I thought to myself what a grand adventure my life in New York was, and that I never wanted to go home again.
With the next day however, came a complete turn of events. It was the last day of spring, and I was walking in Prospect Park, feeling utterly down in the doldrums because one of my lovers, who I was completely enamoured with, had just told me they were not okay with my ‘polyandry’. While I did some rounds of the park and some scheming, I decided, as any sane person would, to rush over to his apartment later that evening and convince him of the necessity for three lovers (himself included), and to please be reasonable.
After I rushed over in the evening though, it just so happened that I ended up saying I would stop seeing all the other suitors, and just see him, including planning to move into his apartment immediately. We discussed how to mitigate my need for variety and attention, and what we both wanted from each other. He requested that I tell all my other suitors of my new relationship the next day. With that, came a series of uncomfortable calls, texts and and an in person meeting, that left me with a sense of consternation for several days thereafter. During the two days over which I contacted my suitors and prospective lovers, I received several accusations, the most of which were particularly disturbing, included, “you exhibit many of the signs of sociopathy”, “you’re a walking red flag”, “I think you should see a psychiatrist.”
And I couldn’t deny all the accusations, but it just so happened that this particular man who I told I would give up everyone else for, had an ineffable quality that took complete hold of me. He was muscular, stocky, and was masculine in both build and demeanor, with a deep voice that commanded and captivated me. His facial features were quite pleasing to me, with an aquiline nose, and hazel eyes that expressed boredom or disdain at times, but at other times, were mirthful. Physical appearances aside, he had skipped to his PhD at an Ivy League school right after completing undergrad, spoke 5 languages and could order dim sum in Cantonese, and was a discerning oenophile and gourmand. I was completely enthralled by him. If he told me to cancel all my plans to see him, I did it. If he asked me to jump, I would have said, “how high?”
After all the uncomfortable goodbye conversations with my other suitors, we settled quickly into an idyllic living arrangement. I was basically living like a “bird in a gilded cage”, as one of my friends mildly put it, in his luxury Chelsea apartment. While he went out to work, I would busy myself going out to boutique fitness classes, reading, and writing. When he came home from work, we would go out to dinner, which was almost always paired with wine or sake, and accompanied by light-hearted banter. We would stroll around New York briskly, and he would educate me about the history of the city. The first couple of days were blissful, and the most emotive for him, but after the weekend was over, things grew stagnant, with me requiring downtime with the fallout of my sudden lifestyle change, while he fell back into his emotionally distant ways. There were also some skeletons in his closet, which was a rather concerning issue for me. It was a combination of these issues, and my uncertainty as to whether I would be able to re-conform to a monogamous relationship model, that led to my leaving his beautiful apartment after nearly a week of cohabitation, with an explanatory goodbye note.
My fickle heart had had difficulty leaving this person, who was the first person in a long time who I was crazy about. The night before I left, I pressed him on his opinion regarding my cohabitation and whether he was ready for me to take the next step, and actually gather all my things for a real move in. As usual, he had been fairly coy with me about taking the next step, and I was feeling rather insecure about his lack of emotional directness. He said he would deliberate on the decision and let me know in the morning. But when the morning rolled around, I asked him what his position was, and he said he would think about it during the day and then tell me later that night.
As it was, I myself had been deliberating on leaving, and the possibility of waiting another full day for an answer regarding my living situation with this man was almost intolerable to me, in addition to the other concerning factors. I decided to pack my things that day, and leave. That day was also the first day that he didn’t text me all day since I’d been staying with him. I thought the lack of a text was a pre-emptive sign on his part, and that perhaps he had wanted me to leave, but later in the evening, slightly later than he normally got home, I got an Um, where? text from him, questioning the lack of my whereabouts, and then a succinct Oh. that was heartwrenching to me.
It was a difficult decision to make but ultimately, I reasoned with myself that I’d rather have the other sorts of freedoms that my other relationships allowed me, and that it was probably better to not be committed to one person at this early point in my move.
And then, the next day, as I was sitting back in my Brooklyn brownstone, stuffing my face, albeit in a glum manner, I questioned my decision once more, (and not for the last time), my inability to make a decision, and stick to it.
Life in New York wasn’t all it was cracked up to be – those were my thoughts as I wiped down tables during a quiet moment at my job in a soda fountain. After about 4 weeks in New York, I got a casual job waitressing at a vintage ice cream parlor and soda fountain.
I worked only a couple of shifts before abruptly resigning, much to the chagrin of the soda fountain owner who hired me. After 4 weeks of job hunting, it was safe to say I was sufficiently worn out by the New York City/US job hunting process, but I wasn’t ready to give up on my American adventure just yet. I’d pledged to myself to stick it out for the year at least, and I was in no way ready to give up and go home. However, the working environment in the soda fountain, which was at times quiet, and at some times, crazy, with lower wages than I was used to, and shorter breaks, proved to be intolerable for an Australian who’d worked in the services industry in Australia (where a livable income, not dependent on tips, is the norm). I felt spoiled and idle for my choice in resigning, but I didn’t see the sense in working a menial job, when I could be spending more time productively elsewhere.
And with that thought process, I resigned, saying to myself I’d focus my energies on another job where I’d get paid more, and be happier. However, a lot of the time, I felt naive and foolish for not listening to my parents, who’d cautioned me against the uncertainty of quitting my job in Sydney to move to New York.
Aside from shortcomings in my work life, other things were keeping me busy, and content. I was very happy with my dating life in New York, and the opportunities that were available to meet someone new every day of the week. The move to New York facilitated my need for variety and spontaneity in a way that dating in Sydney had nearly never been able to.
I got to New York late on a Monday night. I was lucky to receive a lift from my mother’s friend’s daughter, who dropped me off in Sunnyside at her mother’s house, where I would spend the next consecutive two weeks. I spent the first couple of days doing errands, sleeping in, eating out, doing boutique fitness workouts in Manhattan, all the while, contemplating the seriousness of what I had done and trying to get my head and life together. The previous five days gallivanting in San Francisco and the high of running my first half marathon had left me with an unexpected low, and all I could think every morning for the first few weeks was, “I can’t believe I’ve done this.” There was a lingering sense of shame that refused to dissipate in those first few weeks, around the fact that I had quit a job that I loved, to start completely afresh and abound with struggles.
Those first few weeks in New York were a return to the unbridled hedonistic days of my youth- I was gainfully unemployed, eating and drinking like a glutton in the city of sin. The first morning in New York, I awoke from a 12 hour sleep feeling groggy and dazed. Upon waking up every morning, I would be confronted with a sense of disorientation. Walking down the streets, it still all felt very surreal to me, like I had to pinch myself to wake up from the never ending dream.
That first couple of weeks on my own, already forced me to examine a few long hard truths about myself. I had always thought of myself as a remarkably tenacious person, able to commit to goals and see them through no matter what. The first month in New York had me reconsidering that belief. I received countless rejection letters from jobs I really wanted, and even jobs I didn’t really want. I questioned the absurdity of requiring three references for a dog walking job. During these days, I was prone to despair and lament the uncertainty of my position. I often daydreamed about repacking all my bags and going home early, returning to my old job, being back with my friends and family, and taking pleasure in being back within the confines of my childhood home. But I reasoned with myself, that I didn’t spend over a year daydreaming about moving to New York only to give up less than a month in.
I tried to look at the positives, and the biggest, was that the move catapulted me into independent adult life. I went from living with my family and not paying rent, having my room cleaned by my mother, to living with three roommates, writing cheques, buying furniture and assembling it, all that big girl stuff. It was an enthralling new world, and I was high on my own sense of independence.
Despite all the outwardly good things that were happening though, I was plagued by a sense of malaise during those first few weeks. I felt slightly foolish, idealistic and simple, with my lofty ideals, thinking I could stroll into a job at the likes of Reuters or Bloomberg, in the first month of my arrival in New York. After 2 weeks of rejection letters, it was clear this was not going to happen. I knew something would come along eventually, and while it may not have been where I wanted to be right now, it would be something. Despite all the moodiness and loneliness of those first few weeks, there were times when I felt very excited to be among the bustle and bright lights of the city. And even though I felt less than positive half the time, there was an allure about the city that made me not want to leave, to rise to the challenge and conquer it.