Life in New York

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I’ll admit I’m a little burnt out on New York these days. This upcoming spring, I’ll have lived here eight years. It’s two years shy of how long I said would live in New York, but about three years longer than I thought I would make it half a decade ago.

Obviously, there are things to love about this city. But — and I’m being honest here — the longer I am here, the harder it is for me to remember those things. Or maybe even care about those things.

Do I care about the access to any kind of shopping? I buy all my clothes in thrift stores/online thrift stores or through online sales anyway. Do I care about the shows and concerts? I see something on Broadway once in a blue moon now, and I am rarely willing to battle the crowds to do anything notable going on in the city. Do I care about the restaurants? Eating out is almost as rare as the Broadway shows.

I would miss Seamless legitimately. But, honestly, that just makes me kind of sad to say out loud. I’ll miss the thing that lets me be extra lazy and spend extra money.

It’s probably not surprising, but motherhood has made me roll my eyes a little bit harder at NYC. Because it is hard to be a mom here, folks.

It’s hard to take your baby out, because you are either schlepping them on your back in a carrier (which I honestly don’t mind because at least I can navigate easily, but it is super sweaty in the summer) or trying to maneuver a stroller down busy sidewalks, through a million doorways, or up and down subway steps. It’s hard to figure out things to do with your baby because everything baby-centric is expensive and everything non-baby-centric is…not baby friendly.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am sometimes when Vivi and I finish our errands (don’t even get me started on the difficulty of doing laundry in the city with a baby…) and I can look at her and say, “And now we don’t have to go anywhere for the rest of the day!”

I mean…that is not why I moved to New York.

So, yeah, I fantasize about motherhood in the burbs. I dream of a garage and in-home laundry and a real backyard and an accessible Target.

But I’m trying to be content and appreciate the good things (like parks within walking distance and a cute coffee shop on every corner to fuel mornings-after-sleepless-nights).

Other NYC mommas out there: Do you feel me? Do you have suggestions for making life a little easier?

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We need to talk about something. And, judging by the title of this post, I hope you recognize the seriousness.

You have to admit, that’s a pretty good title. Intrigue.

So, what is it? What is this thing so terrible, so insidious that no one even wants to let the words cross their lips lest they incur the wrath of the metropolitan gods?

The struggle that is getting packages delivered to NYC apartments.

I’m sorry? Did I just feel you roll your eyes when you read that sentence? Were you perhaps expecting something akin to this? Or THIS?

Well, while those things may be worse things about living in New York, I’m pretty sure that, when you mentioned to your college roommate who currently lives in a Brooklyn apartment with two roommates that you were thinking of moving to the East Coast, she or he kindly let you know about those particular realities.

What I’m better he or she did not mention? You can kiss that blind faith you’ve had in the postal system goodbye.

Listen. I’m not trying to knock postal workers. They have tough, tough jobs. Through rain, sleet, snow, and darkest night? That sounds brutal.

But the thing is…that is the oath, right? So…why do I feel like no one really takes it seriously?

Let me tell you a few things you are guaranteed to experience if you live in New York for at least a calendar year:

#1: You will never receive at least one package for no apparent reason.

And the real kicker will be that no one will be able to tell you what went wrong. And you may or may not ever get a free replacement. It will just be gone. Forever. AND YOU WILL BE HELPLESS.

#2: You will have at least one package stolen from you.

I freely admit that occurrence #2 could be the cause of occurrence #1.

You know why? Because people are TERRIBLE. I have a dear friend who has actually tried to go door-to-door in her building seeking out who the good-for-nothing thieves are, but her husband stops her every time. I mean, he’s probably right. (These are good-for-nothing thieves, after all…who knows what they’re capable of.) BUT STILL.

The truly annoying part is that you’ll call up your building management to complain, and they will essentially feed you their version of “there’s nothing we can do.” And as much as that infuriates you, in this case, it’s probably actually true.

Just kidding — it’s never actually true. They could make sure your broken vestibule door is repaired. They could install security cameras. They could provide you with secure mailboxes. But all of those things cost money, so they’re never going to happen.

#3: You will have packages “returned” on your behalf.

This has actually happened to be a couple of times in the last couple of months, so it’s a fresh wound. (Would I go so far as to call it the inspiration for this post because it happened this morning? Why, yes, I suppose I would.)

What happens is that, for whatever reason, the delivery service does not feel up to delivering your package. Maybe it was too heavy. Maybe they forgot to deliver it when they dropped off your other stuff, and now the thought of going all the way back to your apartment is just too much for them. We may never know. The point is, the shipper will make the judgment call that your good should just go back from whence they came. You won’t even know it happened until you receive the email confirmation of your return. At which point you will think, “That is curious. Because I never received a product to return. Hmmm…

If you’re lucky, the company who sent your product will have already issued a refund so you can reorder your item. If you’re only marginally lucky, you will still have to spend half an hour on the phone with no fewer than three customer service reps to get your item reordered and then have to wait a week to get it anyway. Hypothetically.

The point is, there are few things in day-to-day life that make you feel quite so helpless as trying (and failing) to get a package delivered to you in New York City. And once you’ve suffered any of these occurrences, you’ll place all your orders like someone eating salmon who has already choked on a fish bone: very carefully and with a hefty dose of suspicion and doubt.

I just thought you should know. In case no one has told you yet.

 

Typical.

Typical.

When you find yourself pregnant in a big city, you have a number of initial concerns:

How will I find the right doctor with so many options?
Can I fit a baby in my current apartment?
Ewww is that a condom on the ground of my neighborhood playground??

And, of course, the most popular and pressing:

Is anyone ever going to offer me a seat on public transportation?

That last one is especially curiosity-inducing because even women who aren’t pregnant usually want to know. I get asked all the time what the response has been, and I’m actually happy to report that I get offered a seat a lot more often than I thought I would.

But that does NOT mean I always get offered a seat. No, ma’am, it does not.

Because I am a woman of the people, I thought I’d put together a little list of who will (and who will not) generally offer a pregnant woman a seat on the subway (or bus or train or whatever public transport you prefer). That way, if you ever get knocked up, you’ll know who to stand next to whilst overacting back aches and overemphasizing your belly. Hypothetically.

You probably WILL get a seat from…young professional-looking women.
Gals in the 20-30 range who look like they’re commuting to or from work are usually your best bet. For one, they tend to not be as consumed in their phones as their teen counterparts, but they’re not so far off from the life stage of pregnancy themselves that they can’t sympathize. (If they’ve had a kid themselves, they can definitely feel you on your swollen feet and tired body.) The solidarity I feel with these ladies is actually a sweet moment in a city known for it’s selfishness. Props to women who support (and give seats to pregnant) women!

That being said…

You probably WON’T get a seat from…women who don’t like children and/or women over 40.
I know, I know, “women who don’t like kids” is hard group to describe and spot. But you’ll know them the second they glance at your swollen belly and then wrinkle their nose before deliberately avoiding your gaze. I mean, they didn’t get you pregnant. Why is this their problem? As for my middle-aged ladies…I can’t explain it. Maybe they also don’t like kids, maybe they’re just tired. But whatever the reason, they tend to hold their peace and their seat. Go with God. (Or something.)

You probably WILL get a seat from…old men.
And you will struggle with whether or not to take the seat. Because this is the type of person you would normally have given up a seat to. But if you’re really dead tired and a wrinkly old man struggles to his feet the second he sees your rotund-ness, you will probably take this dying breed of gentleman up on his offer (after thanking him profusely, of course).

You probably WON’T get a seat from…men over 30 in business suits (especially not if they’re over 40).
I hate to generalize on the FiDi bro crowd, but business men are notoriously too busy and important to give up their precious subway seat. The kicker is that they will stare at your belly for a few minute, then make fleeting eye contact before quickly looking away and going back to pretending to be asleep or answering emails on their smart phones. (But I know which stations have wifi, pal. You’re not fooling anyone.) You just let me know the next time your business deal results in the creation of life, pumpkin, and then we’ll compare notes as to who had a tougher day, k?

You MIGHT get a seat from…men in their 20s and early 30s who aren’t wearing suits.
This group really is a toss-up. The issue most of the time is that they rarely look up from their phones to even notice you standing there growing a human in your belly. I also like to give them the benefit of the doubt that it has been PUMMELED into their brain to never assume a lady is pregnant unless she actually tells you so, and they’re worried about possibly offending you. So, a lot of the time, they stay seated. It also has to be said that they’re much more likely to offer a seat if they’re not white. Sorry, white dudes, y’all will sit there staring at my stomach — fascinated — for the entirety of the ride without even pretending to get up. And we both know that I know that you know.

You definitely WON’T get a seat from…teenagers.
Chivalry actually is dead amongst the sub-twenties set. You could literally go into labor in front of them, and they’d probably just pull out their phone to capture the moment on SnapChat while shouting, “OMG GROSSSSSS.” Teenagers. Ugh.

Now, obviously this is based entirely on anecdotal experience. So tell me: If you’ve been pregnant, who did you find was more or less likely to give you a seat? I’d actually love to hear stories of subway heroes who broke the stereotype!

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I tend to get the same response in New York (and really, most places) when I tell people I grew up in Iowa.

“Wow, that must have been some kind of culture shock, huh?”

“Iowa? IO-wa? So you grew up on a farm?

“Where is Iowa?”

In general, I shrug, duck my head with a Midwestern humility, and reply, “Well, it’s different, of course, but not as different as you would think.”

Because, really, I’m from Iowa, but I didn’t grow up even close to a farm. Unless you count the research powerhouse DuPont Pioneer, which did technically grow acres of corn a stone’s throw from my front door and high school. (I, obviously, do not.)

To their credit, though, these curious non-Midwesterners do have a point: Life in New York is pretty different from life in Iowa. But probably not for the reasons they think.

Here, in no particular order, are the things I miss the most about my Iowa life:

1. Drive-through Starbucks
Drive-throughs in general are much harder to come by in the city, most likely because only the certifiably insane (and/or taxi drivers) bother with cars in the city. I do, though, wish the drive-through coffee shop would make its way to the outer boroughs.

If you’ve never experiences the utter euphoria of getting to stay in your warm car during the dead of winter while you scoop up a latte, all I can tell you is that it makes you feel like you’ve done something right with your life.

2. Big parking lots
If I go the rest of my life without ever circling for street parking, a blaring brigade of cars barreling up behind me, only to break into a cold sweat as I try to maneuver into a parallel parking spot just a couple of inches too small for my car, it will be too soon.

You know how we handle those situations in the Midwest? WE DON’T. We just swoop into the entrance of the nearest sprawling parking lot and take our pick of spots. Our biggest stress? That we will have to walk and extra 20 feet because all the “good” spots are taken.

Here’s something I’ve learned in New York: ANY parking lot spot is a “good” spot when the alternative is a parallel parking spot next to a heap of yesterday’s trash.

3. A convenient Target
Now, we do have Target in New York. You just have to trek to Brooklyn or Long Island or a distant mall in Queens to get to it.

Do you want to know how far I had to travel to get to Target from my parents’ house in Iowa? Five minutes. It was literally on the same street as their neighborhood. In fact, you had to pass a few OTHER superstores to even get to the Target. (But we all know the Target was what you were really after anyway.)

And once you got there? You just cruised into the giant parking lot, found a spot, and grabbed a latte from Starbucks on your way in the door.

What I’m saying is, yes, moving to New York was a lifestyle change. But I’m not always sure which city is winning.

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Don’t talk to me.

Living in New York has had a variety of effects on who I am as a person.

On the brighter side of things, I think I’m tougher, braver, and more likely to stick up for myself than I was before I lived here.

I’m (slightly) less directionally challenged. (Provided I’m operating on a grid system of streets.) I can navigate any subway system in the world. (Because there’s no way it’s more complicated than the one I tackle on the daily here.) I can speak somewhat intelligently about almost every culture of cuisine. I have been exposed to a wealth of the arts. I’ve gotten much better at operating within a specific budget.

Like I said, pros.

Unfortunately, lately I’ve noticed a host of bad habits this city seems to have instilled in me as well. And they are…unflattering, to say the least.

1. Interrupting.
For most of my life, my mother has struggled to craminspire in me a love of the mannerly. And while I am a stickler for “please,” “thank you,” and not texting whilst at dinner with others, I can’t help but notice that I tend to cut people off mid-sentence a lot more than I used to.

I promise I’m not passing the buck, but the fact is, if you don’t interrupt New Yorkers, you might never get a word in edgewise. I’ve actually noticed that, when I make a firm attempt to not interrupt, there are people I know who have forgotten how to end stories and even sentences. They sort of trail off like an actor whose stage partner has forgotten their cue.

“So that’s…pretty much…what happened…”

It’s even worse when you encounter someone who could literally just keep talking for days, weeks, months. Then you might as well slip out of your heels and grab a snack because you’re going to be there for a while. Hope you didn’t have anything important to mention.

2. Ignoring.
This is especially bad when I’m out and about. Look, it’s no secret that the streets of NYC are a harrowing place sometimes. While I have only a couple of times ever felt actually unsafe, there are near constant opportunities to be accosted as you make your 1-and-a-half-block commute from the subway to the office.

As a result, I find myself tuning out more often than I like to admit. And not just tuning out — it’s like I have literally placed blinders on my eyes. I will sort of shuffle into people because I didn’t even notice they were standing there. And I’m not the only one. Pretty much every New Yorker will tell you the ignoring happens out of a sense of self-preservation, but the fact is, it’s pretty rude to pretend like you are the only person on the sidewalk trying to get from point A to point B.

Basically, New York is making me really inconsiderate.

3. Impatience.
Okay, okay, I was never the most patient person even when I lived in the Midwest. But, you guys? My fuse feels infinitely shorter these days.

Remember Commuter Justine? Well, now she doesn’t only come out when there are issues on the train or when there’s an angry letter that needs writing. Maybe it’s a result of the aforementioned increased likeliness to stick up for myself, but I find myself having a harder and harder time tolerating people who make my life harder the longer I live here.

I mean, I’m obviously not hauling off and socking someone in the face. But I feel my brain reaching a rolling boil more often than it used to. And New Yorkers en general aren’t exactly known for their patience with humanity.

So there you have it: the not-so-subtle ways New York is turning me into a jerk. But you guys still like me…right?

Has your locale inspired a few bad habits in you? Dish in the comments.

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I love summer, but I don’t think it could ever be my favorite season. Mostly because, while it is packed with loads of fun things to do, it always comes with a certain amount of stress.

A side effect of being a planner is that, often times, I tend to overplan my life. Besides social engagements, I also plan my workouts, when I clean my apartment, when I run errands, and virtually all of my recreation. (Yes, I have actually set aside time in my calendar for “chilling out.” I have a problem, I know.)

Lately, I feel like my calendar is stuffed to the brim, and when a friend asks if I can hang, I’m wracked with guilt when I can’t find a time slot. This only ever seems to happen to me in the summer time.

Plus, everything feels more stressful when you’re sweating out an 85-degree day, amiright?

When I started writing this post, I had the idea that I was going to commit to more relaxation — less planning. But there’s a part of me that resists that reasoning. After all, I’m young and only have a few serious obligations in life (AKA, no children yet). Shouldn’t this be the time that I cram my schedule with the things I enjoy doing? Because I do enjoy all of my plans when they’re happening. And if everything is getting done, is there really any harm in feeling busy?

Maybe it’s the previously mentioned guilt that is throwing a wrench in the machinery. It’s probably not possible to do everything for everyone, no matter how much I wish I could.

So basically, this is a story of me being a good little Midwestern girl who wants to please everyone.

Sigh. I’m such a cliche.

I heard a quote on a show one time that was basically: “You need to change your dialogue. Instead of ‘I’m so overwhelmed,’ say, ‘My cup runneth over.'” So essentially, I need to think positively about the fact that I’m busy to make it easier to handle.

And wait patiently for fall.

Is there a season where you feel like you’re just barely keeping it together? Would you rather overfill your life with happy things or risk missing out but keep your sanity?