It’s Been A While..

Lately, many things have happened. But then again, many things have not. How do you start a blog you have neglected for almost a month? I know my post #300 is coming up soon. And while I had thought it would be a cool idea to have told most of my stories by then, it simply didn’t happen. The usual dilemma between working long hours and not being able to have much of a personal life has caught up with me in the past 3 weeks. It will be over, soon, though, so perhaps in the coming days or weeks I will have more time to devote to this blog. Hopefully. And also some fresh topics.

Until then I remain one of those faceless zombies who wait for the subway every morning and evening. In a faceless crowd, trying to squeeze into an overfilled train. Rush hour, how I’ve almost forgotten how it felt. And looked. And smelt.

subwaycrowd

Or how draining it can be to work for not much of a purpose.

Until then: How do you do it? Blogging and having a life? I have asked you this before but I am still curious how you juggle working, buying groceries, meeting with friends, having a hobby, and then posting online? Well, let me know! Suggestions are always welcome.

When Quitting Feels Good: My First Job in New York

My first job in New York was working as a waitress in an Irish pub somewhere in the Lower East Side. It was owned by three cheap Irish guys in their early 30ies, who didn’t pay their staff an hourly wage but demanded they live off of the tips they accumulated throughout their shifts. The way our main boss behaved towards us was very foul from the start. I remember having worked there for three weeks only and receiving a text message from my boss, who “asked” me if I wanted to come in today. It was two hours before the shift was supposed to start. I declined that day but when he asked me the next day without given me any previous notice I knew it was a win or lose situation (in the sense of being coldly fired). So I came in, for the sake of some money and for lack of having a better job. Our shifts were brutal during the evenings: I was scheduled to come in at 4 PM and usually stayed until 4 AM – a total of 12 hours. Without any hourly pay and only the tips to rake in, I still managed to earn a fair amount (up to 270 bucks) during good nights. But other, slower days were hardly worth mentioning. One night I even walked out with 20 dollars in my pocket, fuming for ever having gone into this industry.

I held out for about 2 months. More than enough time for me to figure out what I wanted or rather, what I didn’t want.

Of course they needed someone to work during July 4. Since a fellow server had already requested her day off well in advance, I was supposed to do the brunch shift and another gal was working in the evening. The 4th of July fell on a Sunday. I made sure to grab all my belongings the evening before, after ending my final shift. With a cheerful “See you all tomorrow!” I exited the bar, never to step a foot into this establishment again. Sometime on Sunday my boss texted me and wanted to know how much later I would care to show up. Then another text: “It really would be fair to tell me whether or not you are showing up so that I can ask another waitress to come in”. Fair? You dare use that word? It would have been fair to give your employees an hourly salary. And not let them work 12 hours straight. Also, how about shifts that don’t start two hours before you ask them? Fair! Pah!

I never responded because I never wanted him to reply back with the all-so-satisfying words: “You are fired!” In this instance, I had won! I had quit. And it felt good. My German friend said it was karma getting back to that cheap bastard. I guess he was partly right. Self-induced karma. When someone is stupid enough to go according to a nation’s reputation and praise how reliable Germans are just to abuse them as cheap working labor, he doesn’t deserve better.

The relief that comes with quitting is extensive. You feel happy and glorious. Independent and free. And before the onset of financial repercussions show up you are living a fair life. Quitting that job had been my best bet in this city. True, I had some tough three months ahead of me. Finding a real job, going through interviews, and then finally working in an office setting on minimum wage. But I wouldn’t have wanted to trade it for anything. The satisfaction I got for dumping a trashy bar on possibly one of their busiest holidays of the year… How could I not be happy about this? I believe if a job is not making you too happy and if the mental state achieved during this kind of work is outweighing the financial means, it might be a good time to just move on.

Yes, it’s not great to live on barely nothing for an extended period of time. But at the same token, it might give you the right push to look for something better. Sometimes we can feel passive and tired when working in the wrong job, to the point where we don’t have the strength and courage to go ahead and apply for something else. Being away from work, hated annoying co-workers, and meaningless tasks can give us some time to regenerate and focus on how we want to spend the majority of our remaining time. Be it moving to a new city or starting a different chapter in life – a job usually plays a crucial role in how we will define our experiences during this period of life.

Were it not for that one long summer in 2010, I would have never known how beautiful the Brooklyn beaches can look on a weekday – completely deserted by the hordes of people. Or how rejuvenated I can feel when walking around students through Washington Square Park during the middle of the day. Not to mention that touristy things are less crowded in the week than on weekends. Or how precious free entertainment is for those who cannot afford much else.

Sometimes we forget that we are here to make the very best of our time. That when we choose a time-out in life, we cannot have a daily routine let it go to ruin. Never giving up on our dreams is and should be the main goal of life. So creating some distance between this thought and the other responsibilities we think we owe society should also play an important role in our lives.

After all, isn’t “life about the moments that take our breath away than the number of breaths we take?” (quote by Hilary Cooper)?

Reflecting in October

It feels like a lifetime ago since the last time I posted on here. But Friday is really only 4 days back. Many things have happened in between now and then and make it seem like an eternity. I’ve been to New Jersey for the first time in ages (since February). Then I have been busy with two photography shoots over the weekend. And lastly, but not least, I am trying to see what future holds for me here in New York.

While reflecting on my past life, a thought has recently crossed my mind: That this is most likely the first time ever since I moved to the Big Apple during which I am not pressured to look for a new apartment. My first year here I was forced to move out for December 1. And only one year back I was seeking out a new apartment once again. So right now, the two months October and November of 2012, mark a premiere in my life in the US in this category. Hopefully the upcoming one and a half months will be a lot more peaceful than I am used to at this time of year. I feel I am able to enjoy the future events a lot more this time around than I was in the years before.

For example, my friend’s birthday. Or Thanksgiving, which also means time away from work. With colder weather there usually comes a different sense of awareness to this city. Instead of dealing with one heat wave after another, outside life is becoming spare. And also more clear. Some people do not want to spend as much time in the outsides. Others want to squeeze in a sunny day before the notoriously bad winter starts. Either way, moods are different now. It is a better time to focus and to get things done. Gone are the lazy beach days. Or the hot hours spent together with a group of friends at BBQ’s and in the park. Less than 3 months are left until this year comes to a close and somehow people are realizing that a few of their crucial goals have not been fulfilled. Many of mine I have accomplished, and even more than this. But others I am still lacking in getting done. Travel-wise, 2012 has been an interesting year. As a last travel, I would have loved to go visit my friend in South-America right now, this month or next. Unfortunately, South America is not on my agenda for this year anymore.

And if you’ve read my Time to Get Out of the Comfort Zone post, you also know that this one main goal of mine has not yet been accomplished. However, I do not feel much resentment. With more experience come more opportunities. Financially speaking I have been able to afford quite a comfortable life style without being dependent too much on a budget and other outer influences. Which is a great accomplishment compared to last year. I guess life really does get a teeny bit harder as we go. More responsibility, more pressure, more mindsets hindering us to achieve what we had wanted in the very beginning. Whether or not this is a bad thing has yet to be determined.

I guess eventually we just have to be thankful for the things we can call or own. “The happiest people do not have the best of everything; they make the best of everything they have.” A wisdom that rings true the more you think about it. There should always be time to think about what you have and what you can be thankful for. It might be taken away from you sooner than you think.

The Never-Ending Food Crisis in New York

It’s an issue I have been dealing with ever since I moved here and started buying my own groceries. The first three months were among the most frustrating as I started to realize that this issue would most likely not resolve itself in the way I had intended it to. Because, unfortunately, the human body relies on good nutrition and tasty food. We cannot just live off of crappy 1-Dollar burgers and 2-Dollar-milkshakes and expect our bodies not to collapse after such a mistreatment. High cholesterol, weight gain, heart problems, yes, even obesity – all outcomes of malnutrition. Easy enough, isn’t it? Should be common knowledge by now, anyhow. So why is it that the US of A still has not figured out how to lower their prices when it comes to edible and healthy food? Why is it that whenever I enter a Whole Foods I almost get a heart attack not from the food itself but from the horrifying prices that glare at me as soon as I want to purchase a goodie?

At first I was inclined to just brush it off and see the entire situation as a challenge. I had to either

a) get a job that pays enough to not make grocery shopping my main expense anymore,
b) find a store with less expensive prices or
c) eat unhealthy for a while.

Since a) did not come along until one and a half years later, and c) did not sound appealing to 22-year-old me (after all, we aren’t teenagers anymore, we can take responsibility for our actions), it was up to b) to make out the challenge of the day. And boy, did I grow frustrated in those first three months here. I still am sometimes, but not nearly as much as I was back then. One thing you will never get used to in your life is when the quality of food goes down (rather than up). And this is pretty much what I have been going through for the past 2 years and more.

This tasty selection of cheese costs you three times as much here than it does in Europe

My former roommate suggested Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s as a way out. So while my German friend had solved the food issue with simply going to New Jersey’s Pathmark week after week (and not telling anyone about it anymore, since people considered it the “low” end of the food chain), I dove into the challenge of finding out where good produce can be bought. For the sake of body and mind.

Whole Foods is a great store when it comes to discovering the unthinkable (imported steaks from Australia, hello?) and finding overpriced organic food. I once saw Babybels in the organic section and thought it funny if people bought it simply for this reason. Then I actually saw rich, uneducated Americans buy the brand because they thought it was organic and I wanted to boycott the store. Not enough that people only pretend they care what good food is about but they also seem to lack the knowledge of what to look out for when it comes to splurging your income spending your money on something as valuable as nutrition. After all, we are what we eat, isn’t that so?

Trader Joe’s is slightly better. They don’t solely offer organic food and their breakfast selection does not seem as overpriced as Whole Food’s. But you know why that is so? Because it was taken over by a German in 1979 (the owner of Aldi, indeed) and this influence must have carried over to this time. Trader Joe’s can be roughly translated into Händler Johann but it still does not come anywhere close to the prices a typical Aldi or Lidle or even Rewe would offer in Deutschland.

On the same token, I was deeply de-motivated to pursue any shopping activities with Union Market, an overcharged food market here in the Slope. My friend even joked about their prices when he said he had once gone to the store, bought four items, and paid 100 Dollars total. While he was slightly exaggerating, their costs are nowhere close to a bargain and have made me turn red of anger and disappointment many, many times. I now only use them if I want a piece of overpriced cheese (at least their selection is good) and salad bowl basics such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers.

Then, finally, after moving in with the Belarusians, a small break came along in the year-long frustration I had endured. They proposed to check out Brighton Beach Market in order to find nutritional basics that are not completely overpriced and still ok. The first winter I was here I went there a couple of times. Since I was on the F, I had to switch trains at some point in time and scurry over the platform to catch the Q going in the other direction. You can imagine that this is less than ideal when you carry two full bags of groceries with you and just want get home immediately. Their food selection was pretty good, though. It made me come back a couple of times just to try out some Russian imports and to get yelled at the cashier’s for not speaking their language. The produce was at a reasonable price (even lower than the Pioneer in Flatbush, where I had been living), so I thought the trip worthwhile. That was before I discovered Greenpoint and the convenience of living on the G train.

You will need all of your pennies to go shopping for food here!

And then the lack of fresh, green markets. The only ones I have been able to stumble upon are the one at Union Square (every other day starting Monday) and the one around Grand Army Plaza (every Saturday). Two green markets a few times a week in this big, big city? You have to be kidding me! In Europe it is a proud tradition to have one twice a week in even the smallest town buried in the deepest woods of rural areas. So what is up with only offering ten tiny stands here in Manhattan and even less in Brooklyn?

Yes, New York offers great restaurants and it’s supposed to have one of the healthiest food choices in the entire USA. I saw this when I visited other cities and was shocked at California’s even higher prices, Chicago’s so-so healthy food options, and Boston’s fattening fast-food markets.

Still, I wanted to cry every time I walked into a grocery store that had a good name and looked at the price tag. 5 dollars and for a small piece of mediocre cheese imported from Europe? No wonder they can charge 40 bucks a pound for the really good stuff! Do people here really do not know how low the production costs are overseas? It seems that not only nutrition is being discussed enough but also other parts of the food circus.

And then what is the deal with not being able to scrape together a single piece of decent bread? Which does not cost more than 5 dollars for a meager loaf? I was finally able to find a good place in Greenpoint. A conservative Polish bakery happens to make breads and bakery goods fresh every single day, hurray! With 2 dollars for a huge piece of loaf, my appetite had been stilled thanks to Syrena.

But my disappointment into the American food market has equally jotted up a notch. I might be lucky to live in such a multicultural city as New York where the options to discover something healthy at a normal price are higher than anywhere else. But what about the rest of America? Will they ever understand how important it is to feed ourselves well?

I’ve Been Published!

A few weeks ago Erin from Blogexpats asked me to write out an interview in either German or English for their special online edition of how expats live overseas. Since I couldn’t decide which language to choose, I simply answered the questions in both German and English.

Sometimes you cannot express some ideas and opinions as well as you could in your native language. But describing life in New York has proven to be difficult in German because my life style has become so more American than European. Therefore, it just had to be two different views!

Please see the bilingual version below

or go to www.blogexpats.com .

Hi, I am Laura from Germany, and I now live in the Big Apple. I moved to Brooklyn but work in the Empire State Building in the middle of Manhattan. So much to leaving a small German village for the American Dream!

1. Why did you move abroad?
I wanted to take a time out from school, as I had finished my Bachelor’s but was almost certain I wanted to get it on with my Master’s. New York seemed like the right place to go to get my head straight after the stressful student years, to experience an adventure, and to distract my mind from the rigid system in Germany. I had planned on being away for six months to a year – max. That did not work out as planned…

2. How do you make a living?
I’ve had three jobs in New York so far. Right now I work for an Austrian company in Midtown: In the Empire State Building. Yeah – it IS actually pretty awesome to be greeted by guards every day but in the end, a job is just a job, no matter where you work. Before this, I was employed by a non-for-profit organization on the other side of Midtown. I was working there for an hourly pay and I had never been as poor as during that one year I was employed with them. My very first job was a two month stint as a waitress in the Lower East Side. After figuring that this was indeed not what I had come to New York for, I decided to look for more serious employment (which I eventually found).

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
My communication with my parents and also friends went down after a year of being here. I talk to my parents maybe once a month over Skype, if even. My friends re-connect via social networking sites, e-mails, or when they read my blog. It may sound sad, but you actually get used to it once you immerse in your busy life in the City.

4. What’s your favorite thing about being an expat in New York City?
The City. The opportunities you have here, and which you would have nowhere else. Being able to walk down the street in PJ’s and not being looked at like a freak. Dressing up after work just to hit up happy hour in the City. Brunch on the weekends. The free things you can do every single day, no matter what the weather is.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in New York City?
Healthcare, quality of life in the sense of healthy food at a reasonable price, and not knowing if your milk and eggs truly don’t come from cows that had hormones injected. The competition between everything and everyone.

6. What do you miss most?
My friends and the experiences we shared. The food and the fresh air. A pretty normal life in suburban Germany with my own car and places to be at (relatives, friends and so on).

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I met my first good friend because she was my roommate. Other people I met at work or at random concerts in Central Park. New York is pretty straightforward about who she wants you to meet and who not, so I am not too worried about how my social life develops.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I found it hard to adapt to the level of rudeness New Yorkers show towards you in the city. It draws apart at times. And I have a problem with the racism that still separates blacks and whites and will probably not be resolved in the near future. I am also repulsed at times at the social gap in between city parts and how uncaring people trample upon each other.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That everything in New York is glamorous, exciting, the core of the world, and therefore will bring happiness.

10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
It depends. Apartments and housing are definitely higher in New York (they are cheaper in other parts in the US). Costs for healthy food are higher here. It makes me want to re-evaluate if it is even worth buying the good cheese/groceries/veggies or to just go with the second-best option (buying produce of unknown origin). Half of my paycheck goes to my apartment in a good area in Brooklyn. Then I spend about three times as much on groceries I could buy at an inexpensive price in Germany. I have changed my eating habits in the way that I only buy the things I really need and not because of luxury.

11. What advice would you give other expats?
To explore New York to the fullest and not get blinded by its so-called glamorous sides, events, and anything that attracted them because of a famous TV show.

Most Europeans who come here do so through their own protected agency or university. They are put in nice housing in safe areas and don’t have to worry about walking past people in the ghetto or getting to know folks from cultures they never expected to meet. Manhattan is not all New York has to offer. I highly advise newcomers to seek out all parts of this city (yes, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx …) and to see how the socially disadvantaged live to get a better picture of how the gap between rich and poor developed in this country. And to see how beautiful New York can be even aside from its treacherous glamour!

I also advise to not compare this city to Europe or their home country. You cannot compare a dime to a penny!

12. When and why did you start your blog?
My original intent was to keep in touch with family and friends from overseas (Germany). I was honestly sick and tired of writing one e-mail after another and always discussing the same events, topics, or occurrences. It didn’t really work out, as now everyone BUT my friends reads my blog, and most of these people I have never met in my life. I started the blog last May, so a good year after I had been in New York already. However, I also wanted to use it as a credential in case I was seeking writing gigs (which it did help me in getting my first journalism job).

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Hallo, ich bin Laura aus dem Südwesten Deutschlands. Vor 2 Jahren habe ich mir einen lang-gehegten Traum erfüllt: Ich bin spontan nach New York gezogen und habe jeden Tag soweit genossen!

1. Warum bist du ins Ausland umgezogen?
Eigentlich wollte ich einen „kurze“ Studienauszeit von einem halben Jahr bis maximum einem Jahr machen. Aus dieser Auszeit wurde dann schnell etwas mehr und nun bin ich schon 2 Jahre hier im Big Apple. Es ist eine Frage der Zeit wann ich mein Masterstudium in Psychologie in Europa wiederaufnehme.

2. Woher beziehst du dein Einkommen?
Ich habe drei verschiedene Jobs in New York gehabt. Zuerst musste ich mich 2 Monate als Kellnerin in der Lower East Side durchschlagen – kein Studenlohn und nur Trinkgeld, das wurde mir einfach zu unsicher nach 2 Monaten. Dann arbeitete ich für einen Hungerlohn ein ganzes Jahr lang bei einer Wohltätigkeitsorganisation in Midtown. Die Erfarhrung dort war sehr lehrreich aber chronisch unterbezahlt. Zuletzt habe ich ein Jobangebot bei einer österreichischen Firma angenommen: gutes Gehalt und tolle Aussicht. Sie ist nämlich im, tada, Empire State Building! Und somit bin ich dem amerikanischen Traum schon ein gutes Stück nähergerrückt.

3. Wie oft kommunizierst du mit deiner Familie und mit deinen Freunden, die noch in Deutschland wohnen? Und wie (Skype, Facebook, usw… )?

Nach einem Jahr nahm die Kommunikation sehr ab – von beiden Seiten, wie ich zugeben muss. Momentan telefoniere ich vielleicht einmal im Monat mit den Eltern, wenn überhaupt. Die Freunde halte ich durch Facebook, E-mails, und meinen Blog auf dem Laufenden.

4. Was liebst du am meisten an New York?

Die Unaghängigkeit, mit der ich mir hier ein neues Leben erschaffen konnte ohne an alte Werte oder Vorstellungen gebunden zu sein. Das Abenteuer, mit dem ich die Straßen gemeistert habe. Die Neugier auf den Rest der Welt, den diese Stadt und sämtliche Bekanntschaften in mir geweckt haben.

5. Was ärgert dich am meisten an New York?
Die Arroganz mancher Leute, die sich für was Besseres halten aufgrund ihres Einkommens, ihrer Hautfarbe, oder ihrer Herkunft. Die Scheinheiligkeit, die dies mit sich bringt. Die traurige Erkenntnis, dass Rassentrennung und Diskrimierung immer noch ein großes, unterschwelliges Thema hier sind.

6. Was fehlt dir am meisten?

Die gute Lebensqualität, für die man hier ein halbes Vermögen ausgeben muss um nur ansatzweise an den europäischen Standard heranzukommen. Krankenkasse, gutes (biologisches) Essen – das alles ist in Deutschland wesentlich geschickter gehandhabt und kostet nur einen Bruchteil von dem was man hier hinblättern muss.

7. Was hast du getan, um neue Leute zu treffen und dich in dein neues Zuhause zu integrieren?
Ich habe mir eine WG gesucht, in der ich meine erste gute Freundin getroffen habe. Dann natürlich durch die Arbeit. Durch einen anderen deutschen Bekannten. Durch spontane Bekanntschaften bei Konzerten im Central Park. New York hat ihre ganz eigene Art dir verständlich zu machen, dass alle neuen Freundschaften entstehen, wie und wann SIE es möchte. Daher fühle ich mich gut aufgehoben.

8. Welche Gewohnheit findest du am seltsamsten in deiner Wahlheimat?
Die Unhöflichkeit, mit der man einfach so aus der U-Bahn geschubst wird und dann die unerwartete Freundlichkeit, die einem auf einmal auf der Straße von einem Fremden entgegengebracht wird. New York ist immer eine Überraschung wert!

9. Was ist ein Mythos über deine Wahlheimat?

Das alles an New York pompös ist mit einer tollen Portion Glamour. Nein, nein, und nochmals nein!

10. Welchen Rat würdest du anderen Expats geben
?
Mit offenen Augen durch diese Stadt zu wandern. Sich auch mal in die Ghettos zu wagen und sich anzuschauen, wie die Fußabtreter der Reichen leben um ein repräsentatives New York zu sehen. Nicht nur in Manhattan bleiben, sondern sich alle fünf Boroughs anzusehen und sich einen Gesamteindruck zu schaffen. Mal von den Touristenpfaden abschweifen, denn die Stadt hat soviel mehr zu bieten.

11. Wann und warum hast du dein Blog begonnen?
Etwas mehr als ein Jahr nachdem ich hergekommen bin, habe ich mir endlich einen Ruck gegeben und angefangen, meine Erlebnisse, Reisen, und Eindrücke von dieser Stadt mit anderen zu teilen. Ursprünglich war er für Familie und Freunde gedacht, damit ich mich nicht todschreibe an den ganzen E-mails, die eh alle gleich aussahen. Das hat dann aber nicht ganz so geklappt wie ich es geplant habe.

12. Wie ist dein Blog nutzbringend?

Ich mag es, zurückzublättern und zu sehen, wie ich das Ganze vor einem Jahr betrachtet habe, welche Träume ich gehegt habe, und wie es nun weitergehen soll. Viele Leute, die über den Blog gestolpert sind, finden die Restaurant-Tips ganz praktisch. Mittlerweile habe ich sogar regelmäßige Leser, die mit Spannung verfolgen, was mir als nächstes in New York geschieht. Ausserdem habe ich durch diesen Blog meinen ersten Jouranlistenjob bekommen bei einer Brooklyn-Zeitschrift, das war schon sehr praktisch und lehrreich.

Living My Life: Two Years in New York!

Today is the day! The Big Anniversary!

On March 15, 2010 I became what I had hardly dreamt of: A German moving to New York. The City of 8 million. The Big Apple. The town that offers hundreds of possibilities, there to pursue. My student life had changed 180 degrees as I stepped out of my first cab right in downtown Manhattan. I remember the first street I stood at. Columbia Street. I remember my first (foreing) cab driver, who took it from there and delivered me to the Best Western Hotel in Queens. He was Indian, a professor, and only he knows why he had given up his higher education benefits in his home country to pursue life in the City. However, he gave me the most valuable of advice. Said: “New York has the best of people and New York has the worst of people.” To date, this little wisdom I share with you has proven to be very true. So true, that indeed every time I remember this day and his words, I shake my head in astonishment at how they cannot be twisted and turned but simply apply to life in New York.

Two years in the City. Three different jobs, but none of which are career-worthy. Three different apartments, some of which have proven to catapult me to something I can call home. My discovery of the Flatbush ghetto and then the nice side of Brooklyn called Park Slope. A few interesting roommates later. A few boring roommates later. None of them which I had wanted to miss out on. Friends, heart breaks, coworkers, relationships – they have all guided me through the past 24 months and have formed my time here; created my memories in their own unique ways. Two years later, and I am reflecting.

Have I have become a different person? I have turned into someone else. Unsure yet if if I like the person I’ve become or if I hate what New York has made of me. The safest way is to go with a mix. Some traits have made me survive in all of these extreme circumstances I am walking through day by day, living every moment as if it could be my last. Others I wish I could deal with better. The coldness that comes with you when you have to choose between politeness or rudeness when brushing off the overflow of advertisement, vendors, promoters. I know some New Yorkers can justify being impolite towards strangers. I am still having a hard time with it. At least I don’t care anymore when someone pushes me out of their way on my way to work. Is this a sign that I have truly adapted, though? Or that I have forgotten what manners are for?

Every year has changed me to a degree I would have not foreseen. Only one thing seems granted in this city: Happiness does not come easy. And it most certainly does not come when you expect it to. I’ve found myself torn down after earning more money or going to a show I thought would be amazing – my expectations being too high on this one little thing, underestimating the true factors of life. And then I found this warm, joyful feeling when walking beneath skyscrapers in the Financial District of Manhattan or discovering the West Village on a sunny April afternoon. The feeling I had whenever I looked at the skyline from my second old apartment – indescribable. This City was right there, in its miniature form, and everything had seemed so clear to me. Now I work in the Empire State Building and the New York dream seems farther away than ever.

The one thing New York has truly given me: I have created my life new. I have created myself new. Every day, every hour, every moment spent in this precious city I have indulged in, I have caressed, I have made sure to become worthy to remember. Starting with discovering various neighborhoods: Harlem, Bedstuy, Bushwick – we were quite fearless in the beginning. Meeting random people at bars and on the streets, ending up being involved in night-long talks which came to a close on the red steps of Times Square. Working for three cheap Irish guys who did not even pay hourly wage for their bar employees. My first tears when erring around in a bad area, fearing Russian gangstas or other hoodies might pick me up and shred me to pieces.

Our unbelievable luck in this City. New York has this very specific way of applying Karma to everyone who enters and stays for longer than a few days. You laugh at a person on the streets? Be sure you will trip over the next misplaced stone within the next few seconds. It’s the small things that this city will gladly show you and those are the ones you have to appreciate. It is not about the beauty of this city, because this city is seldom beautiful in the traditional sense. It is about the quirks and downsides that make Nueva York a fascinating place to live in. The rainy mornings that turn into sunny afternoons and warm your heart. The rainbow colors in Central Park. A day at the beach, that is so trashed, you would have never stepped foot on it if you were on vacation in a different country. The annoying paper bags from Trader Joes which always seem to break at the wrong moment. And then of course the random people in the train station that come to your rescue and provide you with so many plastic bags, you don’t know how to thank them.

New York is a City of Extremes. And she has her very special way of showing you when it’s time to move on. Believe me, I have seen it in many people. Some of which have come here for a few months. Some of which have stayed for three years. It all ended in the same way: They got the insight that it is time to leave. To pursue something better. It is just too darn bad that every other city outside of here seems too gray to live in once you’ve tasted the forbidden apple. So be sure you enjoy every single moment here because you never know when will be your last!

This is why I want to cherish today. The date. Hold it tight and never let it go! Happy Anniversary to me and to my dream come true!

Me at Magnolia Bakery in 2010
Me at Magnolia Bakery in 2012