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

Birthday Bash? Not Really!

Last week was my birthday – an occasion I consider well worthy of spilling out my thoughts on!

I turned 24 – hallelujah – such a natural age. And to answer your initial question, I DO NOT feel older, nor do I experience other emotions some people seem to fight once they hit 21 or above (albeit I have to admit I have met more Europeans who are going through these age issues from an early time on as opposed to Americans).

I deeply feel that I couldn’t imagine myself being anywhere else at this point in life and I would have never been able to forgive myself if I hadn’t tried very hard to stay in this city. Therefore, I am glad I am still here in New York. Technically, it is my second birthday I have been attending to in the Big Apple. Last year, it was a smaller celebration, this year it was none at all. I spent the day at the beach, it was a nice premature summer day, and the ocean spared enough refreshment, making up for the heat. Overall, a very nice day. But spent by myself almost entirely.
To draw a conclusion from this, what I have come to see is that even after one year of being here it continues to be difficult to find people you can rely on. I, for example, haven’t been able to form close relationships that last longer than a few months or weeks during this entire year.
Yes, there are other factors involved, too, of course. People come here, then move away again. Other friends have changed to a degree to which I just didn’t want to deal with them anymore. Again others have distanced themselves from me.

There are many reasons. And relax, all of this sounds sadder than it truly is. My theory is that there is always a trade-off in being at a place you passionately love or having people with you who you can count upon. I am 100 percent positive that I am NOT the only person out there who has gone through this, especially in a city like New York. It is easy to meet new people – agreed – but it is hard to connect to someone here and have a deep relationship with him or her. This especially applies when you are tired of the casual small talk and shallow promises which are so prevalent in American culture.

All of the persons I can count upon are still at home, in Germany, and that is good as is. All the things I want to accomplish are here, though, and that is good in a way, too. Birthdays and other holidays just make me wish I could share it with someone I feel a deeper connection to, and that describes the situation I was in last week.
But hey, no worries, I am over it, I am not traumatized, and I am definitely not going to curse out my new year. It’s not that much of a deal to pull me down. I just hope that I will be able to spend my big 25 either with my real friends or to go to a great travel destination. Ideally, I will be able to accomplish both, but that is only to be hoped for.

So, happy birthday to myself, and off to the next year of excitement. Welcome to 24!
Tell me your thoughts on this and what you did for your 24th, it might make me feel better…?!

New York City Fleet Week – May 25 to June 1, 2011

Marines holding random guy

Yesterday was the time to wave 10,000 sailors good-bye as they boarded their ships and went off to their next deployment or duty station.

For one sweet week the City was filled with Navy guys, Marines, and Coast Guards all along Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. I am not sure if they made their way up to Queens and the Bronx, but as far as I can tell they were well dispersed throughout entire New York. It was an interesting time to see uniforms and groups of disciplined people marching around Manhattan among the usual crazy/extravagant/over-the-top people. Maybe it was just me, but they gave this town a feel of both normality and exoticness at once.

To me, being surrounded by uniforms has been a crucial part of most of my life. I grew up around a few military bases and went to college on casernes in Germany. The Air Force and Army has been daily routine from an early age on: Showing my ID card at the gate before entering, buying American products in Dollars (tax-free), speaking English with Americans, and celebrating all major American holidays in this little American community. This was about the only way it was possible for me to grow up bilingual AND bi-cultural, because if you don’t experience it from childhood on, you will never feel like you are a part of it all.

Fleet week brought a piece of these home feelings back to me, unintentionally. Only one year ago, I was sick and tired of seeing “douche bags” in uniforms walking around, and I couldn’t stand the sight of something I had successfully erased from my mind. But now, after being away from bases for well over a year, and having gone through some episodes of homesickness and despair, it felt good to look at people who impersonate discipline, who do stupid things with their groups when they are drunk, and who can have a normal conversation with you (without making you feel they are fake/flaky/or plain dumb).
From Wednesday to Wednesday many events were hosted. For a full list, check out their schedule here. Noteworthy was the parade of ships. I got the chance to check out their boats on Memorial Day and took a few pictures to post. Their size is impressive: The USS Iwo Jima counts 844 ft. length, 110 ft. beam, and 30 ft. draft, and holds up to 1,900 Marines. She also carries 30 helicopters.

Pier 88
Not the USS Iwo Jima but the impressive Intrepid.

A Navy cover-music band entertained Time Square on Saturday afternoon. The crowd enjoyed the show, I found the acoustics negotiable. Their attitude was great, though, so much spirit!

After their first night out, sailors were on a curfew due to a tragic accident on the West Side Highway. A Marine was hit and run over by a bypassing car when trying to get back to the head quarters early in the morning. It seemed curfews were kept stricter ever since that incident happened and, for most of the enlisted, the fun ended at 12:30 to 1:00AM. Therefore, a big percentage of them hung out around the piers, preferably on 10th and 9th Avenue. The bars were jammed full with white and green uniforms. Some made their way out to 2nd Ave, a good walk from the other side of the island. It was a great change to meet them – and I am not even going to mention all those American girls going crazy about guys in a uniform – (which seems to be a generalized reaction throughout the world. Why is that?), to drink with them, and to hear some of their stories. And to realize that they, too, are pretty normal people who carry their very own weight just like everyone else. For example the 22-year-old crew chief, who had just gotten separated from his year-long-fiance because their relationship couldn’t make it through the extensive deployments. It seems rather common for Marines or Navy active duties to break up or separate, especially before and after deployments.By the way, crew chief is similar to pilot (yes, unlike the Air Force – it is a different type of job there) and you have to go through one and a half years of training to make it there.

All in all, everyone was just trying to enjoy New York and have a good time in the Big Apple. We welcome you next year again, and stay safe until then! Ahoi to Fleet Week!

Reflecting Thoughts on a Year Abroad

Samar and I @ Brooklyn Bridge
Sushi Bar Tribeca
Magnolia Bakery

My second year in New York has come around about 2 and a half months ago. It’s weird how it differs from the first 12 months over here.

The first year abroad was crazy, chaotic, and stuffed with one event after another. Every season had its different highlights, and different things to do. Especially this time of the year was very eventful. First of all, it was the beginning 3 months, and so much exploring, job-seeking, apartment-hunting, friend-making had to be done. Just the thought of having to stay in my apartment for longer than necessary made me feel at unease because I was convinced I would be missing out on life outside. To give the weather some credit, it was one of the most amazing early springs and summers you could dream of for your first stay in a new city. As far as I remember, the end of April and the beginning of May were hitting it off well in the mid-80s (equivalent to 26 degrees Celsius and up). Just a beautiful atmosphere for sightseeing, wandering around, and discovering new parts in the City. Not to mention an early beach visit in April already and tanning by the end of May. You definitely couldn’t top that, even though it was the precursor for the many, consistent heat waves New York was suffering in 2010. At the same time Europe and specifically Germany was not having too much fun in their summer months, which made me appreciate NYC’s weather even more.

Second, it was also a time of turmoil and many deep reflections. The beginning phase was the most crucial one as it was about deciding on the length of my stay: It was up to either a six months time limit or a stay lasting one year and longer. As you can tell, I took the second option and am still here. But I have to admit that it is still a time of reflecting and thinking when it comes to determining how long I will be in New York. I know I will not stay forever or for long – those 8 years of New Yorkness I have seen in others scare the crap out of me.
It is up to the future, of course, and the opportunities that will come around. Finishing up with school is a crucial factor, which I cannot and will not push off for too much longer, and, therefore, it is just a matter of time when I will hit the road again. However, one of the initial feelings has stayed with me until now: The insecurity and indetermination when it comes to knowing when this experience and adventure will end. Which gives me a different feel for life over here. I consider it to be the base of a better, more positive outlook than the one I had before, especially when living in Germany. It gives me the strength and the perspective to appreciate everything that comes along and to see things in a brighter light, even though times are rough over here on occasion. I learned that the present moment is the most important part of our journey and that there is no need to place too much emphasis on the past and the future. Most of the things I need to be happy I already have or I am dreaming of. And dreams are there to be chased.

Third, the degree of contact is another thing I have come to notice in terms of relationships and keeping in touch with my friends from overseas: It has, sadly, diminished over the year, but, on the bright side, this doesn’t seem to affect our feelings we have for each other. I have had a few visitors over while being here. Some were friends I hadn’t seen in 3 years, mostly UWF folks

Sarah and I in Midtown

(thanks, Sarah for stopping by, reconnecting, and introducing me to Amanda!), some were acquaintances I hadn’t really been friends with from the beginning, some were family members who decided to reconnect on this part of the world (thanks, cousins!). Others were friends from Germany I hadn’t seen in a year and who I had known since kindergarten or high school. But I hadn’t had the chance to meet most of the folks from Europe again, since I haven’t paid my home a visit – yet. However, E-Mails and Skype helped a lot in the beginning. Not only in eliminating home sickness, but also in keeping each other updated on everyone’s progress and life. I have come to find, though, that those people who really want to stay in touch, always find a way to do so, and that those who have gone on to a different stage of life have found a way to lose sight. Which is perfectly fine, this is the normal cycle of friendship, I suppose. After one year it seems hard on both sides to keep writing updates and telling each other some new stuff. However, I know that I will always be able to rely on certain people, even though I haven’t heard from them in almost six months (yes, you know who I am talking about! haha). It is more important to be able to have a good time when meeting up again and feeling that, albeit many things have happened, not much has changed, and not much will affect the relationship. I am proud to say that I do have some friends who will fit into this category and this makes me master the hard times over here so much better.

The older I get, the more I come to see that it is easier to meet new people, start some small talk, and maybe even keep in touch than it was when I was younger. I have been able to find some new friends over here, too – some of which have stayed, some of which have gone back to their home country. However, I cannot shake of the impression that my purest and deepest friendships have their roots in the past and have been formed many years ago. Which makes the circumstance that I am still friends with some of these even more special. And if a visit to far-far-away has made me form this conclusion, it was definitely worth the trouble. I therefore thank you for being there, although you are not here in person. You have helped a lot!