Some people dream their whole lives of coming to New York City. I dreaded it. Oh sure. I love the diversity. The scene. The music. The industry. The history. The art. The media. The life. But New York City? No. I never loved it. I have more romantic feelings towards Bakersfield, Calif., with its -5 percent black population and Republican stronghold because it had the right geography for my illness.
Easy to learn. Quick to get around.
It was small. And I do small well. This is why when in 2009 when I did my big Snob tour from Boston to NYC to D.C. I wound up making Washington, D.C. my home for three years. Sure, there was a huge black professional class, politics, the Obamas and tons of history, but D.C.'s best feature was that it had everything a big city had, but it was as small as Bakersfield. I mastered the Metro, the buses, the cabs, the streets in a matter of a few months.
New York seemed to always trigger the worst of my illness due to the overwhelmingness of the EVERYTHING that makes New York... New York. The noise. Tons of people living on top of each other. The crowds. The subway. The ten-thousand year old, now blackened chewing gum on the sidewalk. How every day seemed like garbage pick up day from the amount of black bags piled on the street corners. The lights. The colors. The concrete. I couldn't turn it off. My OCD is the least strongest feature in my illness, but it comes full force in New York. And because I have the least practical exprience with my OCD, it's the one I handle the worst. It's the sort of thing that makes me fly into a rage because no matter how much you clean you can't get rid of dirt older than you on a NYC pre-war apartment floor short of blowing it all up and starting all over again. It's the sort of thing where I'm so exhausted by the end of the day that if my friends -- first Hopi and later, Jada -- can't come get me I just devolve into tears and dysfunction.
I wasn't built for this place.
So I do a lot of planning. Every route (and its alternatives) are mapped out in advance. And I had a rule that while I could move anywhere and survive if all my jobs fell through and ended up broke, NYC was not a place I ever wanted to be while poor. I wasn't moving here unless I had the sort of job that could afford me enough to avoid most of the inconveinces and ... on those days when I no longer had the mental capacity to ignore black spots of 10,000 year old gum on the subway concrete ... cab fare.
It feels weird to be so frustrated and unhappy in NYC, when "in theory" I should love the place. Every town I've lived in I've wanted to live downtown where "life" was. I detested the very suburbs that had spawned me in North St. Louis County. I have a job I always wanted, writing for TV. The job feels very much meant to be because of the awesomeness of the principles involved. But then there's New York with all its New Yorkness threatening my retreat at every turn. Careerwise, it's the best city ever. Mental health-wise, short of moving to a new country altogether and experiencing Culture Shock, it's pretty bad.
The person who, bless his heart, is on the frontlines of me just being emotionally raw at the end of the day is my closest friend of what feels like forever, but is probably just five years, Jada Prather. I'm not exactly known for having things such as A) a temper, B) emotional unstability, C) irrationability, D) low self-esteem, E) irritability and F) overwhelming saddness, but that's what happens to me when I'm in New York at the end of the day. Pretty much anything can set it off. Right now my biggest triggers are "Got lost trying to navigate the subway" and "I miss Washington, D.C./St. Louis." I'm sure he's wondering what did he do to inherint someone who, typically, is the "grown-up" one, and now, at least once a day, goes to a place of pure irrationality simply because I mentally can't keep it together anymore. I'm just too tired and angry. I don't like getting sweaty. I don't like people touching me. I don't like having to be on guard. I don't know what to tune out and what to pay attention to. So I just walk around on 10 all the time, trying not to pop off. By the end of the day all I want to do is go to sleep or cry, then go to sleep.
The crazy part is if I can survive this first month, it will be like it never happened. Because it usually takes me about two to four weeks to create coping mechanism and "accept" my situation, finding viable solutions. I dealt with confusion, sadness, frustration, OCD and depression in every city I've ever moved to those first few months. I only remember D.C. fondly because I no longer remember those first three months when I struggled, or how six months in I started losing my sense of taste and smell from stress after I was laid off. Now I just remember how much fun I had and all my friends and how the Metro was cleaner than NYC's subway. And I'll eventually forget this -- hating the subway and New York. There's a chance that if I'm here longer than six months to a year, I'll love it. But it is a bigger adjustment than any of those other places. Or maybe it isn't. I do recall being frustrated as I drove around Bakersfield, Calif. those first few months wondering why-oh-why did I keep getting lost? It's all a process. And the only way to get over anxiety and fear is to keep confronting it over and over until you learn.
Sure, I'll still probably burst into tears a few more times after work between now and Christmas, but if I didn't do that I wouldn't be me. I'm a sensitive creature. But even in all that, shit, I still want to be here. I chose to be here. I want this, professionally, so the part of me who hates it will just have to deal.