When the New York City skyline came into sight for the first time, 5 months after I’d moved away, I started crying.
I was mid-way through applying eyeliner in the rearview mirror because I was late to a “Welcome Home” dinner with my friends (… I changed out of my airplane outfit in the Budget Rental Car bathroom at JFK), and had an overwhelming moment of feeling like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I had never been happier to see hot, dirty air and a bunch of tall buildings in my life. I was back in town for the first time since I left for my Remote Year journey, and planned to spend one night catching up with friends in the city followed by a week in the Hamptons for a wedding and the 4th of July. To me, this was heaven.
From the minute I made it over the Williamsburg bridge, falling back into life as I had known it was effortless: Dinner with my #LadyHoyas at Jack’s Wife Frieda, across the street from my old apartment. A 7am workout class at 305 Fitness. Breakfast at Bluestone Lane. Nails/eyebrows/bikini wax at my go-to salon. Catching up on work at Grey Dog. Panic-shopping for wedding shoes on Bleecker Street. Nearly half of a year had gone by, and nothing had changed.
Once I got to the Hamptons, I spent night after night drinking rosé on my best friend’s back porch (aka my happy place), surrounded by people who I love like my own family, feeling happier than I have in months. It was the first time I’d been able to speak openly and honestly — in person — to someone about how I was feeling: I miss New York. I’m not as over-the-moon happy with my life as it tends to look on Instagram. Living with a boy for the first time, a million miles from my best friend and roommate of 6 years, is really, really hard. I have no idea wtf I’m doing with my life, career-wise. And, the hardest thing to admit of all: I’m not 100% sure that continuing on the program is the right thing for me.
… It was a whole lot of self-indulgent word vomit, but it felt good.
When it came time to fly to Lisbon, the city I had most been looking forward to living in on my entire year-long itinerary, I didn’t want to get on the plane. I could barely speak the entire day before I left because I was so afraid I’d burst into tears. Saying goodbye to everyone — particularly my best friend — for the second time was even harder than it had been the first one because now I knew that our lives really did go on without each other, and that they may not ever intersect in quite the same way ever again.
On the way back to Europe, my mind was racing. Did I leave New York too early? Should I have waited until my career was in a more stable place? Until more of my friends started marrying off and moving to the suburbs? My quarter-life crisis seemed to come at the exact moment when everyone else was starting to figure their own shit out. Two of my closest friends are engaged. More than half of them have new, amazing jobs. Nearly everyone I know is in the genuine thralls of a “career,” while I’m picking up unreliable freelance work and stumbling every time I try to answer the question, “So what do you like to write about?” Their lives all make sense… Mine just feels like one big, giant, airplane-enabled mess.
Throughout the last few months, I’ve thrown around the phrase “getting out of my comfort zone” a lot. It’s a Remote Year mantra, and the main reason that most people (including me) decided to do this crazy program in the first place. During this most recent trip, it became more clear than ever that New York, my friends, my old workout studio/nail salon/favorite cafe are my comfort zone. They’re what make me feel the most me, something that’s been missing while I’ve been of living out of a suitcase and struggling to adapt to my surroundings. It sounds cheesy and crazy, but every moment of being home felt like I was being wrapped in a great, big metaphorical hug… in addition to all of the literal hugs that I probably held onto for a few seconds too long. And it seems like no matter how comfortable I become, or I think I become, with this whole digital nomad lifestyle, it is never, ever going to be able to replace that feeling. Plus, there are far fewer people willing to let me randomly embrace them outside of Manhattan.
But like I said — that’s exactly why I’m here. To push myself beyond “comfortable,” and to be the person who actually gets on the plane even though every bone in my body was begging me to do the easy thing and just stay home. And FYI? When I finally did make it to Lisbon, the craziest thing happened: I fell immediately into a work/life routine within two days of being in a city that I’d never lived in before. It may not be as easy or as comfortable as what I’m used to, but it’s growth. And, at for at least the next seven months, I need to embrace these growing pains are my new normal. Because comfort is overrated, right?