Lost In Translation

There’s something to be said about a “stay-cation”.

I mean, besides the obvious “I’m trying to save money.”

It’s an opportunity to discover new things in your hometown that you may not have had the time or inclination to, had you not had the luxury of unused vacation days at your disposal.

For me, it was a chance to catch up with some friends and family, get in touch with my silly side dressing up for a Halloween party, and watching people undress during a jazz/burlesque show.

But it was the final day of “stay-cay” that would bring the most discovery, and ultimately affect me more than any afro-wig sporting, or semi-nude debauchery could.

With my newly found block of time, I was able to re-awaken my dormant relationship with NY Cares and volunteer for a new program. Having already worked with children, the idea of working with women of Arab descent was a new challenge I was game for. As a volunteer, we were required to have “empowering conversations with the women in English”, which seemed more like a cake-walk upon first glance.

For the most part… it was.

As my fellow volunteers and I entered the room of women who were fresh off their English language teachings, we were initially taken aback by the large number of them that had gathered. With four of us to their twenty-plus number, it was daunting at first trying to figure out how to incorporate all the women into our conversations. One of the veterans of the program — clearly a pro — began by getting all the women to say their name and tell us where they’re from and if they had children and how many. It turned out to be a great ice breaker, as the women revealed their children’s genders and numbers, which segued into jokes about the boy/girl ratio in the room and how they perhaps chose their seats in the room based on the gender of the kids.

As class progressed, we discussed the Arab holiday that had recently passed, for which they brought in a feast of dishes to celebrate amongst each other following the class. They asked us about our religious holidays and what they mean to us, and a poignant moment occurred when the women learned that Christians attend mass on Christmas Eve. Apparently, they were stunned to find out that much the way they attend mosque prayers leading into their holidays, Americans partake in a similar ritual. One of the women, who spoke perfect English, declared “so we are all the same.”

If that had been how our session concluded, I would have been content in what could easily be called a “kumbaya” moment. But there was more time left. And eventually we had to break out into groups to have more in-depth chats.

So it was here where the real education happened.

In a room filled with women hailing from Yemen, Sudan and Sri Lanka, we were adeptly maneuvering through small talk about family, favorite foods and parks in New York when the women excitedly volunteered to read their assigned paragraphs to me and looked for guidance when they had difficulty with words. Honored by the gesture and happy to be instrumental in improving their grasp of the language, I listened and gently ushered them through their selected paragraphs — even after realizing every one of them were negative.

As I listened to stories of friendships being endangered by one’s lack of reliability and phone etiquette, of a girl who thought she told funny stories until her mother informed her she’s not always funny, and of a man who will never be fat because he’s a light eater who prefers fish sandwiches and vegetables — the part of me that wasn’t coaching them through pronunciation and complimenting them on completing their paragraphs was horrified!

The idea of being there to have “empowering” conversations with women who are being taught to speak with condescension was troubling, but the fact that most — if not all — of the women there to learn the native tongue of their new adopted home had no idea they were being taught this was even more troubling. I’d probably be standing on a soapbox if the people responsible for this were American by birth… but they’re not.

As I looked at these smiling women, who spoke with pride of their families, prodded me about my own (non)marital status, offered me food and laughed with shyness and perhaps a little spirit, it became clearer that a lot of what we perceive about each other is simply based on what we are taught or told by those we consider “experts”. It would give me the greatest pleasure if one of the women became so adept at understanding the language that she realizes and corrects the well-intended but slightly offensive “curriculum” being shared with her fellow classmates.

In spite of the lesson, it was an amazing experience to see so many women, young and old, unafraid of taking on a new challenge in their lives… lives which in their respective parts of the world could have been limited to simply being wives and mothers.

At the end of the day, I may have taught them how to pronounce a few words and phrases, but they taught me a lesson or two.

Sure, that kind of story doesn’t have the shock value of chicks with strategically placed tassels, but it’s less likely to give me panic attacks in the event I miss yoga class.

Who needs to get on a plane, when Brooklyn is just a train ride away and has just as many adventures? A metrocard can give you all the excitement of Vegas, and the international intrigue of a UN mission.

Needless to say, the Tuesday recap at the office was interesting…

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Jurist’s Diction

Like many others before me, the thought of serving Jury Duty was ranked in the company of things like root canal surgery when it came to experiences you’d prefer to avoid as long as humanly possible.

But strangely, once that document with the red line arrived in my mailbox, a slight sense of relief came over me.

I think it had something to do with my fear of being arrested for avoiding it for as long as I had. There was genuine concern that someone would find me and put me in a holding cell for not performing my civic duty.

So here I was, slightly annoyed, relieved, frightened and intrigued by the idea of serving.

The intrigue was to be blamed on Dick Wolf.

He’s the man who brought all 700 versions of “Law & Order” to the television-watching masses. He and his crafty bunch of writers made the idea of sitting in a courtroom witnessing someone break down and confess to grisly crimes at the behest of sharp cross-examining tactics seem like a crazy way to spend the day.

Surely, if you can withstand getting sucked into a week-long, nonstop marathon of L&W episodes on basic cable, then this should be a cake-walk, right?

Well… truth is… it’s not the same.

At all.

The gut check of being thrust into a real-life jury duty experience is similar to finding out your parents are Santa and the Tooth Fairy.

Once you’ve gotten past the not exactly unpleasant hump of being in a room with other people utilizing the downtime to catch up on books and get some uninterrupted work accomplished, you get selected and sent like cattle to slaughter into a courtroom that reveals the reality; the one where cops don’t look like Chris Noth and Jeremy Sisto, nor do they have the personality of Richard Belzer. And lawyers could only aspire to have Angie Harmon or Elizabeth Rohm’s hair.

It quickly becomes clear that the depictions you logged hours of your life absorbing may perhaps be slightly glorified.

Beyond the slick physical presentation and delivery of various laws and “objections”, the courtroom itself is portrayed as a magical place where justice — or at least high drama — is served.

What it really is, is a quiet place that feels cold and almost soul draining; that consumes you in a sea of sullen faces, dozing court officers and audience members who spend five minutes opening a very loud candy wrapper (everything is noticeably pronounced when you’re sitting in perpetual silence for hours). It’s a room where you can feel as if you are on trial, given the number and personal nature of the questions asked before you are either selected for or excused from deciding the fate of another human being.

It was in a room like this that myself and eleven other strangers spent several days getting acquainted with laws, lackluster attorneys and a feisty female judge. It was in a room like this where I realized that not everything is an open and shut case, and the truth doesn’t always reconcile with the law.

…It is in that room where I now understood why some of the most controversial verdicts in history were made.

In a case where the most excitement occurred when a defense attorney got into a brief shouting match with a police officer he was cross-examining (finally… drama!), there was very little mystery (or evidence) that would permit any of us to have bragging rights or a profound anecdote as takeaways from the experience.

What we did get… unexpectedly of course… was much more.

Upon reaching a unanimous — and speedy — verdict of “not guilty”, twelve strangers piled into a courthouse elevator for the last time to go home. This time, we were joined by a man we set free. Almost conditionally, we reacted with slight panic and hesitation, because here… next to us… was still a man who had been charged with a crime. As we nervously sought each other’s eyes to validate our decision and seek to feel at ease, this man — who had only moments before been portrayed as a heartless thug — turned to us, thanked us, and then proceeded to cry.

And just like that… with men giving him assuring pats on the back, and women wiping away tears of their own, we disbursed into the unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon and watched a man begin his new life and bask in his freedom.

So while I didn’t witness any grand speeches and mind-blowing arguments or reveals on the level of Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”, or even Reese Witherspoon in”Legally Blonde” (a movie that I do believe may have influenced the career choice of one of our jurists), witnessing the system at work was indeed something to behold.

But any longer than a week, and you might end up on the other side of the law for harming a fellow juror.

I’m kidding.

Sort of.

Southern Discomfort

Although it’s been said many times, many ways… this girl is a native “New Yawker”.

Born and raised in Queens. Did ten years in Brooklyn. Newly minted as a Harlemite as of one and a half-year ago. Aside from an extremely brief stint in Savannah during my infant/toddler years, I have never called another city or state home.

And yet… here I sit mentally cognizant of a faint and distinctive drawl that has managed to stick in the few days that I’ve just spent there while visiting my father.

The last time I checked, I wasn’t Kerry Washington in character for “Ray”, so this really isn’t going to work for me.

Fortunately, the twang is the only thing I picked up from my little visit to Georgia — although it could be said that the manners, affinity for fried things, and lack of urgency occasionally displayed could also be indicators that my ancestry definitely ain’t from the north.

It’s fascinating how, in a matter of a few days (and sometimes within moments) of being in Savannah, I’m always reminded of how different life and people can be when it comes to a little bit of geography.

It always amazes and terrifies me to be in a city that presumably has more hospitals, hospices, and pharmacies that boldly advertise diabetic treatment than a swath of the country. That I can also find a massive number of fast-food and chain restaurants, with a majority of the population packed into every one of them at any given hour, indicates more than just a passing indulgence or PMS-induced craving for anything that smacks of a cholesterol or cardiovascular nightmare.

Maybe it appears more so when you’re from a densely populated place occupied by a few million people — many of whom run, eat raw or organic things, and contemplate selling their kids for a space at Soul Cycle.

It’s also interesting, and helpful, to know that if I want “exotic” fare such as Indian, Mexican, Sushi or Thai food, the wait to get into those places are nonexistent since the natives steer clear of anything foreign — ironic (or prophetic, depending on perspective) — since Savannah is a military town.

Yes, I’m a city girl. I like my newscasters glamorous and equipped with the ability to read teleprompters with the ease and grace of someone who has either perfect vision or respectable corrective surgery. I’m resigned to believe that not all eyewitnesses bare resemblance to Sweet Brown. I prefer attempted suitors to not have baggy, low slung pants or call me “ma’am”. I didn’t realize there were still people in the world using paper checks to pay for things — better yet defrauding store clerks with them. That the latter was done by a very large black man dressed up as a woman is all the more horrifying and down right hilarious! (C’mon… a fake check and a fake chick?? I mean… really??)

But a part of me loves the smell of rain, and walking barefoot in it. Loves looking up at a night sky full of stars. Gets joy out of cracking crabs with my bare hands and doing it “just so”, so the meat comes out of the leg perfectly intact. Eats pecans until I catch a “bad one”. Walks the cobble stones of River Street with full knowledge that centuries ago my relatives congregated there to both buy — and be sold as — slaves.

Alas, these are Summer pleasures… so it was waayyy too cold for that!

As convenient as it may be to see an Oscar nominated movie like “Silver Linings Playbook” in a theater of about ten people (none of which were of my ethnicity) on a Friday night, there’s an overall feeling of loneliness that can quickly wash over you. In New York, it’s a self-imposed isolation that comes with the refusal of finding an outlet among the thousands available at the flick of a Time Out magazine page. In Georgia, it’s a bit more palpable.

Sometimes I make the mistake of believing I’m adaptable to any environment because I can pick up a dialect or digest a meal in various parts of the world without much fanfare… only to discover I’m a “fish out of water” in my country of birth.

That’s the funny thing about the American South. As “inclusive” as the country claims and dictates itself to be, there will always be a part of it that subtly reminds the rest of us that it was never their idea or desire to embrace the transition. And as archaic as some of the ideals may be, there’s almost a certain beauty and admirable quality in their defiance to maintain certain traditions.

…Except when it comes to elections and anything legislative. Then, they’re just irritating. Thankfully, the food is significantly more palatable and digestible than the politics, although it can initially be deceiving since everything seems like a good idea when southern hospitality is involved. For all I know, Paula Deen could be a fascist, but her hoecakes are so amazing that I may inadvertently vote for a Bush in the next election.

Still, none of this has good long-term effects on the heart.

In the meantime, perhaps there’s a future for me in voice-over work.

Ironically, I do not have a New York accent.

Suddenly, I have an urge to go juice something and watch a “Law & Order” marathon.

In The Dark

Night has fallen here in New York.

Normally, it would be a welcome sight. I’d look out the window at the Jersey skyline reflecting on the Hudson River, and find a comfort in the simple beauty of it.

Tonight, it brings me pause and even haunts me.

Seven nights ago, the lights went out in the midst of what would end up being the most devastating natural disaster to hit the city that I can recall as a native New Yorker. Even as it was happening, I was still somewhat sheltered from its impact; the initial terror of moving around in pitch blackness was replaced with sitting in a hotel bar dripping in candlelight, drinking a “dark and stormy”. The serenade of the wind against the windows was briefly usurped by one of the servers crooning “Hey Jude” on the piano as a respite from our guests reality.

By the next afternoon when my journey back home to Harlem began, it was still unknown to me the severity of the damage the city had sustained. We listened to the radio, but couldn’t fathom anything beyond closed airports. Sure, I’d seen a building with no facade just a block from my workplace… and a hanging crane as I made my way midtown. But it wasn’t until the pictures and video footage started surfacing on news channels and websites that Sandy had truly been recognized as a monster.

Despite the images and personal stories inundating the media, it still never hit home to me. Upon returning, my neighborhood was bustling and filled with people going on their way and blissfully resuming their local routines. My relatives in Staten Island were untouched. A friend sent me a video of the damage his friend’s house sustained. On Facebook, friends posted about losing power and finding refuge with other friends and family. Others lost their cars. One former colleague actually did suffer major damage to her home of only two weeks. While bothered by their misfortune, I was mostly distracted by sickness and the unexpected restlessness that overcame me in place of sleep. Donating money to the Red Cross was a quick and easy way to alleviate the guilt I felt for spending my days in the comfort of my own home medicating my troubles away and having the audacity to be stressed.

It wasn’t until I finally left my neighborhood this weekend that it hit me. Strolling the Upper West Side, I came across children having bake sales to raise money for Sandy relief and countless food and supply drives around restaurants and churches.

Today, I spent the day in Chelsea at the Fulton Houses going door-to-door asking residents if they needed blankets and supplies, making sure the elderly and disabled had their medical needs in order, and informing everyone about the warming center being provided by the New York State Housing Authority.

And this is when it truly became real…

When you encounter something akin to a post-apocalyptic scenario — where people are lined up for basic necessities such as food and water — it wakes you up. That it is happening mere doors away from high-end real estate and eateries is all the more sobering.

I take for granted that I grew up in a house in the suburbs of Queens and had my own room. That I’ve had my own apartments and lived for the most part in buildings that have had very little problems with heat and hot water. During the brief time that I lived with several family members, I was a toddler in Georgia and too young to understand any other way. While life has dealt me its share of hardscrabble situations, for the most part it has been charmed in comparison to what I encountered today.

Steps away from some of the poshest addresses in Manhattan, there are people who live about eight to ten deep in buildings with staircases that smell of urine. They reluctantly open doors and look at you skeptically because they don’t want you to know how many people live there. It’s only because you have a kind face and look somewhat like them that they eventually trust that you are genuinely there to help them, but still give you a ballpark figure of how many blankets they need. They refuse the offer for a warming center, but one particularly desperate looking man with two sick children and family uptown starts to reconsider his options after you and your fellow volunteers insist that he does what’s best for the kids. Those that speak very little English need younger relatives to translate that the power they’ve only had for two days is going to be cut off at night to preserve energy, and they should expect it to be fully restored in a week.

It isn’t until you are right there… in that moment… that you can truly see what a person is going through. All the empathy in the world doesn’t make you an expert on what anyone is experiencing until you really see life through their eyes and hear it from their mouths. Everything else is bullshit that allows you to be self-righteous and judgmental… much like political talking heads. We can watch people stand in rubble that used to be their homes, but unless we’re standing there with them, we can’t possibly say “I know what it’s like”.

Looking out my window, a swath of Jersey has vanished from the picturesque skyline. The sight and sounds of military helicopters has become disturbingly normal. Once again, New Yorkers find themselves adapting to a new reality that is both unpalatable and yet necessary for the greater good — like drinking cod liver oil straight.

In this, our darkest hour, one can only hope and pray that as we embark on what has chillingly become a close election, the people will ultimately choose the best man who will lead us all toward the light…

 

Stormy Weathered

“In Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire… hurricanes hardly happen!” – Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Dolittle in “My Fair Lady”

Yesterday at work, I found myself wishing I was in one of those places… but instead I was catering to the needs and calming the nerves of displaced hotel guests who were either stranded by a cancelled flight, evacuated from their homes or having their luxury experience interrupted by mother nature’s wrath in the form of Sandy.

It all began innocently enough. Throughout most of the day it was just windy with a little rain. Locals spent the day typing productively away on their laptops, playing board and card games, and indulging in a cocktail or four. As the day progressed, the energy took a very different direction. The jovial, yet cautious vibe soon became more frustrated and frightened.

This is of course when things truly got interesting…

All the disaster movies and TV dramas in the world don’t prepare you for the range of emotions you go through when you’re in a situation where you are completely powerless. When you have to turn away frantic people who need a place for the night because they can’t stay in their own homes because you have no room. When you are expected to remain calm and overall pleasant when a demanding mother makes numerous outrageous requests. When you find yourself sleeping in a room full of strangers, and someone who shared theirs with one they know asks for their room to be cleaned. When you must find a way to keep children entertained and calm and unaware of the destruction and chaos occurring outside. When you find yourself walking through a hallway and staircase that’s pitch black and using the last of your battery life to illuminate your path. When you must endure an increasingly unpleasant odor that you can still detect in spite of blowing your nose until the skin is raw. When you watch someone attempt to plug an iPad into a generator, as a number of people just want to charge their phones enough to make or take a phone call once service resumes… It makes you wonder.

There came a point in the night — amongst the emergency generated light and candles — when an impromptu piano performance by one of the servers made me unexpectedly weepy. (It could have also been the two and a half hours of sleep I’d gotten prior to working twelve hours with almost no break.)

In any event, I began thinking of the reality of the moment more than the severity; I’d once again found myself working in an industry where myself and my colleagues forgo normal existences where we could be passing those stressful hours in the company of loved ones, to essentially babysit the privileged. Hearing one housekeeper use her colleague’s phone to assure her family in Mandarin that she was fine, and another get an early morning call from her relatives updating her on the news she couldn’t access while the power was out (I need their service carriers) — it was all too clear what sacrifices were made for the needs to support their families. That there were people who took that for granted with absurd requests made me march to the bar, request a “Dark and Stormy”, and retire straight to bed.

It is in moments like those you realize just how fleeting life is. How lonely you are. How important it is to have people who appreciate and enrich you instead of use and take advantage of you.

If you’re anything like me (God help you), you find yourself wishing for someone to weather the storm with. A plus one for all occasions. Someone willing to fight for you like they would their own spawn when you can’t stand up for yourself.

…You also find yourself thinking you’re in a scene out of “Titanic”, which may have precipitated your hasty exit more than the drink and disgust fueled by anxiety and exhaustion.

In a matter of hours… trees and buildings fell, homes and possessions were submerged under water, and people sat in darkness literally and figuratively waiting to learn their fates.

As the daylight began to clear the dark skies and thoughts, I found myself aching to make a call I couldn’t. In the midst of attempting to place guests in other hotels that had power and hot water, my desire to go to my own home grew stronger. When the clouds finally provided an opportunity, I made my escape with pained eyelids, an unforgiving sinus headache, and overworked legs to begin a very long walk home to rest, recover — and start over.

Of course, in that moment of clarity, it struck me around mile three of the six required of my journey, that my African/Native/Scottish migrant lineage was too far removed for me to complete that walk with two bags on my shoulders… and immediately hailed a cab. On my way home, I chatted with the driver — who assured me he was going to be home by nightfall, and made sure to tip him extra.

We don’t all have the power to save trees, buildings or lives — nor can we make people behave in such a way that there’s never disparity toward their fellow human being. But we can control what we build or break with our own words and actions. While observing the hotel manager calmly diffuse an irate guest, that gem of a life lesson was my final takeaway after a very introspective experience.

Some people just get cabin fever. I get philosophical and a fever.

Would rather have Nyquil or Mucinex.

The Week of Champagne and Ice T

At the risk of having Cindy Adams come for me… I must express that the events of last week can truly happen “only in New York”.

Last week, I accompanied one of my girlfriends to a screening in Tribeca of Ice T’s directorial debut “Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap”. The nearly two-hour long documentary was a love letter to the craft of the Rap/Hip Hop genre, in which the former rapper turned actor and reality television star waxes poetic and gets poetic with over thirty-five legendary (and soon to be) hip hop artists.

With a roster that included Big Daddy Kane, KRS One, Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian, Kool Keith, Run DMC, Grandmaster Caz, Afrika Bambaataa, Mc Lyte, DJ Premier, Raekwon, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Nas and Kanye West — to name a few — it was a miracle that Ice was able to edit his four hours of footage to make an entertaining and still relevant movie. That he not only had them speak their mind and occasionally display their varied styles, and manage to squeeze a few classic tracks in for the soundtrack clearly shows his love of the art that got him where he is today, and shows what he’s learned from the lucrative one he currently embraces.

Of course, there will be some questions as to some notable omissions, but the OG director assured the audience it was more a matter of scheduling and content, and encouraged any potential filmmakers in attendance to carry the torch and continue the story. “The artists I included were the ones I had direct contact to,” he explained. “These were the people I came up with and the music I listened to. Y’all can make another movie!”

From my personal thoughts and experience, I felt Ice’s message and the movie was right on time. In a day and age where most “Hip Hop” currently being played on the radio is heavily materialistic and misogynistic, the original storytellers who created songs about struggling with poverty and racism  are becoming forgotten heroes. It’s his hope that the film becomes part of a curriculum for future students to understand the origin and history of the music they’ve come to identify with in various forms, and not to forget those who laid the foundation for the current crop of “entertainers”.

That being said, the move is a must-see for my generation and beyond, and not just for the nostalgia. Sitting across from Ice T (which was a moment in itself), it was hard not to catch the intensity in his face… somewhat akin to that of an artist who just unveiled his masterpiece for the world to interpret. While the rest of us laughed, cheered when we saw our favorite artists and bumped to the familiar tunes, he simply looked at the screen; pleased with the story he had begun and eager to see who would take on the next chapter.

A few days later, I would go from Hip Hop to the Horsey set.

Attending the Fifth Annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic is the only acceptable reason to dress up for a picnic. Although I sadly didn’t bring a large hat to wear, I managed to have a nifty basket on loan which drew lots of envy, and the dubious honor of being one of the relative few “ethnic” attendees.

While I frown upon the obscene markup of the champagne bottles, there is something to be said about taking  a ferry on a sunny Saturday to the picturesque Liberty Island and indulging in a day of watching and meeting beautiful people and Polo players like Nacho Figueras, while sipping bubbly. Yes, the game is essentially an abridged version of soccer played with horses, mallets and smaller balls, but there’s a grace and majesty in it nonetheless that should at least be experienced once.

…And the way I see it, if you’ve owned a garment or fragrance by Ralph Lauren or watched “Pretty Woman”, it’s sort of rite of passage, really.

It’s all the more fun when you’re there with a globe-trotting, social-climbing bestie, who serves up wicked commentary on fashion and feet faux pas while on the prowl for his next heiress. Sadly, he only got to take pictures with a bevy of leggy models and a few fierce sisters. Tough life. 

And what were they playing at this upscale soiree, where Clive Owen, Rachel Zoe, Zoe Saldana, and Padma Lakshmi whooped it up in VIP, and men wearing boater hats and cravats bought bottles of Veuve in nifty carrying cases to share with women dressed in their finest CFDA-approved outfits? Biggie, Jay-Z and Kanye, of course!

Upon return to the island of Manhattan, while the polo masses headed to Beauty & Essex — no doubt to partake of even more champagne in the ladies room (seriously, my friends and I spent a good half hour or more in there once) — I joined the rest of Brooklyn for a night of music, comradery and art with free admission at the Brooklyn Museum’s Target First Saturdays.  Surveying the crowd, I knew Ice T would have had a proud papa look to see the mass of men, women and children dancing to what is now old-school Hip Hop.

It only seemed appropriate to end the night having faux-southern cuisine at Pies N’ Thighs in the hipster enclave that is now Williamsburg. A day full of juxtapositions called for mac and cheese that seemed more “gourmet” than “Georgia”.

I can, and will, go so many places in this world, but only in New York can I have a week, a night, and a life that allows me to be all things and still remain true to myself… and have a blast learning in the process.

There might be a Jay-Z song for that…

 

 

New York… State of Mine

Lately, I’ve been seeing a pattern amongst my friends and some of their friends.

Many intelligent and amazing people have been exiting New York en masse to find new and improved quality lives beyond the Big Apple. The challenges of finding a home and work balance and true love in a city where millions are doing the same become increasingly more complex with high costs of living and scarcity of negotiable options all around.

Admittedly, as a native New Yorker, I have contemplated leaving my beloved home state. There have been days when I consider the uncertainty of many things in my life, and wonder if perhaps a change in scenery would be the kind of jolt I need to be inspired and motivated to successfully kickstart the next chapter of it. Admittedly, I would have to finally get that darn driver’s license I’ve felt little desire to get in my 30-plus years of life. When you are spoiled by public transportation and healthy strong legs, the idea of being confined to a vehicle and held hostage by traffic and the notion of paying as much for gas as one does for groceries is absurd.See, native New Yorker mentality (emphasis on “mental”).

Yes, I dream of a life where I have a fulfilling career, a doting husband and maybe a child or two (if it’s a twin — keeping it real). In a perfect world, I’d be spending my nights on the couch getting a foot massage after a home cooked meal, as opposed to watching basketball, eating take-out and perusing social networking sites… alone.

…But a girlfriend said that no matter where you go, you are taking you with you.

As difficult as living in the city has become over the last few years, I feel it’s every New Yorker’s duty to face it and endure — or risk betraying the strength and resilience the city and its people have become best known for.

Maybe in some cases, there truly is a better life beyond those bridges, but I’m personally not willing to give up on this place just yet to find it. This city is both cruel and good to me, and my love for it is strong to the point of unwavering at times.

Either I’m a glutton for punishment, or a hopeless romantic. One thing’s for sure: I am a New Yorker.