By the time I was 12 years old I was riding the buses and subways all over the five boroughs by myself. That was also the same year that I took multiple solo bus trips from New York City’s Port Authority up to my summer camp in Western Massachusetts. At the time I did not understand the look of horror when other passengers on the bus, all taller than me asked if I was traveling alone. By the time I was 16, I was regularly taking the bus from midtown Manhattan to Upstate New York to spend the weekend with friends. I’m a New Yorker through and through. I can calculate the advanced algebraic equations of the New York City subway system track changes/holiday schedule/interrupted service/switching to local/then possibly a bus/then back on the train at 3 am. Without fail, every time I get into a taxi cab I am the one giving the driver directions and showing him roundabout ways to get me where I need to go. I’m a New Yorker.
Or so I thought.
I have traveled all over the world and lived in almost every nook and cranny of the United States, but I always came back home. “Home” was either my sprawling loft on Elizabeth Street in Nolita or my beach house in Breezy Point or my family’s farmhouse in Upstate New York. At age 27 I purchased a co-op in Brooklyn Heights, and “Home” became a treelined street of brownstones and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
In 2011, I packed up my dog, my camping equipment and some clothes and drove West. I had been spending one week per month in Los Angeles for the past year, and something about the distance from anyone I knew coupled with beaches, mountains, and continuously blooming bougainvillea captured my heart. I went with no connections or support and began building a small life for myself in the Hollywood Hills. But despite my desire for space and the unknown, I would fly “Home” every chance I got.
In 2012, my beach house was submerged in water due to Hurricane Sandy and eventually the property had to be torn down and sold as it was damaged beyond repair. With it went so much memorabilia that would now live for eternity on the bottom of the ocean floor. “Home” became a bittersweet place that reminded me more of what I had lost throughout all the years I had loved it.
And thus began my back and forth. The push and pull. Los Angeles sure was pretty especially since I spent most of my time in Malibu, but New York had culture and grit. Men in Los Angeles spoke a different language. I found an endless stream of wanna-be Peter Pan’s struggling with the constant denial of their Oedipal complexes. Truth and integrity didn’t seem to be a priority, and in the end, most of them lived with their mothers or wanted to marry their mother. It wasn’t for me. And so I dated on the opposite coast and welcomed all the stress that dating someone in another time zone can bring. None of it worked. I could never really be where my feet were. I wondered if my love affair with New York was mere “Saudade” or the wanting love that one has for something they can never have again.
In 2013, I quit my job in Los Angeles packed up my car again and drove to New York. I ended up in Upstate New York where I had spent so much of my childhood. Alone in a farmhouse on 107 acres, I wondered if I should give Los Angeles another try. There was something I craved about the constant aloneness that I felt there. And so I found myself bouncing back and forth between the corners of a triangle that included New York, Los Angeles, and whatever rebound city I felt like throwing into the mix. Hawaii made a solid effort, Big Sur was hard to leave, Portland gave it her best shot, and Napa was a waste of time.
When I found myself back in Los Angeles yet again, I stumbled upon this article in the New Yorker and had a minor Aha! moment. I had to break the cycle. So why not treat cities the way I treat relationships? Anytime I found myself positioned between unsuitable suitors I always dropped off the grid and had a secret love affair that no one would ever know about with someone no one would ever suspect. And it was always magic.
Cut to me quitting my job in Los Angeles and packing up my house. I took one last look at the 101 freeway and drove to the mountains of Jackson Hole, Wyoming in March of this year. No one suspected it, even I had my doubts, but once I arrived and breathed in the familiar mountain air, I knew I had made the right decision. I had lived in Jackson 13 years ago, and it always held a special place in my heart. So often during the last decade, moving back to Jackson seemed like a possibility but something always came up like yet another dance with Los Angeles or giving New York another shot.
Last week I flew to New York for a mix of work and pleasure and for the first time, it no longer felt like home. I no longer felt an inexplicable gravitational pull. I searched for it. I went to my old haunts. I saw the best of what New York had to offer, I even stayed in my apartment in Brooklyn Heights, but I felt nothing. After the initial shock wore off, I was flooded with relief. I found myself craving sun-filled mornings in my house by the mountains and counting down the minutes until I could head to the airport. On the plane ride to Jackson, I watched back to back episodes of Californication and laughed a lot easier at the jokes than I ever have. Because it wasn’t my life anymore.
The sun had just set as I descended into Jackson Hole airport. The entire Teton mountain range was black and jagged against a glowing dark blue sky. I stepped off the plane, looked up toward the blanket of stars and realized that “Home” is finally exactly where my feet are. And for that I am grateful.