Were I to write my memoirs, one day far from now, and I just might, depending on how everything turns out, the organization of the chapters would be easy. I would organize them by location. That is how my memory is organized. Not by event, not by year nor age, but by location.
Okinawa. I was born and lived in a little Okinawan village for a mere 5 weeks before my marine father was stationed back to Virginia. Quantico. This is the only house we lived in which I was an only child before my mother found roaches in my crib and said to hell with base housing and bought a townhouse in Woodbridge. Woodbridge. My brother Kevin and sister Jessica joined the family, I have my first memories of pre-school and playing with these really awesome plastic dolls with clothes that popped on and off.
You get the idea.
All in all, I've moved 12 times, not counting moves to new apts/houses within the same town and not always to a place I've never been before. I have in actuality lived in Woodbridge, VA, Fredericksburg, VA and Camp Lejeune, NC twice each, all on separate occasions. If you add up all the years non-consecutively, I've lived in Fredericksburg the longest at 8 years, the state of Virginia 12 years followed closely by North Carolina at 10 years, with California at 3 years and Rhode Island at a meager 1 year. This August made 6 years in New York City, narrowly beating out Greensboro, NC (5 years) for the longest I've ever lived in once place consecutively. So while leaving NYC has come somewhat naturally, it will without a doubt be the hardest place to leave. It has, throughout these past 6 years, pushed itself into the highest ranking one person can have- the place that one calls home.
NYC. I remember my excitement when I moved to NYC in August of 2004, nervous to start the graduate program at the Manhattan School of Music, and overwhelmed by the seemingly dense vastness of the city. As I got more comfortable with the more gritty parts of the city, I marveled at the fact that I could potentially go hear not one show, but a whole festival of music on any given night. And the food, oh the food!!! Indian, Korean, Thai, Pizza! I quickly learned to love the small bodegas and rejoiced when I no longer considered the subway system complex. My out-of-town friends would ask when I was coming back to the south, yet I couldn't imagine ever living anywhere else. But over the years, I fell into the cliche that is the jaded New Yorker. And now, I feel suffocated, lost in the millions of dreamers sludging their way from subway line to subway line, searching for their one chance, their one big break that will make them shine just a little brighter than the masses. What was once a fiery, passionate love affair, has dulled into humdrum and resentment.
Rome. The next chapter. Europe. A continent hardly known to this military brat full of new cultures, languages, foods, music and experiences to be had. A city rich in history, food, and of course, vino! And even better, a city that is only a short cheap flight away from other history steeped cities. If music is my biggest passion, travel is a close second. I dream of figuring out a way to be a musical journalist- traveling to places and writing music to reflect my experiences. It is in my soul to explore new places and learn everything possible about them. Living in NYC, you get glimpses at other cultures- a good Indian restaurant can seemingly transport you to southern India, or walk through Chinatown and you can almost imagine what Hong Kong might be like. But the experiences are brief as you jump on the 1 train home and are quickly reminded that you can be no other place but NYC. But to live there, speak the language, eat the local fruits & veggies, relish in the history, hear the music... that is an experience that can not be replicated with a trip to Little Italy. Many would argue the same about living in NYC, and I would agree with them. But after six years, and as I pass my 32nd birthday and realize how much younger I'm not getting, I feel the need to move on, if only temporarily.
It's not you, it's me. Since my excited Facebook announcement a few weeks ago that I was moving to Rome, many, an alarming many, have asked if it was because I was finally fed up with NYC. Wow, how we love to hate on NYC! But I would be lying if I said it had nothing to do with frustrations with the Big Apple. Frustrations with the Education Department, the cost of living, lack of opportunity and certain aspects of the music scene have definitely been the cause of more than a few gray hairs over the past few years. But, to blame it all on the city would be irresponsible. NYC is tough, but doesn't pretend to be otherwise. For as many walls I seem to repeatedly hit, I see others climb right over. I have often compared NYC to a simple cup of coffee- it's addictive with the capability of being refined, invigorating, and inspiring, or contrarily bitter, weak, and downright depressing. It's up to you how you wish to brew your cup, and only the clever and creative can overcome excuses such lack of resources or high overhead. For six years I've been refining the fine art of NYC coffee, I think it's time for me to end this bad romance in return for a bottomless cup of Italian espresso!
Cheesy coffee analogies and Lady Gaga references aside, I will say that I am making this move for a myriad of reasons, many quite personal that I don't care to delve into just yet. I wish I could report that I had been given this great opportunity to work there and that was the reason for relocating. But it's more like I'm taking advantage of a lack of opportunity here. I have allowed New York to become stagnant. I can not face another year of teaching private lessons to the spoiled suburban youth of Westchester, trying to decide between paying rent or having the band play another gig, all the while suffering a stress induced writer's block. I need to be shaken up, re-inspired, breath new air, hear new things, taste new tastes. I need to see new places, learn new things and meet new people. I need to do what I've been doing my whole life, I need to move forward, I need to move!
The truth is, at its core, my life will be about the same. I will still be writing, teaching, copying, and scraping together enough euros for rent. Joseph, my boyfriend who is embarking on this adventure with me, and I will still probably continue our "loveshare" method of eating ("loveshare" being a term a lady at a nearby table at Chipotle dubbed when she saw us splitting a burrito, chips, and drink). But it will be new and fresh, and hopefully that will be enough to jump start my passions that have been dulled by the daily grind of NYC.
It's a bit ironic, but upon my departure from NYC, I now consider myself a New Yorker. I will from now on call NYC my home and plan to return to it as often as economically possible. My sabbatical to Rome and possibly other European cities will not be forever- I don't want them to be. I fully plan to return to NYC after this European tryst runs its course. New York, like any good romance, will always be in my heart, the place I return to, the place I love and hate. Rome will be my new residence, but New York will remain my home.