“Shit, I think I like stress. It’s my friend. I hate meditation and happy thoughts. I can only function when pressure rides high.” Cue the depressing 90’s alternative rock.
When I blew the candles on my thirty-three year old birthday cake, the pursuit of happiness stopped. Ironically, it made me a much more fulfilled person. Initially, it was fueled with my move back to California.
New York encompassed all things, which made me very grumpy. Crowds, bugs, perpetual noise, stairs (oh, god, so many stairs), a shrinking middle class, and superficiality morphed Gotham into my worst nightmare.
I’d sit out form my fire escape, bored with the constant sea of tenements. I longed to see mountains and hear chirping crickets. I decided to trade Manhattan for Riverside, CA (my hometown).
When my plane took off at LaGuardia Airport, traffic flowed below. People were going to work. Someone new would call my Harlem studio, home. Some lucky gal or fellow would take over my old job, with great benefits. My life now belonged to the rolling hills, coffee shops, and orange groves of the Inland Empire.
As I crossed the Hudson, the world was still held together. The flight across the nation reminded me of prosperity. Obama care, gay marriage, and a society slightly more united had its influence from rural prairies to Los Angeles.
Within the first six months in Southern California, the Orlando massacre shook the nation. Donald Trump was elected president. (On a more personal note) I had failed both my teaching exams, and returned to college, to obtain a second bachelor’s degree.
My New York neurosis didn’t depart, even in laid-back California. With the state of the world and professional setbacks, I became quite agitated. I longed to return to my very own “age of innocence” (thank you, Edith Wharton).
The last few years in New York had its turbulent moments. It was also a time of stability. Steady apartment, job, routine and familiarity provided a safety net. However, I needed a professional change. Teaching was more ideal.
In California, more challenges, reinventions, and unexpected failures appeared. It remained a risk. As I glared at the mountains from my bedroom, it made me miss Harlem.
The old tenements, jazz music roaring through Lenox Avenue, little bookshops, brownstones, and coffee shops they dazzled my life. Officially, I was homesick for New York City. (Thanks to circumstances, California remained home.)
Books, walks, and writing became a source of extreme distraction. It didn’t make happier, but certainly distracted me. During the last six months in California, I had read several books and written many stories. It served as therapy, since I couldn’t afford an actual shrink.
When I moved across the country, I thought, California would become a permanent home. Now, I realized grass is yellow and dry, everywhere. New York with it’s many downfalls, will probably become home again. I’ll accept it for every flaw, since perfection is the death of stimulation.