Welcome to New York

Hi folks, 

I know it’s been forever… 

Sorry I haven’t written, I’ve been busy-scared-lost-sad-overwhelmed-happy-sick. 

I’m on a merry-go-round, but a very destabilizing one, like Alice’s teacups or so. Worst is, I chose to go on it. Probably masochistic, but I feel pleasure in this overwhelmed state. Someone in my cercle said it was an addiction, like a drug addiction. The cortisol your body creates to fight an emotional shock (like an international move) can be addictive. So the quest for this stress hormone got me here, in New York. I can tell you, I got my fix. I’m good for at least 4 years.

It took 3 months to move here and felt like I took 10 years. I did so many things on autopilot these last 3 months that I have issues remembering exactly things I haven’t photographed. « Where did you put the computer mouse? » I don’t have any idea if I unpacked a mouse. You know like when you just had a baby and you sleep so little that days and nights get blurry? Then the first year is so overwhelming that it’s blurrier? Well, I’m there, in the blurrier. But there’s no baby, just a mouse, Somewhere… I think. 😃

I’m not going to lie, there has been ups and downs. It felt harder then 4 years ago. I felt… older. Sleeping on an air mattress for 1 months, changing 13 times of accommodation, I felt like an old lady who just wanted her sofa and her blanket. I felt left without support as many people assumed we’ve already done it once, so it’s a piece of cake. I felt without understanding because it’s New York and you can’t complain about New York. 

But the least expected thing happened here. As I heard so many people telling me that small postings were easier for socializing than bigger postings, I was prepared to be very lonely for a very long time. And it’s actually the opposite that happened! While I was very lonely for 6 months arriving in Abu Dhabi, I met many fun people immediately arriving in New York. We were invited to parties and our agenda got busier and busier. And it’s not easy to recover from parties on your air mattress, take my word for it.

We are now finally fully installed. I feel like I ran a marathon, or an iron woman race because I had to face so many unpredictable things like walking 25k steps a day for the first time in my life. But now is not the time to rest. It’s not the end of anything, it’s the start of this new challenge. Like when you play a board game, all pieces are in place, now is the time to make your moves. 

I’m writing this post on a Sunday night and from my bedroom window I can hear the weekend concert from the culture lab close by. Always nice live music, always over by 9pm, which makes it even better for the tired grumpy mom that I am. And on this warm October evening, I realized that this city was life. I could hear people singing, people cheering, people laughing. I could hear them LIVING. Maybe that’s what I used to misunderstand as « New York buzz ». This city has a noise of its own, the noise of life lived 100%. People live deeply here, like they never let an opportunity nor a minute go waisted. This is why they honk so much, because every minute counts and also because expressing your feelings is GOLD here.

I witness couples arguing in the subway, women crying at the park, men kissing in an alley. Kids even told me they have to analyze their feelings daily at school and talk about them. This is basically the opposite way I was raised (hide/conceal/don’t think/smile). 

This sudden feeling of love for my new city made me reflect on what I lived for 4 years in the Emirates. I guess like when you fall in love with a new guy, you start to see what was wrong with the last one. And you become partial, you only see what was wrong with him and what’s good with this one, the famous honeymoon phase for expats, I’m officially in it.

I was on holiday for 4 years. In a very nice, 5 stars-kids friendly club med. daily activities were fun but kind of always the same. Sun year round. Peace and quiet. No honking, no cursing, no crying (at least not outside private doors). Culture was sealed in one room of the resort, a small one. I did not have to ask too many questions and that felt good. I was happy there, maybe for the first time in my life but I needed to step away from my comfort zone, my comfort country, now that I was healed.

When in doubt, ask children, they know better. Well, that’s what I did. I asked my daughter Agnès (7) what she prefers and why. She said « New York, because everything is alive here. And I’m not only talking about the trees. »

My little philosopher had it right once again. As much as I was missing my friends from there and who I was in Abu Dhabi, I had to admit New York was life and it was giving me slaps in the face when I needed it and pats on the back when I least expected it. I will learn here, I want to stay here, even if this isn’t comfortable yet.

But who was I going to be here? In a city of 20 million people, how can you find yourself? (Luxury question, I know, I’m lucky enough so I CAN ask myself this question, but luck comes at a price, never forget that) 

I mean, pretty fast in Abu dhabi I had « stickers » on and I chose to live by those stickers, to fit the mold of expectations. I was « the Belgian diplo wife ». Smiling, well dressed, best hostess in town, provider of beers, jokes and chocolates. Here, I’m nobody. I’m one in a million. I don’t have to entertain. I don’t own a car so nobody knows I’m a diplo (those diplo license plates are the worst stickers, I’d love to get rid of that). 

And guess what… I love it! Anonymity is delightful. Suddenly I can go out in PJ, no make up on and it won’t be a problem. Because 1/ it’s a huge city and you never see someone you know and 2/ you are not the only face of your country here, so nobody cares about how you dress! Nobody waits for you. It’s the important concept to get here: nobody waits for YOU. It’s liberating but also very scary. If you don’t actively make your space, you won’t have one. Where in a small posting, people come and get you. Here, it’s a go getter city and it pushes my lazy ass out.

This being said, I have to admit that I usually like to fit people s expectations. It’s convenient and I’ve been raised like this, behaving always as the other part expects of you to. But Then, if nobody expects anything from me, what will I be? I lost my balance for a minute (more like a month/trimester). I’m not sure I have an answer to that one yet, it’s too early. But life is a journey and not a destination and this quote fits us perfectly.

Until next time, 

Take care,