Essays on Technology and Culture

On The Big Move

I am a city boy. I was born a city boy, and aside from Summer weekends in the South Jersey pine barrens, [1] I was raised a city boy—more specifically a Northeastern-US-city boy. I get nervous when there’s nothing around me taller than six stories. Nature bothers me. It’s nice to visit the “great outdoors,” but after a day or two, I just want artificial light, traffic noise, and to be able to walk somewhere for a slice of pizza. I’m not agoraphobic, but I do prefer close quarters. I value efficiency of space over room to spread out. I like to live high up, and I like to travel underground. I like to be anonymous. I like to be able to walk into a pharmacy, buy a box of prophylactics, and not have to worry about who sees me. Give me the city. Give me the big city. Give me places to go, things to do, people to see, and people to see me. Give me the option to live without a car, to walk to the grocery store, and to have actual weather.

My city, my home, has been Philadelphia for most of my life, but I’ve wanted to live someplace bigger for a while now. My sights have often cast themselves north, to New York City. It was a place, I thought, well suited to me, and ten years ago, I picked Polytechnic University in Brooklyn for college to give it a try. After a few difficult months of rooming issues, I eventually found myself settled in, but my place at the school never really gelled. I took the same Introduction to Pre-Calculus class seven times in three miserable semesters. After earning a 1.2 GPA, I was politely told to vacate the premises and never darken their doorstep again. I was more than happy to. [2] However, this meant I couldn’t stay in the big city any more. I would have needed a place to live, and money to pay for it. I didn’t have either. I had to tuck my tail between my legs, and slouch back home a mass of chagrin and shame.

While I didn’t settle in at the school, I became part of the city. When I left, I left behind dreams, and I left behind a wonderful person as well. Even as my academic life collapsed around me, I had found someone important and special in that city, and I wanted to get back for her, even more than for myself. Love has a tendency to do that to a person. Sure, we are now a two hour bus ride and an hour subway ride from each other—instead of just the hour subway ride it was before I moved home—but that extra two hours made all the difference. Thankfully, we’ve made it work, but it has been hard spending over seven years of our eight and a half year relationship separated by 115 miles. People have been separated by further distances, for longer, but I am not them.

My plan was to re-try college at the Community College of Philadelphia, pick up an Associate’s, enroll in a school in New York City, and try again. I got two out of the three, then ended up having to get my Bachelor’s in Philadelphia as well. [3] “Fine,” I told myself, “I’ll finish my education here and get a job up there.” No luck. I ended up taking a miserable job here, and got stuck for a time. I have a lot to say about that job, but that’s for another time. Still, with money coming in, I decide to live on my own and made the move to West Philadelphia. My new plan was to make a go of the crappy job for a year, and if I didn’t like it, start looking for work in New York. One big reason I took the job in the first place was that they had an New York office, and I thought I might be able to transfer up there. Turned out their New York office was just the second apartment of one of the owners, which says a lot about the place.

Fourteen months later, I was fired. If I were more clever, I would have seen that as my time to move, but I thought it would be smarter to stay local, collect my unemployment, and look for work in two places at once. Thus, I spent a year in the wilderness. I was saved by a low-paying, mind-numbing government job, but it was something. That was a year ago, and in that year I’ve struggled to find some direction in my life. All I know for sure is what I don’t want to do, and among the things I don’t want to do is stagnate. I don’t want to sit in the little fabric-covered box I sit in for eight hours a day, doing the exact same things, over and over again, until I’m 67 and can retire. That path leads to ruin.

This move is a chance to shake everything up. I will be leaving behind my home town, my apartment, my family and the social life I have slowly fallen into here. They’ll only be 115 miles away, not out of reach. It will be a goodbye, not a farewell. Still, it’s scary. Sometimes I wonder why I’m so willing to put everything I’ve built aside and try something new. Maybe it’s insanity, maybe it’s Saturn’s return. Maybe it’s both. Once again, I don’t know what I want, but I know what I don’t want. I certainly don’t want ten times more of what I have now. For God’s sake, I am ready, at least, to be scared shitless and stop doing what I am expected to do, and go do something new and different. What, specifically? Hell if I know. But I will be doing it, in a new, and different place.

Just… not quite yet.

Let’s face it. I talk a big game in the last few paragraphs, but I am in a holding pattern for another few months. My lease expires in August, so the current plan is to move to New York City by August 31st. September 1st, at the latest. In the meantime, that leaves six months to make things happen: finding a job is probably the biggest concern, but I won’t let the lack of one keep me from making the jump this time. Things will happen. I am not going to die. Even still, I am done with putting it off. I am done with pissing around. The reason I am still here, and not there, is my fear. I’ve clung to my city, and my apartment, and my two sub-par jobs, because the idea of giving them up is scary as hell. Absolute brown trousers time. But, if I want to get what I want—even if I don’t know what I want—the only way out is through.

Wish me luck.

Or, if you live in New York City, offer me a job.

  1. Well, Villas wasn’t exactly the pine barrens. It was a quaint little bedroom community situated between the tourist meccas of Cape May and Wildwood, and all told, I spent about as much time in those two places as I did in Villas.  ↩

  2. In the intervening years, the school’s mismanagement caught up with it and now it is another tendril of the ever growing hydra that is NYU. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving institution.  ↩

  3. I was accepted into my school of choice in New York City, but by the time they got their acceptance letter to me, I had already said yes to Temple University… three months earlier.  ↩