My Last NYC Summer (For Now)

Well, it was going to happen eventually.

I was lured to the West by the promise of a steady salary and stellar health benefits. In the weeks since my arrival in Oregon, I’ve also found a great group of colleagues and a nice new pace of daily life. But these photographs do make me miss the previous version of my adult life. From a (nostalgic) distance, it all looks so shiny!

So much love to my old stomping grounds–from my four years in the Barnard dorms around Morningside Heights, to the eight years I spent in my adorable (and admittedly cockroach-ridden) prewar 2-bedroom gem in Astoria, Queens. I spent my final weeks in the city writing up and following through on several iterations of my NYC “bucket list,” soaking up as much as I could in the time I had left. Films at MoMA. The gardens at the Cloisters. A hike through the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Soup dumplings in Chinatown. Etcetera.

It was time for something new, and it had been for a while. It took a year for me to decide to start looking, and then another two seasons on the academic job market to find the right alt-ac position for me. As soon as I got an offer I jumped on it, made the move happen. I was in Oregon five weeks after saying yes. I had always thought that when I transitioned out of CUNY, I’d have time to adjust–months, even, to prepare. But that hasn’t been true even for those on the tenure track of late, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that everything happened so quickly.

When I was in kindergarten my mother would often have a cookie with her when she came to pick me up. She says it helped me transition from school to home a little more easily. It’s only now that I’ve been in Oregon for a couple of months that I can see how many cookies I’ve been leaving out for myself. The adult version involves ordering household items and books and clothes, so that something is often waiting for me upon my return to my new apartment, at the end of any given workday.

For a while, so much was new here in Eugene that I didn’t have time to think, much less feel. Now, though, I look at my photographs from June and July and I miss my old home and my old self. Today at work we were all photographed for professional and promotional purposes–“think of it as school picture day,” the e-mail said. It was even more excruciating than picture day usually was, however, because I don’t feel like I fit into my new skin, quite yet. I still look and feel out of place here.

I didn’t realize how homesick I would be. The past week has been wretched. And these photographs show me how lucky I was to have the young adulthood that I did. I had so much freedom to explore and think. It was hard in New York, especially financially, and these last few years really did a number on both my credit score and my psyche. But my heart is in these photos.

I like to think that I made an impression on that place–or at least on some of the people in it:

I haven’t yet photographed my new life, much, apart from obsessively documenting the decoration of my new apartment. I don’t yet see the beauty here that’s worth capturing. But some of the photographs in this post (Pride, the lovers at the FDR Four Freedoms Park, the tourists getting a taxi in the rain) have stuck in my brain, reminding me of the many rich, unique, and zany experiences I had in my nearly fifteen years in New York City–and encouraging me to take those good memories with me, even as I try to reinvent myself now.