The New Yorker?

Posted: 24 January 2011 in Love.
Tags: , ,

I am a New Yorker.  I was born in Queens, I was raised there, and with the exception of a couple of years up in Boston for graduate school, I have lived in New York my entire life.

That is, until three weeks ago when my parter, Ken, and I moved south–way south, to the Gulf Coast of Florida.

This is a big deal for me–a gi-normous deal.  Though I wish it were otherwise, I have never been much of a risk-taker.  Growing up, it was the impossibilities rather than the possibilities of life that were drummed into my impressionable head.   So while I had fantasized now and then about moving farther away than across town, the very idea of picking up my life and crossing state lines was incomprehensible.

Once we finally made the decision, however, of all the trepidation I felt, what bothered me the most was a question of identity.  Being a New Yorker is a matter of great pride.  It’s like a badge that informs anyone you might meet on the planet that you are tough, that you are cultured and sophisticated, that you adhere to certain ideologies, that you can make it there so you can make it anywhere.

Travelling in Paris, in the Galapagos, in Venice, in Manila, whenever someone asked me where I was from, they seemed impressed.  If they hadn’t already been to New York, they wanted to go.  Everyone knows New York, everyone has an idea of it–for better or worse.

While I am absolutely enjoying Sarasota life thus far, I am not ready to say I’m from there.  What does being from Sarasota mean?  Will the waiter in Brazil ever have heard of it?  Will the concierge in Bangkok think I’m a run-of-the-mill American from some unremarkable town?    (This is not to say that I am exceptional, but that  New York is.)

One of my worries stems, as many worries do, from perception.  Just as people sometimes think of New York as a city riddled with crime and densely populated with rude people, I have always thought of Florida as a place people retire to.  “Heaven’s waiting room,” I’ve heard it referred to many times.

Ken and I are not old, or not that old.  We are creative types seeking a major lifestyle change, but retirement is far, far away.

Like the largely false notion of New York, however, not everyone in Sarasota is collecting their social security.  The median age is not as young as in New York–by definition, big cities are full of young professionals–but there are plenty of people our age and younger.

And yet this concern of my identity remains.  Since we arrived, it is the first thing I tell anyone new I meet, as if this were the most important piece of who I am.

My close friend, Carol, is a Buddhist and has a doctorate in Eastern Religions. She reminds me that this identity I cling to is nothing more than a trapping of the material world.  That I was born in New York and lived my whole life there means nothing.  One of the greatest cities in the world?  Who cares?

I do, apparently, though the more enlightened part of me sees what she means, of course.  My heart, my mind, the way I view the world may have been shaped by the place I come from, but New York does not define me.  If anything, I am the one doing the defining here.

I solved my dilemma on Facebook.  My profile clearly states that I live in Sarasota, FL, but my hometown is New York, NY.  And that’s okay, I guess.

Plus, Ken promises not to blow my cover if we’re in Rome and I tell any handsome Italian man who asks that I’m from New York.  After all, that will always be true.

  1. khalsaken says:

    I realize this line is part of a song: ” New York is a state of mind.”. Amen.

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