How I Ended Up Back in the Big Apple • Alex in Wanderland

“Follow your dreams, sweetie.”

I was sitting in Thailand, my on-and-off home for many years, texting with my mom about my next big dilemma. I’ve always been a terrible decision maker, endlessly waffling on choices big and small.

This was a big one: I’d wanted to do my yoga teacher training for years, and the sensible thing would be to complete my RYT-200 hour, the immersive introductory training, somewhere affordable like, oh, say, the country I was currently living in. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to talk myself into doing my training in Thailand, or in India, or in Indonesia, or any of the other places people kept gushing to me about.

My heart was calling me home. (Well, it was also calling me to Hawaii – basically, it was calling me to the US, either New York or Honolulu or LA, three of the most expensive and nonsensical places for this particular yogi to get her training on. But more on that in a future post.)

My mom’s words of wisdom hit hard. Yes, it would take a chunk of my savings to spend a month subletting an apartment in New York, investing in an expensive top notch training, and turn down thirty days worth of projects during prime travel campaign season. But my mom’s text somehow released me from the guilt I’d been feeling: I was going to make this dream a reality, in the way I felt most called to do it.

The Highline in NYC

Eventually, after a bit more waffling, I landed right where I belonged: the summer immersion program at Y7 Studio in New York City.

Summer YTT in NYC at Y7

Summer YTT in NYC at Y7

There were many reasons this felt right. First, of course, there was the yoga — I wanted to do my yoga teacher training at a studio I knew I aligned with, and Y7 fit the bill. I’ll be writing much more about my training there in a future post.

But of course, it was a larger decision than just the yoga. Having gone to college in Brooklyn, and grown up just upstate where many eventually filter down to the big city, a huge percentage of my close friend circle calls New York City home. I saw them every summer, if not more, but it wasn’t enough — I missed them.

And I wanted to be close to my family. I loved the idea of spending a month just a quick train ride away from my mom in Albany and my sister in Philadelphia, and envisioned them both coming to visit often. Mostly, that part actually didn’t work out as richly as I’d envisioned — my mom’s mysterious emerging health issues prevented her from making it other than for my graduation, and my sister was very busy with work events.

A nice surprise was getting to see my dad a few times when he was in town for business; and my sister came in for dinner one evening while he was there.

Family portraits at The Highline in NYC

Family portraits at The Highline in NYC

Normally, my short visits back to New York are borderline chaos as I try to cram in seeing as many friends as possible in the shortest amount of time. With a whole month, I got a huge does of quality time with pretty much all of them — my college friends, my high school friends, my travel friends — sometimes even straight up running into them on the street. It filled my heart right up to bursting.

Friends at dinner in NYC

Summer at New York Botanical Gardens

There was also something even bigger than that, too. I saw the month as an experiment, of sorts — I wanted to see if I was ready for another season of my life here. (If you’re thinking a month is too short, you’re right — but with my budget and schedule at the time, blocking out sixty days in one place while renting expensive sublets was just impossible.)

I wanted to spend a month going to museums and taking weird fitness classes and being able to see first run movies and having access to Amazon Prime and watching the sun rise over the Brooklyn Bridge after a crazy night out and seeing if that was more powerful to me than watching sunsets on the sand and waking up to jungle sounds and being able to go anywhere barefoot if I pleased. For the past seven years, every time I’d left New York after a visit, I found myself lamenting that a few days or weeks here or there wasn’t enough. What would be?

Summer at New York Botanical Gardens

Summer at New York Botanical Gardens

American Museum of Natural History

Summer in Central Park

And so the great experiment began. Where I would live while for this grand plan was a huge source of stress for me in the months leading up to my New York return.

I am blessed with countless friends who offered to open their doors and couches to me, but I felt very determined that I needed my own space to reflect and recharge in throughout this journey — even if it wasn’t the most fiscally responsible move I’ve ever made.

West Village summer sublet

West Village summer sublet

West Village summer sublet

West Village summer sublet

I put out feelers for friends of friends who might be looking for sublets, tried to look for a possible roommate via my training, combed Craigslist, and browsed Airbnb. I found plenty of more affordable options out in Brooklyn, but at the time, coming from an island where I had about a four minute commute to the center of town, the idea of going back and forth to Brooklyn on the subway every day just didn’t appeal (it’s funny writing that now, when I wouldn’t have minded it at all.) But at the time I was searching, being walking distance from the studio was really important to me, as was giving Manhattan a go.

In the end I split my time — I spent my first two weeks in an unbelievably charming artist’s lodge in the West Village that I found on Airbnb. Just a twenty minute walk from my teacher training, it was a true Carrie Bradshaw situation, with hats in the oven and clothes in the custom built stairs to the loft. It was the perfect apartment for a solo chick in the big bad city and I was head over heels in love with it. I’d fall asleep listening to live music curl up the fire escape from from the jazz bar below, and just feel so alive.

West Village summer sublet

West Village summer sublet

West Village summer sublet

I know Airbnb in New York City can be controversial but I felt really good about this one — the girl I rented from recently bought the apartment by herself as a working artist in the city (yes, they still exist!) and occasionally Airbnb-ing while crashing with her boyfriend or friends was helping her pay her mortgage. It was an inspiring story that made me feel better as I handed over an envelope containing four months of my Thailand rent for two weeks in the West Village, ha ha.

Later I moved to a super luxurious apartment in Midtown West that friends of a friend were looking to rent while on their honeymoon. They didn’t want to rent to a stranger so they offered it to me for a price I couldn’t refuse. Sadly I have no photos of the interior, because I am an idiot. But regardless, the best part of that (a) I was next to Central Park, where I spent a lot of time and (b) I was literally blocks away from my childhood best friend Kristin, who I got to spend more time with than I have in years.

Even in the concrete jungle of New York City, I find so much comfort in just being able to lay eyes on the water. The apartment had views of the Hudson River, and it always grounded me after a long, crazy day in the city to come home and feel that connection to the natural world.

Sunset over the water in New York City

And so went my great New York experiment. Yet even after that summer and my subsequent time in New York in the months since, I find myself ever torn between these two sides of myself, this wild island child and the girl who feels so alive in the big city. Falling asleep to those jazz notes drifting up into my window at night, I thought, maybe I could do this again someday… and then I’d wake up craving the sound of ocean waves.

Regardless, what a gift it was to check back in with the city side of myself again, in the one place on this planet that always feels like the center of the universe to me. Will I live here again? I don’t know. I’m craving a place that feels like home right now, with a future that feels uncertain, and the comfort of something so familiar is tempting.

Sometimes I feel there’s just too much living I want to do, to possibly fit it all into just one lifetime.

Anyway. Stay tuned to hear more about my summer in New York, including more on my teacher training (holler anything you want to know in the comments!) and some of my favorite Manhattan memories.

Do you ever feel called to revisit a past chapter of your life and make it new again?

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