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Aida Alami

Aida Alami

Posted: August 11, 2009 11:55 AM

Is There a Life After New York?


Before last month, I did not feel the effects of the disastrous economy on my life. I paid the same rent, ate the same food, and as long as I was able to spend countless hours reading articles online, I didn't mind that stock markets were collapsing all over the world.

I recently realized how bad things were. I had to move away from New York City where journalism jobs have become harder to find then the Holy Grail.

My relationship with New York is similar to a very passionate relationship: love at first sight, several breakups, times where I needed to get out of the city and ultimately, never finding a soul mate that could compare. When I decided to move away from New York, I was very confident about my decision. I felt that the city had nothing to offer me anymore. I now speak from the other side of the fence and my general feeling has changed a lot: nothing compares to New York.

I remember very well the first time I came to the city. It was summer 1992. My dad had a serious medical condition that required his hospitalization during the entire summer and my parents thought that it would be better for my sister and I to leave for the summer and sent us off to my aunt's in New York. They hadn't realized what they had done at the time, but I instantly got attached to the city and for the next few years, I dedicated all my efforts to finding a way to move there.

I will never forget my first impressions of the city. I couldn't believe it was even better than the movies. The incredible energy of the city sucked me in. Everything seemed original and possible in a place where dozens of ethnicities crossed paths, where everyone from artists to traders seemed to find their perfect niche.

10 years later, I moved there to go to college. It was the chance of a lifetime to study there. I didn't get educated just by the university, but by the city itself. Every corner, every minute of the day, every encounter had something extremely special about it. When I didn't have money to do much, I would just hang out in the parks when the weather was nice and talk to random people or just observe what was going on around me. I went the museums and exhibits on rainy days, attended countless lectures, and met people from all over the world. For years, I was like a sponge absorbing everything around me. My love for cinema couldn't be more satisfied than it was in New York. I made a point to discover every little corner of the city. My favorite places were the Hudson River Park, the West Village bookstores, the Angelika Theater, hanging out under the Brooklyn Bridge, the little cafes in Soho, and the wide and elegant streets of Tribeca.

The last year in New York, something changed. I stopped being surprised. I had heard or seen everything before -- or at least I thought so. When I was invited to a rooftop barbecue it just felt like I had been to dozens of them before and there was nothing special about most things people asked me to do. Exhibits became boring and skaters in Union Square were just an annoyance. I had just graduated with a Masters in Journalism and because I had also worked before in the city, I felt that there was nothing new for me to discover and that I should just move away and start a new life somewhere else. I gave myself two months to enjoy every little thing about the city that I loved in the past so there wouldn't be any regret.

But there is always a twist. I slowly started enjoying little things about the city -- finding myself reading in the park for hours and just feeling happy and simply fulfilled by how amazing the city was. When I sat in the boarding room at the airport on the day I was departing I was just miserable and sad -- unsure if I had made the right decision.

I am now back home in Morocco and I sure understand the meaning of reverse culture shock. Like any New Yorker, I am lost without all the convenient aspects of the city that cannot be found anywhere else. I miss everything being opened all the time. I miss hearing dozens of languages just while walking from my building to the grocery store. I miss the hundreds of taxis that cruise the streets of New York at all time at night. I miss the moody weather, the moody people, the annoying singers in the subway, the bodegas, the delis that make the most delicious pastrami sandwiches at 4 a.m. The list is endless and I feel like a drug addict who needs to slowly learn to live without the addiction.

I am not sure if there is an advice I can give. Once we move to New York, moving away seems like a stupid thing to do and it sure feels like a stupid decision. It hasn't been long and I feel like my brain is losing all of its originality -- not learning something new on a regular basis makes me feel like I am losing a few brain cells every day and I am craving the need to find something extremely interesting to do. But, I am sure I will learn to adjust to wherever I will end up and New York is not going anywhere.

I will probably break in a few months or years and move back.