Many people have asked my why New York. Why did you move to New York? You were living in a beautiful city already, so why move to New York. I’ve usually responded with there are more work opportunities here and the type of photography I want to do in the long run is more available here. That’s what makes the most sense and people cordially nod their heads in agreement and then we move on. But that’s not at all why I moved to New York. Perhaps it is a bonus of moving to New York, but it’s not the reason I moved to New York.
Last year was hard. It was one of the hardest times of my life, although not the hardest, and I know as life goes on, even harder things are going to happen. Last year was a hard time that many people go through, and so truthfully it wasn’t that special or different, and yet whenever we go through stuff, it is somehow special and different. The specific circumstances play out in a way where we are given the chance to react, and it’s how we react that will then dictate what is to come next. My reaction left my breathless. Literally. I could not breathe. I had not experienced this before. Normally when I was stressed and dealing with stuff, physically it manifested itself in my stomach. But this time, it was in my head and my lungs. I spent months doing weird stretches on different people’s living room floors because that’s the only thing that would sometimes open up my lungs, allowing myself to take a deep breathe. Other than that, I’d take a breath in and half way through I felt like I’d hit a brick wall. I couldn’t get any more oxygen in. At this point, I hopped up on some different types of anti-anxiety pills and muscle relaxants, giving me a few brief moments of proper breathing, but other than that, I basically wanted to constantly sleep, because when I slept I seemed to breathe fine.
I figured this new breathless thing would last only a few weeks, but it lasted months. I started to learn how to control it and how to control the feelings that came with it. I knew that not being able to take deep breaths did not mean I was dying or that my heart was going to stop, but I did know that because I couldn’t breathe properly, if I walked up a hill while I was hiking, there was a good chance I’d pass out at the top, and so I walked slowly, often stopping to try and breathe. I spent a lot of time alone because if I was with people and couldn’t breathe, it would stress me out and therefore make it even harder to breathe. It was a silly circle.
The time I remember being the most out of breath was when I was meeting up with a new friend to go hiking around Sutro Baths in San Francisco. I had not met this person before, but after a few quick hello’s only days before on Instagram and discovering that he was going to be in San Francisco doing some work, we decided to meet up and go take pictures. Easy, I thought, waving my head obnoxiously back and forth as I stared at myself in the mirror, my finger waving as well the way someone does when they say, “oh no you diddddn’tttt!” I was nervous because meeting someone new meant having to put on a face, and at that point the only face I had was one that would turn blue when I couldn’t breathe, and I didn’t know how he’d react to meeting a blue faced woman. But hey, we’d be at the ocean, it was warm, there was lots of pure air to breathe, little noise and little sensory overload. No problemo.
He picked me up that day, we said our hello’s and nice to meet you’s and we drove to the ocean. There was no dog in sight, dammit, why didn’t he bring that adorable little dog I saw on Instagram, but perhaps it was for the better. Perhaps my excitement to meet a cute little dog would cause me to hyperventilate and pass out and we didn’t want that. We got to Sutro Baths and as photographers do, snapped photos of everything we possibly could. I practiced my photographer’s stance many times, which basically is me doing the splits with one leg in front and one leg in the back. I’m terrified of developing a hunch back from years of leaning over while I shoot, so I’ve opted for straight posture and the splits. It seems to work well, and I’m sure would look great on this blog. He didn’t seem to mind.
This is not the ginormous hill I talk about below.
We began walking up this ginormous hill in Land’s End and no-I’m-not-exaggerating-I-was-living-in-San-Francisco-the-hills-are-steep, it began. Oh no, I thought, I can’t breathe. Between the sun beating down on me, carrying a heavy backpack and this huge hill, talking and walking and breathing at the same time may as well have been me running up Everest carrying a baby elephant while yelling the fibonacci sequence in a different language. I was not doing so well. My back was a sweaty mess and each step we took up this hill as he cheerily kept chatting with me, all I could think of was the fact that in only a few minutes I was going to pass out on this hill and he was going to have carry me back to the car where I’d wake up and feel a tremendous amount of embarrassment. Not my cup of tea, although at that point, I could have used a cup of a tea in a steamy bath house with someone rubbing my shoulders, but alas, Sutro Baths lays in ruins. We approached the top of the hill and I looked down. Going down this hill only meant having to walk back up it later. There was no way in #*$&@ hell I was going to be able to walk up another hill later. I was quietly hyperventilating.
“Ohhh hey, look at the time, I really should get going.”
Yeah, I pulled that one. We turned and headed back down the hill. The thuds of our backpacks hit our backs as our feet stomped into the earth on our way down the hill. Much better, I thought. The sweat on my face cooled and I did not faint that day.
I moved to New York because at my best friend’s wedding reception I had an epiphany and realized that the only thing that was going to “cure” me from my self pity was traveling. It was what my heart had always wanted, and now was my opportunity. I said a small prayer to myself, that I would travel around the States until I was able to breathe again, and only until that moment would I know I was in the city I was supposed to live in next. Soon my travels began. I explored small cities, villages, in fact, and big cities, most of them in the south. I went to every city I thought that maybe I’d want to live in, and a bunch of smaller places I knew I wouldn’t want to live in, but why not, I was traveling. Each city was beautiful and unique and often gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Some of the cities I’d get to and say to myself now this is the city I will be be able to breathe in again! and I’d arrive there only to take a breath and hit that wall again.
My last city was New York. People told me you won’t like New York. New York is busy, cramped, there are constant crowds, it’s noisy… The list went on as to why I wouldn’t like New York. I wondered if they would be right. But then finally the day came and I arrived here. It was the first full breath I was able to take in four months. Home, I thought, smiling and sitting down on a bench as I looked out at the Statue of Liberty. I am home.
New York, where I live. Also the view from my future pent house suite that I will never be able to afford but can keep happily dreaming about.