I am bombarded by unspeakable feelings and fears since I arrived here. Perhaps it is the change of seasons, the change of scenes, changes in my own circumstances, or it is just another milestone .. a passing midlife crisis.
When I first came here I suffered intense homesickness for Cape Town. I tried to function within the parameters of my new existence, but alien things were all around: Parks as spaces of asphalt and rubber floors, skeletal trees and flowers behind protective bars. All this next to the ever-present noise, and the mobs. There was no escape from the oppressive weight of the city, even if I looked up beseeching the heavens I would only see a strips of blue stabbed with silver skyscrapers. I missed looking at grass, sea and a big wide sky. Once I was so miserable, I cried openly in the middle of a playground and was grateful for the shoulder of my mother; she helped me out that day despite her own homesickness. There were countless other times I cried myself to sleep and wished I had never come here.
Things will get easier, this is what people tell me. You will get used to the convenience of the city and get desensitized against noise, pollution, stress and all the ailments of this Big Apple. In fact, things are starting to fall into place since I came to live on Roosevelt Island. I come to the peace of home and can look at Manhattan from the safety of this rock. I do not need the hectic city and its uncivilized people jostling and elbowing to be one second ahead of me at the subway platform.
Most days I ignore the city, trying to live in my own insular bubble on the island. When I have to meet Manhattan I block her out with music, South African radio shows or even an audio book. There are also some days when I swear to try making our relationship work. I will put up with her greed, her blatant consumerism and her egocentric qualities that threaten to swallow me whole. On some rare evenings when I see her across the East River, blushing red and gold in the setting sun, I can almost allow myself to love her. But I know that the next day she will be her dismissive and cruel self, wanting my heart and my soul and offering me only the spoils and burdens of a living.
There are the good things, I admit. I like my job and Robert will have a good education. I get along very well with my colleagues and working beside them and with them made me realize what I missed in eleven years of living in my adopted country. I missed speaking the language I grew up with, it has been a long time since I last read an Arabic novel and discussed its plot and style. It has been ages since I spoke with someone who closely knows the complex political situation in my birth country and understands the implications of what is happening there. Outside of my family, it is perhaps over a decade since I agreed with anyone on the contentious and paradoxical issue of religion.
I am finally able to do all that again, and I enjoy it. I feel that I am starting to make friendships to last a lifetime, but although this is positive and exciting, it scares me, because friendships mean staying and putting down roots, and something in me still resists that. I want to run, to escape, to move back to Africa. I do not want anything to ruin my plans and hinder me. My intuition, however, tells me that something has gone out of balance in my life recently. Maybe my desire to leave has began to falter, maybe I am starting to lose my strength against the temptation of the city, or maybe this is all just a novelty phase that will wear off as summer turns into deep winter freeze, who knows.
2 thoughts on “Out of Balance in New York”
I hope you are feeling more at ease in your environment now. I just read your post and it touched my heart. CT is so different from NYC. I know, I am a Capetonian. I left SA over 40 years ago and I still miss it and it’s people. Especially after I go back for a vacation.
It is wonderful that you are meeting friends who you can relate to on a deeper level. This will probably be more helpful than anything else. The happiness of the heart.
I wish you all the best!
I am aware that I am approving your comment very late Bees333, so my apologies for that. By coincidence I was visiting Cape Town when your comment came in. Like always I connected with the city and its people through the heart. It was a sad day when we had to leave. Now I am back in the Big Apple again, and hope to post soon about my experience in Cape Town.