As March nears, I am approaching my first anniversary of relocating from my hometown. Towards the end of March 2020, I abandoned the Emerald City for the Big Apple. Though I have visited NYC multiple times, relocating was going to be different. I was doing it in the middle of a pandemic, my near-empty flight to JFK a sign of the times.
When I arrived, there was a quietness to the city I had never seen before. On the few occasions I ventured out with my fiancé, it was unsettling to see the City That Never Sleeps devoid of its regular buzz and vitality. The empty streets of Harlem felt alien, remote, and cold. This image was undoubtedly not what I envisioned when I initially decided to relocate.
I would have to adjust my expectations further after our arrival. A significant reason I was able to move up my relocation plans from June to March 2020 was that my fiancé and I found a lovely house in Westchester county. At the end of February, we submitted our bid. The seller accepted, and our closing was scheduled for early April. But then the COVID pandemic brought New York to its knees. Like millions of others, circumstances beyond our control arose. The closing was pushed out. The new position I was supposed to begin in April? My start date was indefinitely postponed, as my company’s Manhattan offices were closed until further notice. As frustrating as the delays were, I did not put much energy into complaining. All we could do was wait.
Additionally, compared to what many were experiencing, I understood that I had no legitimate complaints. At no point was my safety, shelter, or ability to survive threatened. Most importantly, I was not going through the situation alone. For the first time in thirteen years, I was not the sole adult in the home. The responsibility of taking care of myself and my child was not mine alone. In my fiancé, I had both a partner and a provider, which moved significant worry off my shoulders. I did not know when I could resume work or when our house would close, but I knew that we would face everything together. In such global uncertainty and turmoil having a stable and reliable life partner was a game-changer.
Life was nowhere near normal by May, but there was one piece of good news that sustained us: we were finally going to close on our house. Buying property was a new process for my fiancé and me, as neither of our parents was a homeowner growing up. I was elated when the day finally came, giddy as my fiancé calmly navigated up I-87 to White Plains. Forty-five minutes and heaps of paperwork later, the process was done, and it was official. After seven weeks of being cooped in, our wait was over! Eager to leave our cramped quarters in Harlem for the sprawling and green spaces of Westchester County, we rented a U-Haul and began moving in 48 hours later.
There were further positive developments for me in June. Though my office was still closed due to COVID restrictions, I started my new position remotely. Working from home felt strange initially. I have spent my career working in office environments, and as such, was accustomed to the patterns of it. Commuting via a Metro bus, grabbing a grande Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks along the way, and cheerfully greeting coworkers were all regular occurrences that COVID ended for me. Working in my home office meant creating new ones. While some can roll out of bed five minutes before their start time and plop in front of their laptop in pajamas and still be productive, that approach did not work for me. Adhering to my pre-COVID of rising at 5:30 am, writing in my journal, and planning my day before it started was still necessary. And while I abandoned business attire, I always put on an outfit daily. There were a few days where I worked in pajamas or loungewear. Still, I found that getting dressed provided psychological benefits for me. Dressing in a simple ensemble of slim-fit jeans and a v-neck top enhanced my mood. In the dour days of the COVID pandemic, I welcomed all boosts, no matter how small!
While I encountered a few obstacles after relocating to New York, I am immensely grateful for how it has turned out so far. With the various COVID restrictions instituted since last spring, I have not fully integrated into my new life on the East Coast. I still long to make new social connections and strengthen the ones I already have. I look forward to getting to know my coworkers in person and enjoying a happy hour again after work. I am eager to find a new church home to worship at and provide opportunities to serve the community. However, I am patient, as I know the time will come when I can fulfill each of these desires.
In the meantime, I am basking in the comfort that leaving my hometown has given me. When relocating, people are often keen on reinventing themselves. For me, however, moving to New York offered a different opportunity altogether. New York did not lead me to reinvent myself. New York has given me a kind lightness, a sweet liberation that only came when I could be my authentic self with no one to scold or mock me for it.