The one where I leave NYC

Two weeks ago, I formalized my decision. Tonight, I lie in a king bed in Ohio, with everything I’ve accumulated over the past 5 years crammed ever-most strategically inside an SUV in my parents’ garage. Next stop: Chicago.

Ever since the news started to get around, I’ve encountered a lot of “I’m so sorry New York didn’t work out” and “I really hope you don’t think of yourself as a failure.” It may not be necessary to defend my reactions of “I’m not” and “I don’t,” but just so we are all on the same page…

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I didn’t decide I was done with New York when I got a staph infection from lifting weights at the cheapest, most convenient gym in my neighborhood. When I medicated myself with an expired antibiotic I was prescribed over a year prior, because my contractor insurance was terrible and I couldn’t afford a real doctor or for that matter, a real diagnosis.

I didn’t decide I was done with New York when a week after the staph infection, I contracted the worst illness I’ve had since living on my own. When a stomach virus shut my body down for an entire week — extracting every remnant of liquid or solid in my digestion system, as if my body only wanted to operate on gases from there on out. When I dropped a repulsive amount of money to see a shitty doctor in my shitty neighborhood, who only agreed to see me, three hours after I checked into the urgent care, because I cried and threatened that if I didn’t drink something soon I was going to pass out, and if I did drink something soon, my bodily fluids would rapidly exit my body all over their waiting room floor. When after receiving a shot, being locked in a room to nap and regain strength for 30 minutes, and finally getting a half-full bathroom-sized miniature glasses of water, the nurse asked for what seemed like the millionth time “are you SURE you don’t have ANYONE who could pick you up?” (Those urgent care nurses sure knew how to make a single lady in an inconvenient neighborhood feel good after 14 hours of nonstop puking.)

I didn’t decide I was done with New York when a week after the stomach virus, I was punched in the back of the head by a complete stranger at the Port Authority subway stop. When I was followed by a man, and hit so hard that I blacked out. When I was asked to watch the attack several times later on security cameras, and then spent the next 5 hours of that evening reliving the event to several police offers, medics, and ER doctors. When the next morning, unable to move my neck, I still went into work on time.

I didn’t decide I was done with New York when I found out my boss was quitting, thus causing formal staffing of contract workers (aka me) in our department to be frozen.

I didn’t decide I was done with New York when we experienced a second bed bug scare.

I didn’t decide I was done with New York when the bills from my assault incident started to accrue.

I decided I was done with New York much earlier. When right after I came back to the city after spending time in Ohio for the holidays, a point when I’m usually very ready to get back to the NYC grind, I was en route to meeting up with a friend for dinner and almost got mauled by a biker. When my subconscious reaction to an fast-paced oncoming bike was, “let him run you over.” I laughed it off that night, but that was the moment when I realized I was mentally checked out of the city’s rat race. At that point, I loved my job, but I knew it would be ending. I had freshly given up on a “will they or won’t they” relationship I had been flirting with for four years, and the city was at the onset of the coldest season of social hibernation. I didn’t want to be there, and something inside me knew the feeling wasn’t temporary this time. I had more bike encounters over the next few months, and my knee-jerk reaction never changed. “Don’t. Move. Let it happen.”

After that, the city seemed to pepper me with little gifts of hell on the reg. I admire New York so much, but I’ve always known that if you let it, it’ll drag you down until you are living with the sewer rats. At both at my four and four and a half year marks in NYC, I said I truly didn’t think I’d make it to five. And here I am, lying in my Ohio bed, with exactly two months until I would have reached that milestone.

Realizing your environment changed from a place that drives and inspires you to one you resent is a tough pill to swallow. For me, New York became a place where I felt myself becoming more impatient and insecure each day. Walk faster. Work longer. Trust less. Dress better. Speak louder. Love harder. Grit is at the core of New York City. It’s beautiful and powerful, but tough to settle into.

Leaving was something I wrestled with time and time again: at the onset of every new job, each time a childhood friend in the Midwest got engaged or married, all the times I second-guessed the cashier at my local grocery store when asked to pay $45 for eggs, hot sauce, cheese and kale (the staples). But I always knew the timing would be right when I felt simultaneously okay with never living in New York again, but also open to the idea that life could bring me back in two or five years, when I’m further into my career and making more money. I didn’t openly cry on public transportation about leaving a single time, but I already have a running list of things I know I’ll miss. Some highlights:

  • Weekly volunteering at The Covenant House with the NYJL
  • Spending weekends being the epitome of lazy in Central Park
  • Excessive Blockheads dinners with Michaela
  • Nightly kitchen chats with Jess (and more recently, Carson)
  • Days spend exploring the Hudson Valley with Jon and Josh
  • Third-wheeling with Mike and Nicole (and more recently, Paige)
  • Nordstrom Rack trips with Mandy
  • Brunching with Joel
  • Shows at UCB
  • Elevator rides with Jimmy Fallon, Willie Geist, et al.
  • Running and biking down Riverside Drive
  • Cheap Broadway tickets
  • Rooftop parties and bars
  • Free access to the city’s museums

I am not sorry “New York didn’t work out,” and I do not think of myself as a “failure.” Quite the opposite. In the past five years: I’ve worked in five jobs at eight locations in three different industries; I’ve moved five times into three apartments with thirteen different roommates; I’ve encountered almost every kind of rodent, coworker, and breakfast cocktail I can think of. My tolerance for crazy has been blown out of the water, along with any type of personal or professional expectation I’ve ever had. New York came through for me time and time again; I realize and acknowledge that. I had the lucky opportunity to live in the city I fantasized about since I was in 7th grade, work for the company of my dreams, and expand my network tenfold with creative, inspiring people who are thought-leaders in their respective industries — and even made a handful of them my best friends.

It’s really challenging to start over in your comfort zone, and even as tough and bizarre as New York City is, it became just that. I know how to survive there, but I no longer want to. Just as buying that one-way ticket to LGA five Augusts ago felt so right to me then, making the decision to bunk up with a college friend in a new-to-me city much closer to home feels right to me now.

I don’t know what this next city will have in store, but taking a risk and starting a new adventure isn’t something that intimidates me any more. New York has been my greatest love/hate relationship, and maybe it always will be. And while I am happy to be moving on, I don’t regret a thing. NYC: until we meet again, thanks for the memories, lylas and never change (even though you will, and probably already have).

Chicago, you’ve got some big Birkenstocks to fill.

Decisions, Decisions

Let’s start by saying “good decision-maker” is something you won’t see listed under the Skills section of my resume any time soon — partly because it’s neither a professional trait nor grammatically advanced enough phrase to use on such a document, but mostly because I’m terrible at it.

In high school, my best friend and I would drive around town for hours on end unable to make a simple choice about where we wanted to eat dinner. A handful of times, I’m pretty sure it ended with her dropping me off at home, an empty stomach intact.

I’ve twice let “signs” from the universe take the wheel at pivotal points in my life.

Once, I had just made the 7th grade cheerleading squad and needed to decide if I wanted to continue dancing in a company where I had been taking lessons since I was three years old, or if I wanted to spend my extra-curricular time at school, chanting and cheering for boys playing sports. For a reason I can no longer fully remember, I wasn’t able to commit to both. Maybe cheer camp conflicted with an important week at the studio? Doesn’t matter. I thought and I over-analyzed and my mom spent hours on the phone with my dance teacher and cheer coach trying to mediate a situation where there simply wasn’t a workaround. So what was a distraught 12-year-old to do? As the young, proud Catholic girl I was, I locked myself in my bedroom, prayed for a sign, and turned on my radio. The song that was playing? Lee Ann Womack’s one hit wonder, “I Hope You Dance.” No shit.

The other time was a more recent account I tell fairly often — my moving to New York story. Spoiler alert: you know how it ends. I had been obsessed with New York City for as long as I can remember; I wanted to move here long before I ever visited. I met one of my best college friends working at a coffee shop my sophomore year. We clicked almost immediately, and upon learning our New York fantasies aligned, we planned to be NYC roommates from the get go. I used my senior year spring break to network in the city, meeting with college alumni who worked in fashion, media, and most interesting to me, at NBC, and Ashley spent hers falling in love with a successful man who lived in Los Angeles. We reunited working our first shift together after the break from school, and discussions slowly started to drift westward. The next few months consisted of much deliberation, more reruns of The OC than anyone should watch in their lifetime, and eventually ended with me accepting a job working at my friend’s boyfriend’s LA company upon graduation. Summer began, and a few months passed without much progress. I hadn’t received an official contract or offer letter, we hadn’t secured an apartment, and I was without pay since leaving my coffee shop gig when school let out. So one day, I sent another request up to the gods. As the young twenty-something Catholic school graduate I was, I said “today, I need a sign.” That day, an apartment application in Los Angeles went through — something called “accepted with conditions” where apparently all that was required for our very first apartment was an increased security deposit. “This must be the sign,” I thought. Later that evening, after a family birthday party, a long run and a large glass of wine, I received a phone call from a childhood friend who had recently moved to New York. She just left a dance show, thought of me, and oh yeah, since she knew my feelings about LA were up in the air, she finally received the okay from a friend that she could offer me an open room in Harlem for $400 a month. I bought a one way flight to LaGuardia the next day.

“You can’t fight fate,” Zach, a tertiary character in The OC said in season two. In each circumstance, I asked for a sign, and I received one. My choices to continue dancing and move to New York City, arguably two of the most important parts of my life to date, were both made solely on my inability to make a decision. Or were they?

I was obsessed with New York City — of course I was going to find a way to justify moving here. Los Angeles was scary and hot and three timezones away. I’d like to believe I gave it a fighting chance, but at the time, it just wasn’t meant to be.

If I chose cheerleading, I would have been giving up on nine years of dance lessons at the most prestigious school in my hometown. A lot of money had been spent by my parents, and I would have lost my spot in a company I had worked extremely hard to earn. Granted, there was never a song entitled “I Hope You Cheer,” but I’d like to think, even if the radio had been playing “Mickey” at the moment I turned it on (Bring it On reference), I would have made my way to the dance decision regardless.

I could have easily taken the fact my apartment application was accepted as a sign that I should move to LA. I also could have easily taken the fact that I moved forward with cheerleading tryouts after I knew I was a shoe-in for a Junior Company spot as a sign that I should have been a cheerleader. But in life, I think we make subconscious decisions every day. We exercise the ability to talk ourselves in and out of situations on the reg. I had a glass of wine at happy hour, so now I can’t workout tonight. I told my friend I’d go to a party where I knew my ex would be, I guess I’ll show up…in the short skirt. I took a contract job knowing the possibility of using its end as my NYC out. You get the idea.

“Life is a chain of decisions,” Mandy, a tertiary character in New York City once said in season five. I simultaneously do and don’t know what’s next. In case you haven’t acquainted with my skin and/or liver in the recent months, there’s a lot up in the air right now. Making decisions is by nature a scary business, but I’m hopeful what’s meant to be will be. And as the late twenty-something distanced Catholic girl I am, I welcome prayers and positive vibes more than ever.

Currently: a Monday evening perspective

HI THERE, HOW ARE THINGS? Life lately = yeeesh. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these (or one of anything on here) so let’s touch base. Regroup. Circle back. Er, I mean catch up. It’s only Monday evening (when I wrote this) and I’m already exhausted. I’d say “what a week!” but it’s been a day. I DIGRESS.

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Currently, (as I navigate my at Monday evening), I am…

Listening to: A Spotify playlist I made featuring all the songs on Will Arnett’s horrible Netflix original series called Flaked. The show will make you upset with Venice and friendship and humanity (in a totally not worth it way) but the music will make you moody and solemn and deep (in the best way!), so do that instead.

Eating: I just finished an “open-faced grilled cheese sandwich.” AKA I microwaved a slab of brie on an english muffin, and I’m trying to make myself feel okay about it. Other people my age have families of five and I’m still cooking at a junior-high level but THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.

Sipping on: A glass of pinot noir. Always. I mean obviously not always, but you know, sometimes. We’re getting into the most uncomfortable time of the year for red-wine connoisseurs, btw – when the rising outside temperatures make ordering a malbec or shiraz socially uncomfortable. But be bold, lovers of the dark-colored grape, and do not let those rosé or *shivers* chardonnay drinkers cramp your style. For if it truly gets too warm out to think about sipping on a red, there’s always our good friend whiskey on the rocks.

Feeling good about: This past weekend. I helped coordinate an alumni happy hour AND I organized a donut crawl, which is exactly what it sounds like (a bar crawl of donut shops). Both were occasions to catch up with people who I’ve spent too long not seeing, and it was so good to socialize and spend some time exploring new places in the city which I too often (literally daily) take for granted.

Reading: Finishing up Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance and starting Pamela Ryckman’s Stiletto Network for book club (#oneNewYearsResolutiondown).

Missing: My long-distance family and friends. And Whitney Houston, always.

Terrified of: Spiders. Job stuff. Strangers/being followed. Walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you. You know, the normal things to be terrified of.

Excited about: OH I REBRANDED MY WEBSITE. In a time when I actually have 1,000,000+ other things I should be working on in my spare time, I decided to move full speed ahead with the website rebrand I’ve been thinking about for a year on the blog I update maybe once every other month at most. Anyways, it’s still a bit of a work in progress, but I chose the name Uptown Moxie because:

a) I’m no longer the little girl I was when I moved to the big apple five years ago, and even though ‘uptown’ is specific to where I live curently, I like being a little more expansive with my geo-referencing. Just perhaps I won’t live in New York for the rest of my blogging days. Just perhaps.

b) I have always lived Uptown, and I’m basically Christie Brinkley

c) I liked and have used the word Moxie plenty of times before Allison Williams named her dog. But for the record I died a million times when she got/named that adorable pup.


With that, I’m at the end of my feelings and also at the end of my wine glass. I hope you like the rebrand and that you’ll stick around to hear my ramblings, however many months apart I may post them. Xo.

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In the Heights

GW Bridge

I haven’t taken out my camera recently, so with Sunday’s gorgeous weather and nothing on my agenda, the timing felt right. My roommate and I took a casual four-hour stroll in our neighborhood, and I photographically documented some of the sites. It was a day filled with leisurely exercise, a guacamole BLT sandwich (aka heaven), and a sunscreen-scented headband reminding me of that season called summer; what more can you ask for? Here’s a few photos of the George Washington Bridge, the little red lighthouse, Hudson View Gardens and Fort Tryon Park — in other words: our backyard.

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Entertaining in the Empire City: Jess’ go-to Guide

Happy Friday! It’s the last day of the workweek and my the last post for the Entertaining in the Empire City series. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22 excited about both!

Today’s recommendations come from my best friend and roommate, Jess. Background info: I met Jess over a decade ago – participating in a variety show for our hometown theater. I became true friends with Jess when we were hired by Retail-Giant-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to deep clean their store with steel wool and a variety of semi-toxic cleaning products. I stayed friends with her for too many reasons to list. Top of my mind reasons include: Jess can hold a conversation with anyone, she’s never afraid to ask for what she wants, and her Instagram is a carefully curated work of art. She has the voice of Beyoncé, the face of Taylor Swift ;) and she always knows what she wants for dinner. The fact that she selflessly offers sound advice and unconditional support when you need it is just added bonus. (I really just keep her around for her Instagramming abilities).

So last but not least, in her words, here is Jess’ list of her favorite New York spots to show to out-of-town visitors.

Housing Works Bookstore, Soho: This place makes you feel like a hipster Belle in a bookstore paradise with spiral staircases and hundreds of rare, new, and used books. Pair that with a non-fat latte and decent record collection for browsing. Who needs a prince anyway?

UCB Cagematch, Chelsea: It goes without saying that Amy Poehler knows what’s up. Basically everything she touches turns to genius so it’s no surprise her underground improv den is sweaty, rowdy, and a whole lot of fun. I took my dad here for a midnight Cagematch show. He came for the PBRs, but stayed for the impressive fart jokes.

Le Cheile, Washington Heights: This one is just me being selfish. This adorable Irish bar is 2 blocks from my apartment. With its local art, subway tile decor, and locally sourced brews this place gives Brooklyn a run for its money. Oh, and the GIANT grilled cheese is kind of out of this world.

Fort Tryon Park, Washington Heights: If you want to blow a tourist’s mind take them to this park. It feels like you’ve been dropped inside a mythical fairy land complete with beautiful flower gardens, tangles of tree branches overhead, and castles filled to the brim with medieval art. Oh, and somehow you’re still in Manhattan.

PUNDERDOME 3000, Gowanus, Brooklyn: Alright, I’ll hand it to Brooklyn for this one. PUNDERDOME is a weirdly wonderful evening once a month where pun aficionados convene in a battle royal of wits. Don’t question it, just go. It’s a pun of fun (get it?!).


And that’s a wrap on Entertaining in the Empire City, folks! Anything we missed? Anything you’re dying to check out?

Entertaining in the Empire City: Anela and Mandy’s Favorite Spots

Day three. You know the drill. These two ladies are one-of-a-kind friends, and both have such unique takes on their favorite spots in the city. I met them both at the same former job (at different times), and even both being ladies of fashion, their tastes couldn’t be more different.

Up first, Anela – who was born and raised in Long Island and bleeds Brooklyn to the tee. She’s lived all over the boroughs, recently traveled to Africa, and finds inspiration everywhere she goes and in everything she does. She’s quirky, fun, and endlessly curious. Here’s what she has to say:

Anela prefaces, “These are my all time favorite places to eat. They really have an old school vibe to them, and are very New York. I’ve gotten to know them well, and I have to say they have stolen my heart. ”

As mentioned previously, my friend Mandy is another one of the fashionistas I surround myself with on the reg. Her Cali roots have instilled her with a sense of adventure and a professional drive that never gives up. For someone who I forced to call me “Princess” for the first three weeks we were acquainted (the same name didn’t vibe well with me off the bat), I’m surprised (and delighted!) that we are as close as we are now. But more so than that, I’m grateful, because I can’t imagine my New York life without her honest, rom-com-y, positive outlook on life. Here’s a few of Mandy’s favorite places she likes to show off to visitors.

Entertaining in the Empire City: According to Mike

Here is part deux of the series I made up introduced yesterday – Entertaining in the Empire City.

The question: “When you have visitors in NYC, what are the five places (restaurants, bars, etc.) you MUST take them?

The answerer: my pal Mike, who currently resides in LA. I had the good fortune of befriending Mike a few years ago in between folding heaps of Joe’s Jeans, color-coding sock walls and opening fitting room doors for cheap men price-conscious shoppers at a former job. Simply put, Mike’s the best. I trust his fashion sense tenfold over my own. His sarcasm and wit are constantly on point, and he’s one of the most genuine people I have ever met. Also, I think that it’s a universally accepted truth that you haven’t lived until Mike’s called you a bitch. He uses that word better than anyone I know and it’s hilarious and honest (and warranted) every single time.

Mike’s answers: I should note that he mentioned, “I had a hard time sticking to 5 places.” Here’s what made the cut:

  • The Room, Soho: Chillest bar ever.
  • The Heights Bar & Grill,  Morningside Heights: Cannot miss the happy hour on their rooftop.
  • The Sixth Ward, Lower East Side: $20 for brunch with unlimited mimosas.
  • Raines Law Room, Union Square: Really cool speakeasy. Visitors die over this place because they feel like they’re part of some exclusive New York lifestyle. *eye roll*
  • Veselka, East Village: Pierogi all day every day. OMG AND MINDY KALING LOVES IT TOO.*
  • Koronet Pizza, Morningside Heights: I don’t care what anyone says; this is the best NYC pizza place.
  • Spice (Multiple Locations): Delicious Thai food, and they’re all over Manhattan.
  • Obviously Shake Shack (Multiple locations): I love taking west coasters here.  They’ll never admit it’s better than In-N-Out, but they’ll know it’s true. Just like they won’t admit Disney World is better than Disneyland. “You just can’t compare the two,” they say.  YEAH, BECAUSE DISNEY WORLD IS THAT MUCH BETTER.

*see Mindy Kaling’s Instagram for further information.