If you had told me growing up that I would spend two and a half years of my life living in New York City I would have found it hard to believe. That is the stuff of dreams and not dreams achievable for a slightly awkward girl from the outskirts of Leeds.
The first time I saw the Manhattan skyline I was 14 and on a trip here with my family. New York is a place you see in nearly every movie and seeing it in reality is no less spectacular. I always joked that it was the only place I could ever see myself living, there was this feeling about it, a life to it that felt like no-where else.
Fast forward twenty years and out of the blue my husband is given the opportunity to move here with his job. It was a huge opportunity for him and what an amazing adventure for us all. The timing wasn’t great. We had a six month old, I was trying to juggle a new baby and my PR business, how would we make this all work? What we did know is that if we turned it down it would have been an aching regret that we would always carry with us.
So we did it. Six months later we were here with a one year old and very little idea of how it would really be. We move to Brooklyn, with its achingly hip cafes and bars, chilled cool demeanour, industrial edges with stunning tree lined streets of brownstone houses, the sprawling Prospect Park. It is not like anywhere else I know.
Although we thought Manhattan would feature more in our life here it turns out that the subway and small children limited our journeys there, but the skyline was every present and never failed to make me catch my breath when I saw it and think wow we live here!
It is not an easy place to live. It’s expensive, competitive, not always child friendly. The winters are long and unforgiving, the height of summer suffocating and sweaty. But there is a lot to do here if you motivate yourself to explore and make the most of it.
The wonderful food, the wonderful parks and endless activities. The gorgeous little cafes with the very best coffee where you can sit with your baby and sing rock songs or the wheels on the bus.
Hundreds of restaurants with cuisines from every corner of the world and the people, people from everywhere in the world from every kind of background who swarm the parks on the hot days and play sports and have huge family BBQs, all making it in their own way in one of the hardest and best places to live.
It’s difficult not to think back on our time here with a little sadness of what we missed out on. I lost a much beloved grandpa and was too pregnant to fly back for his funeral. I missed a best friend’s wedding, I missed having help on hand when I had two kids under two. My family missed out on some of the early years of our boys.
The trips home which, while lovely, were always hard work trying to see everyone with unsettled, jet lagged babies and an ever present nagging that you had to say goodbye again in a few short days.
But I think my biggest memory will be what we gained. It was a great adventure. I have learned a lot about another way of life not just an American way of life but also from the people who I have met here from all over the world. It has quashed many preconceptions I had about America and who its people are and what this country stands for.
Most of all it has undoubtedly made me stronger.
I feel sad our kids won’t really remember it but I know we will tell them about it often. We will be back to visit friends and show the boys where they lived and show our youngest little American where he was born.
We have been on some incredible holidays here and seen places I think we would never have been if we had not made this move. And there are the people who we see every day who we will miss terribly.
I know there will be tears when we get on the plane home for the end of this chapter but also excitement for the start of the next one. The one where we can see our friends and family in person without time limits or the need to FaceTime. Where our kids can be near to family again. Where I can see my friends embarking on new jobs and marriages and children in person and not via a phone.
Thank you New York. Some days you well and truly kicked my ass and some days I won and kicked back harder. I loved you the minute I saw you and am glad we got to spend more time together. You can be a real bugger but I love you.