My vacation ended the moment I began to board my flight back to New York City. During the ten hour flight, I already started to feel like I was in New York. I would need no time to re-adjust once I landed, because New York is a feeling more than it is a location. From the impatience to the rushing and even hearing loud English again, I understood that vacation was officially over. Walking among hurried steps, I could abruptly feel the NYC humidity suffocating me. It was then that I realized that I have become used to living in a constant state of hushed panic. It truly is the concrete jungle. I laugh at those who come to live in New York City and become irritated when they cannot walk the streets in peace. NYC is fun, it is exciting, it is a city of lions, but peaceful it is not. It is not a city that breeds “relaxed” individuals. The occasional born-and-raised New Yorkers who seem relaxed are actually just living in a constant Bruce Lee state of stealth and self-awareness.
On this particular flight, I was returning from Herceg Novi, Montenegro. It is a small city located in the Bay of Kotor, on the Adriatic Sea. On this trip I also visited Dubrovnik, Croatia, where the Lannister island of King’s Landing is filmed for the HBO show Game of Thrones. I look nothing like the people there who are mostly tall and light-skinned with straight hair (in my opinion the most beautiful Europeans I have ever seen). I also do not speak the local language. However, I can honestly say that it felt like home. Not the kind of home that feels familiar, but the other kind. The no matter where you go, there you are, kind. It felt like home because I was fully comfortable in my own skin there, even more so than I am in my actual home, despite the fact that I looked nothing like everyone else and half the time I didn’t know what was going on. Let’s also note that on this trip the main mode of transportation was boating and I get motion sickness. Somehow, I still felt more comfortable in Montenegro. I was fully myself and not once did I question who I was while I was there.
Montenegro is a beautiful country and I enjoyed my time there. The homey feeling, however, was more due to the fact that I was away from New York than the fact that I was in Montenegro. Every time I go away I feel like I am escaping a mentally abusive relationship. I feel as if I cannot leave it, but I don’t know exactly what is holding me back and wouldn’t know where else to stay. It was a familiar feeling I remember from when I returned from Amsterdam, Spain, Jamaica, Germany, the Dominican Republic, etc. This happens all the time, but this time it dawned on me that it was not just the average post-vacation blues.
In New York City, it seems like everyone’s primary motivation is networking. I know this is also the case in Hollywood and even in other cities and countries, but I cannot write about an experience I have not lived through so I am writing about NYC. If you walk into a party and are not sure if it is a networking party, just listen closely to what people are talking about. If it sounds like they have re arranged their resumes to sound “humble” and are yelling their qualifications to each other over loud music and drinks, then you have just entered a networking event.
In New York City it also seems like most of us are obsessed with our own identities. This goes especially for those who were not born in the city. It’s like the first thing that gets packed before even a toothbrush and a change of underwear is the secondary self. The secondary self is the person you want others to perceive you as while the primary self is the person you truly are. And who can blame them? Who we want to be seen as is often what determines how successful we become. It is also easier to ensure a fresh start. So most of us wear our secondary selves on our sleeves and get little to no breaks from that identity, because almost every social event seems to be a networking event. As a result, the primary self eventually starts to matter less and disappear, leaving us with a false sense of self. Because this remaining, false identity is so superficial and outwardly visible, it feels as if it is easy to steal or imitate. As a result, you either become a “relaxed” person who uses their constant bragging as a shield against identity thieves or easily become defensive in an attempt to protect what is yours. This does not set the stage for a very stable or ‘peaceful’ way of living.
I was a victim of the secondary self, especially while growing up as the daughter of a narcissistic mother. However, I have since realized that the primary self needs to be nurtured constantly in order to avoid this. It is an endless balancing act. This means being around people who you want nothing out of or can do nothing for you, simply because they are good company. This means doing and creating 100% of the time and being comfortable with keeping some of it to yourself. Unlike the secondary self which is extremely fragile and demands constant validation and attention, the primary self can never be taken away. NYC is an environment that nurtures secondary self-identities. It is up to us to nurture the true self.
I am happy here in New York, but have learned that if I want to be fully at peace I must go somewhere else. I am starting my breakup process with the city, and I do so out of self-respect. Unfortunately, I have developed trust issues with NYC that cannot be resolved. Until I find the place that balances the peace and homeliness of vacation with the hustle and bustle of NY, I will continue to travel to as many countries and cities as possible, in hopes of finding my perfect home.