comments 27

When I Went, There I Was

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.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

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.

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  1. Really liked the analogy of knowing when something is a networking party, its so true how people who are networking real off their qualification as if its a shopping list. I always get the feeling that the holiday is over as soon as I get to the last night. It realisation that normality is about to invade my every thought.

    Great piece of writing. 🙂

  2. You say some really important things about one’s “secondary self” and one’s “true self.” Very often the secondary one takes the place or obscures the other. I think there is at least one more—the “networked self.” It’s some sort of weird amalgamation and fiction of some new kind that we’ve all invented and participated in over the past fifteen years or so.

    Thanks, too, for checking out my site!

  3. Having never been to New York (and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Networking party either), I can’t speak on that, but I do understand this idea of wearing a second self that becomes your primary identification. It’s not pleasant. I’m going through my own break up with my secondary self. Great writing, thanks for sharing!

  4. Excellent open, honest reflection…..Yes! Never easy to face up to such realities….but can be extremely liberating.

    • Thanks Kelley, yes it did. I knew something was off, but I always questioned myself and now that a lot of my friends have moved and I am traveling more I realize that it’s not the city for me anymore.

  5. I love this!! It was almost exactly a year ago that I decided to move. And MY G-D IN HEAVEN DO I MISS NYC. But I also understand myself as opposed to my identity again. And I feel like I am happier than I ever would have been having never left even if I do hope to end up back again.

    KEEP WRITING. You know I always love it

  6. jannaruusuvuori

    “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.”

    Love it!!

  7. I have always wanted to visit New York and a part of me still wants to live there because I have that romanticized idea of the city that people who’ve never really experienced it have. I can understand what you mean about the pressure of living in the city and I hope you find a place that really suits you soon.

  8. Christina Joy

    I am in love with your blog! These places look amazing. Thanks for the inspiration:3 don’t forget to throw me into your pocket next time you head out, ok?

    Stay rad lovely,
    =^.^= Kitty

  9. “Bruce Lee state” lol This country mouse salutes the brave New Yorkers!
    I’m traveling to New York State in October – they call it upstate but it’s within commuting to NYC. I fly to Newark and take the train to my final destination – it’s my chance once every year or two to feel urban.

  10. Laura McDaniel

    LOVE this post and the woman behind it. Thank you for perusing my blog as well.
    Definitely have a fan in this little, old woman! You inspired me to go to Croatia now too.
    FIRMLY believe in “humanizing ourselves” more – sadly I see more and more of that as “I” age – makes me feel so much older when the youth of today is so more detached and over networked/social media. My blog is like a journal for me and I’m happy when I find new ‘friends’ – but also love when I get out and actually engage with others. SO, my dear, if/when you travel to Seattle – give me a shout, I will happily humanize my city for you! 🙂

    • Hi Laura! I love your blog. Thank you! Croatia and Montenegro are beautiful places with good people and food. I agree with you 100%. We are valuing approval over ourselves in today’s society and social media is a huge part of it. I will keep you in mind if I go to Seattle. Love the person behind the blog as well. 🙂

  11. Lola Elvy

    This is an interesting read. I have only been to New York a handful of times, most recently a year and a half ago, so have little personal experience with it, but I always find the constant bustle of people to be somewhat overwhelming, to put it quite mildly; however, I have spent most of my life living apart from cities of any kind, let alone busy cities. Your criticisms of New York seem well thought out, while you simultaneously appear to maintain a strong emotional connection to the city. This was well done, I think.


    • Thank you Lola! I do love this City, but it is the kind of love that comes with familiarity. I can make it here, but it is not a peaceful place to be.

      • Lola Elvy

        I understand that kind of familiar comfort; sometimes I wonder what it would be like without it.

  12. 11jacks

    Absolutely love this, especially the part about feeling at home when you’re away from home. This happens to me a lot and it’s one of the reasons I love travelling so much. I hope you find your perfect home.

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