Thursday, December 9, 2010

What is normal?

We are almost halfway through our New York City year, and the past 5 1/2 months have adjusted me fairly well to city life. I wouldn't say that I'm a real New Yorker, or that I love the city, but I've adapted, and I know how to live here now.

I think I'm having an identity crisis. Or not really that, but living in three completely different way-of-lives in the past 3 years has kind of messed up what I think is normal. Is living in the middle of the South Pacific in a little house on a cliff overlooking the water normal? Is living in a small university town in our white picket fence house normal? Is living in a high rise apartment building with a lobby and doormen normal?

None of these are normal, to be honest, from the couple who grew up most of their lives in the suburbs of Atlanta. We are used to traffic, big shopping malls, spacious houses, lots of friends and family nearby; but since we moved to Charlottesville 8 years ago we've had to adjust. And that change was hard enough, I thought, in living in a small town (which was made oh-so-easier once we got the Target 4 years ago). We figured out how to live without chain restaurants and department stores, we discovered it was actually nice to walk on the Downtown Mall and run into people who know our family. Life without traffic definitely had it's charm, as long as you knew not to drive around town during UVA football Saturdays.

And New Zealand threw everything off. We no longer had conveniences like working heat and air conditioning, and our dryer took 3 hours per load of laundry. Everything was super expensive, and our lives were (literally) upside down. But we adjusted, we met great people and saw beautiful sights and even got used to driving on the "wrong" side of the road. We learned to order a flat white instead of a coffee with cream, and Lilly enjoyed her "fluffy." And we adjusted our internal clocks to a more laid-back lifestyle.

And right when we were finally getting used to things, we were back to Charlottesville, which reset our "normal" meters. Work, daycare, friends on the weekends. Getting back to the "luxuries" like our beautiful Charlottesville house, the pool in our neighborhood, and of course, our local Target. Having a washer and dryer which actually worked instead of taking hours and hours per load. Driving to Whole Foods and Harris Teeter to pick up anything we needed. Little Gym, ballet class, and horsebackriding for Miss Lilly. Friendly faces, family life, university town.

And reset again. New York City. I wouldn't say it's the most unfriendly place ever because that's not exactly accurate; we've encountered people who are perfectly nice. And it's not exactly "cold" (although the weather is). I think the thing about New York is that it's hard to live here, generally - it's crowded and busy and cold, people are living in small spaces and not having the normal conveniences of a non-New York City life. So I can see why people quickly walk down the street with a frown on their face, not making eye contact, and ready to go off at the first person who gets in their way. Because New York is dirty, it's hectic, it's expensive, it's cold (did I mention that?), and it's exhausting.

But so many people live here and love it, overlooking those things. Because you can order any kind of food to be delivered to your house at any time of the day or night. You can go to the most spectacular shows in the world, with the most talented singers, dancers, actors. You can see people from all over the world, both living here and as tourists. You can witness the beauty of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and while we're not in Virginia, we can experience trees and horses in Central Park.

So, like in New Zealand, and again back in Virginia, we are now experiencing sensory overload in Manhattan. Lilly has reprogrammed her normal meter so that if I tell her we're going in a car she shouts "Yay, a car!!!" because it is so not a normal thing to her anymore. But walking a couple blocks in any direction to a playground is normal. Living in a hotel-like atmosphere with doormen to greet her when she walks through the door is normal. It's not normal to have a backyard or walk across the street to her friend's house, but it is her new normal to push the elevator button ("eighteen!" she says). And this year, it is sadly normal to her to not have a real Christmas tree in her apartment, but instead to have a huge Christmas tree and Hanukkah display in her lobby. Which we visit every day, so she can get her holiday fill.

So, we are adjusted/adjusting to our new normal of this year. We don't have Christmas lights or my company breakfast with Santa, but she did have her Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes and today is on a field trip with school to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. We don't have a subdivision to drive though to look at Christmas lights, but we do have lots of holiday lights throughout the city streets. It's even odder to think that two years ago at this time, we were celebrating Christmas in the New Zealand "summer," wearing sundresses and shorts in the warm weather. I guess some things will never feel "normal."

1 comment:

Becca said...

Wow, what fascinating journeys you have had, and such wonderful experiences for Lilly! I travelled a lot as a teen, living in a few different countries, and while it's definitely an adjustment, it's helped me to be more well-rounded. I have a true appreciation for things that are different and for learning new things and ways of life. I bet Lilly is just soaking it all in, more for her to use later!! I'm definitely interested in where your next jump will be... :-)