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    Home Away from Home

    5 years ago, the afternoon I moved to New York, my girlfriends dropped me off at O’Hare Airport. As I said goodbye to them, I tried to keep a straight face. I would then proceed to sob all the way through security, throughout the flight and through LaGuardia where I would find Brandon- my then-boyfriend- waiting for me with open arms.

    He was only my boyfriend at the time. We weren’t engaged. We were merely a young couple that would soon be roommates. But he felt like family to me. I found relief in his company as we waited in the cab line, drove through the tunnel, and arrived at our new home on 29th Street.

    Although I had many friends who already lived in New York, Chicago had been my home for 4 years. I had started my career there, I had successfully lived on my own completely supporting myself, and I had solid group of friends there, my “Chicago family.” We shared holidays, celebrations, hard times, fun times… pretty much everything together. Leaving this family was incredibly scary for me. These were the people that had transformed with me as college graduates to adults. This was where I started my life as an adult. Ironically, when I left Chicago, I felt like a child leaving home.

    During my first few months in New York, I compared every detail of it to Chicago.  The food, the social life, the pace, and most importantly: how one city thrived in the summer while the other completely sucked. However, god forbid anyone who never lived in Chicago try to compare the two with me. Those innocent bystanders always received the same hiss from me: “They’re incomparable! You would be a moron to compare them.”

    I can’t say those few months were hard though, because they weren’t. Moving to New York was definitely an adjustment, but a new family, another family quickly grew, and it wasn’t long before New York became home.

    As someone that loves a routine, and as a very loyal customer, it didn’t take long for me to get to know the neighbors and the local business owners. Everything I could ever possibly want and need was within 3 blocks of my apartment, and deliverable.  Within months, everyone from my drycleaner, my manicurists, the bodega owners, the florists, Agatha in her coffee cart, and one hair stylist per all six salons on my block were all part of my family.

    For the record, I don’t cheat on anyone, except hair stylists. I have needs.

    Working from home + taking my 72 pound labradoodle everywhere helped me maintain these relationships. On our daily morning walks, AJ was waiting in the flower district with our flowers and two treats. And this generosity wasn’t just limited to the flower district.

    Clearly people who think New Yorkers are rude have never lived in New York. My neighbors, the staff in my building & the business owners and employees in my neighborhood are some of the most generous, kind, animal-loving people I have ever met. I have been proud to call them my family for five years.

    When Brandon and I decided we were moving to Michigan a few months ago, it was easier to tell some of my best friends I was moving back to Michigan than to tell Alvin, the florist at Village Farm (the bodega across the street) who sets aside the freshest peonies and freshest pea chips for me on Wednesdays, the day the peonies and chips are dropped off.

    For the past few weeks, he can’t seem to look at me in the eyes as he hands me the peonies and chips.

    I can’t help but understand the betrayal he feels. I quickly grew close with my manicurist Diane when I moved to New York. During manicures, we learned we had much in common, and always exchanged cards and small gifts for happy occasions in each other’s lives. The magnitude of joy I felt when she gave me a congratulatory engagement card was the same magnitude of sadness I felt when she had to leave New York for a family emergency in China without saying goodbye to me.

    I felt like she was family, like she owed me more. We spent a lot of time together. She’s babysat my dog while I ran into Starbucks!  And let’s face it, I don’t let many people watch my dog. But when it came down to it, we didn’t even have each other’s contact info. I don’t even know her last name. That’s why I made sure to say goodbye to Alvin way in advance.

    That’s also why I understand that it’s hurtful to him that we’re leaving. And it’s probably embarrassing to him that he feels hurt.

    I am leaving the city as a very different person than the girl who sobbed through the clouds and down the Laguardia escalator to baggage claim.

    I changed a lot during my years in New York. First and foremost, I moved in with Brandon, and for the first time in my life lived with a man other than my dad. A few weeks later, our third roommate moved in, and to my amazement, I now lived with two boys and my first animal.

    I quickly learned how to care for a dog. How to own a dog. How to love a dog so much that it’s rewarding to take him out to go to the bathroom and it’s devastating when he won’t relieve himself when you have an appointment or meeting you’re in a rush to get to.  When I look back at my life in New York, I know my fondest memories will include Hank.

    Brandon and I took Hank everywhere. Because we didn’t have a car here and because most cabs don’t take 72 pound labradoodles (and let’s face it: because my dog is not sitting on the subway floor), we spent the past five years trekking with our third roommate. I learned everything as basic as how to hold a leash to more complicated notions such as how to adequately bribe a creature smarter than most of the people walking by on the street.

    I learned just how special the bond between a lady and her laradoodle is with the backdrop of the greatest city in the world.

    I changed in other ways too. I loosened up here. I started exercising. I became hooked on a spin class.  I went to my first SoulCycle class on Valentine’s Day, and I still consider it the best gift I ever gave myself. The SoulCycle community became my family and a few of the SoulCycle studios quickly became my Home Away from Home. The instructors, the staff, the receptionists, the riders who quickly went from strangers to longtime friends… they were the people I saw almost everyday. This filled a void of community I lost when working from home.

    This organization changed my entire lifestyle, and ultimately changed my life. Although there is no SoulCycle in Michigan, I am so grateful for the friends, lessons, and family I gained at my New York Home Away from Home.

    I also went from Emily Fellows to Emily Gorge in New York.  Getting engaged in Central Park (Hank’s Home Away from Home) to trekking to the Financial District to change my name both included long hauls to the opposite ends of the city that was well wroth the trek.

    When Brandon and I decided we were moving back to our original home, Michigan, the hardest part was telling our close family of friends in New York. Many of our friends from childhood and college live in New York, and they too had become our family, sharing everything with us such as celebrations (marriages, babies, jobs!) and surviving the hardships of the city with us. Brandon’s friends have become my friends and mine have become his. Imagining our day-to-day life without these people is extremely difficult.   Sharing the past five years with these special people have been nothing short of incredible.

    The only thing that helps alleviate that sadness is that my birth family was so excited when we shared the news. My mom screamed into the phone, “You are coming HOME!” And although Michigan has not felt like home for the past nine years, I do know she is right.

    Interestingly enough, although our birth families living in Michigan is ultimately what motivated Brandon and I to move to Michigan, living in Chicago and New York showed us that you can find family in many places.

    Michigan will never be New York, because let’s face it: New York City is the best city in the world. And New York will never be Chicago, because after all, Chicago was my first city, my first Home Away From Home.

    But at the end of the day, Michigan is my home.

    I’m excited to move to Michigan, but I am terrified to leave New York. As I continue to share the news with my family here, I don’t know what’s to come when we close out this chapter, but I do know that this decision is right for the 3 of us, my family.

    I don’t know where I will live or what I will do or if I will ever enjoy another spin class, but I do know that there’s no place like home.

     

     

    2 Responses to “Home Away from Home”

    1. Dee says:

      I really enjoyed reading this blog and I am delighted you’re coming back home. Welcome Home ❤️

    2. dad says:

      So Scout–Click your heels three times,come home and throw your arms around my neck–can’t stop crying over the new and improved stkmuan–can’t wait to be with you and Brandon and granddog Henry–lululululu

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