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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Wednesday
Jul052006

Identity Crisis

I am standing on the edge of a rather high cliff.. below is water. Yes. There is water. But it's a long fucking jump, yo. Will the water be warm? Will it be ice cold? Shocking my system into paralyzation. Or action? Will I flap about vigorously in my frantic effort to get somewhere or will I sink like a stone? What to do. Knowing me, I'll sit around on this here cliff, sometimes dangling my feet over the edge, but mostly laying about, occasionally peeping over the edge, often talking about leaping off the edge.. but never jumping. But maybe I will. You just never know.

The computer doctor says my hard drive is terminally ill and is, for all intents and purposes, brain dead. That's why there have been no photos as of late. Which is not to say I haven't been taking any. I have a slew of goodies from the 4th and am sure to take a bunch in London this week... Eventually I'll resurrect the poor computer with a hard drive transplant.. Not now though, I only have one day here in Brooklyn. We leave for London tonight.

I am seriously contemplating moving from NYC. It's nice, yes. Interesting. Fast paced. But I want wide open spaces. Grass that I can call my own. Lakes close enough to walk, or at least drive to. Here, I have drank more alcohol than I did in my entire life previous to moving cross country. Here, I spend much of my time with acquaintances in bars. Acquaintances with whom very occasionally we accidentally stumble into meaningful conversations. That's different from real friends who share their troubles and fears, who don't anesthetize the hurt of life with liquor. I don't know. Perhaps I am depressed and blaming it on my location instead of myself. Grass Is Greener Syndrome. If I don't feel so suffocated in my neighborhood maybe I'll be happier. But when I get my own plot of grass and bitch about having to mow the lawn. Again, who knows?

I don't know who I am. What it is I'm about, what I want.. Some days I want to live in the city among creative people, write a book, and follow The Surge's band to Europe. Other times I want to move to the mountains, start a garden, walk my dog and yes, maybe even have a baby.

I feel crowded all the time. In my apartment, on the sidewalk, at the park, on the subway. I miss space. Driving my own car. Activities with friends that don't include drinking. Maybe I gave up and am just not making the most of all this city has to offer. I could forge my own lifestyle here instead of going with the flow. I can explore on my own. Then I think, for the rent I'm paying I could afford an extremely nice house in cheaper climates. I could make a home for my family. No, I don't want to live in the suburbs. I want to live where where I can't see the nearest neighbor for all the trees. I know places like that. I miss places like that.

London, soon. Must go pack.

Reader Comments (25)

It's harder to make 'real' friends past the age and time where you are put in a crucible of college or high school or sports or whatever together. Making real friends past 22 requires a lot more effort on both people's parts. It does sound like you either need a vacation, a job change, a social change, or a move. I guess only you can decide which one!
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSally
I don't know the right answer, but ask yourself this--
What is it you hope for yourself? What are you running from? What has made you so restless & depressed?
Will moving change any of that?
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterchrissy
"Then I think, for the rent I'm paying I could afford an extremely nice house in cheaper climates. I could make a home for my family. No, I don't want to live in the suburbs. I want to live where where I can't see the nearest neighbor for all the trees. I know places like that. I miss places like that."

Like Sugar Valley?
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoe's lost on RT880
So many of us think that if we make a drastic change in our life, such as the one you are thinking about, that it will be that which will complete us and make us happy. Resist the urge to live life thinking oh when xyz happens then I will be happy. Live your life for today. Think about the things that make you happy, the people who care about you, the activities that provide you your bliss. Add those things into your life, change your life and your habits, that may include a move, but don't move thinking it will change the unhappiness that lives within you....that will come out no matter where you live, grass or concrete.
Monica you are amazingly talented with much to offer. It seems as though you have come on some hard times since your recent departure from the news business...this major change will cause many of the thoughts you have been having, but make life altering changes, such as moves very carefully and with much thought.
One of my best friends has said so often...I will behappy when.....when the when happened, it didn't make her any happier, she was just waiting for the next thing that would make her happy. This is a hard way to live....she has in recent years worked hard to break this habit, but it is possible. I know when I am going though a hard time I always say, I just need xyz (insert whatever that might be for you marriage, baby etc) and know that it is exactly what you don't need right now, you just think you do because it will help you avoid facing what it is you need to be dealing with.
Have a great trip to London, enjoy your husband and your time away...the storm will pass with work, whcih it seems like you are doing. Travel safe.
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermap
While I agree that we sometimes make more permanent (and therefore bad) decisions during temporary hardships, I also think that some of us are better-suited for living in a big city (where I was raised) than in a less urban area (I prefer the side of a cow pasture). Although I cannot deny the positive side of the locale of my youth (I grew up in Tampa, "spitting distance" from the beach and Disney, the land of great seafood and the wonderful Cuban food for which I still long), having lived in the heart of Dixie since graduating from high school, amongst the folks that make this state so sometimes intolerably RED, I can't imagine ever going back to the Gulf Coast. In spite of it all, I really am happier in the middle of nowhere. That said, Monica's a smart chick--she'll figure out what's best for her. Thankfully we get to be voyeurs along her journey!
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnn
Yeah, you can afford a house in the country -- if you're making NYC news editor wages, correct? How are you gonna do that? How are you gonna stay married? If you're no longer in love or want to support yourself with your writing, that's one thing. But if you are still in love and determined to have a writing career, suck it up and make the city your own until it kills all the love and ambition that brought you there.

And oh yeah, there's alcohol everywhere you go. fwiw.


janet
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjls
One of the really swell things about life is that you can totally do every single one of those things. The unfortunate twist is that you can't do them all at the same time. I may blacklist myself for all eternity by all New Yorkers, but I've always felt that NYC is a 3-5 year kind of town. Sure, the hectic pace is really great for 3-5 years, but after that, who can really envision spending that much on rent to live in a shoe box for the rest of their mortal life. Plus all of the neuroses and cut throat behavior! Sometimes I feel like that city is so crowded because for each citizen, there is a shrink to hold their hand and help them navigate the insanity of it all. New York is an awesome town, but it can serve its purpose and then be parted from with fond memories.

I also have to say that I disagree with the sentiment that making a big change during a time of transition and upheaval is inherently wrong. When the pressure is on, you are forced to take a look at yourself and your life. Course corrections are a part of life. Many of my best decisions were made when the heat was on.
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLucia Dreamer
"Course corrections are a part of life."
I'd like to nominate you to be a presidential adviser--NOW!!!
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnn
This is my first comment here ( I just discovered your blog recently). I feel similiarly to what you described, living in the sf bay area. There is more nature and space here than in nyc (I've lived there too), but not really in the immediate area where I live (Oakland). I, too, crave open space, nature, and am feeling on edge from the crowds and other urban characteristics of where I live.

Try to do some of what you crave right there in NYC. Meet at a park, bookstore, or art gallery instead of a bar. Have a picnic or dinner party (no alcohol if you want) instead of dinner out or drinks. (even the smallest studio apt. can fit a small dinner party). Go for walks, use a park or gym to walk, run, or play sports. Go swimming, take the train to the beach or to a less populated area, etc.

You've probably thought of all that and more yourself; I just wanted to try to be helpful and that's all I could come up with. I know whenever I'm in New York I end up meeting firends for drinks, it's the most convenient thing to do, but I know if you try you can come up with alternatives, as long as your friedns are willing too.

I've been searching for years for the perfect place, where houses are cheap but jobs pay well, where the majority of people are not racist or homophobic, where the beaty of nature coexists with the amenities of a city. I'm sure you can guess that I've never found this place yet and nevr will.

But I try to enjoy where I am until I find a place that is close enough. I'm sure you will do the same with NY, enjoy what it has to offer and make the best of it in your own way until you find the place that suits you and your husband more at this time of your life. People change and our needs change too, and one place does not always meet our needs for our entire lives. As far as I'm concerned there is nothing wrong wit moving to find the place that suits you if you can do it. (sorry this is so long)

July 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterm
Stay in the city! At least for now... that's my advice. Escape out of it as much as you can but don't throw in the towel yet.

And enjoy London! It's seriously warm here... humid and sicky. Although having been to NYC in July, probably no different from the place you're leavng.

Dan
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDan
You can't see the neighbors for the trees. Sounds like Pleasant grove don't ya think? Monica, I am looking into travel nursing. I need someone to live in my house while I go. You, serge, Max and spliff, makes for a cozy life don't ya think? Something to think about....hmmm?
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermama
I lived in NYC for 3 years, just tried living their again and share your sentiment - especially about the drinking. I found that most New Yorkers spend all their time trying to get out of the city and complaining about it when they should just up and leave it. Your instincts are right, always trust them. I have lived in Venice Beach for 11 years now and have a yard, a nice car and open space to breathe. I'm glad I left the city and I love going back whenever I can. I am just happy I don't call it home anymore.
July 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterE
I was in nyc for many years and felt the restlessness you are describing very, very acutely. Yet I was fearful of moving to the burbs. We did eventually move and I am so much more content here. I marvel that we have a gorgeous yard with old growth trees, rabbits, birds of every variety...and our dog is in heaven being able to sniff his way around the property as he likes.

I don't think listening to your longings means you are running away or having the "grass is greener" syndrome. It's about having a quality of life that fulfills you. For some it is an urban setting. For others it is more bucolic. And sometimes, it is having the combination of the two...
July 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersusan
I'm sorry, I just cannot get over the fact that you're going to London for the wedding of Nick - freaking - Hornby. I would die...
July 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.
Hei Monica

don't worry too much about the grass is greener syndrome. You are in a very difficult time with decisions to take that are hard and scary. No wonder you feel anxious when you don't know what you want/can do jobwise or whether maybe the quiet family life would be more suitable. You have been thrown into a situation where suddenly you have to decide about different options and confront feelings that might have been buried while you were still in your news job. Try and focus on what you like and on who you love and one day you will know where you belong! There are people who love you and you have loads of fans out here who love your writing! Take Max to the next park, lie in the grass and just look up in the sky for a while - enjoy the small niceties in life.

All the best!
July 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkiaora
I don't like advice. I just want to feel heard when I have problems, so that I can clear my head and listen to the little voice in me that knows exactly what to do. Or the one that doesn't know anything but reminds me to just relax and stop caring. So Monica, I hear you. Advice givers, you're sweet. Maybe you offered something she hasn't thought of, or reminded her of something that makes everything seem a little different. Bla bla bla. I don't know why I'm commenting. I just didn't want to be a lurker.
July 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdesiree
I've moved to places where I knew no one twice within a 2 year period after college. It's very difficult to make genuine friends. Meeting people is easy, making friends..not so much. I think that's the reason I want to move to NYC. That's where my friends are (well those of them who haven't bolted for greener pastures, literally).
I find it funny that people think of leaving the very place I'm trying to run to.
July 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
I get it. I moved about a year ago to a really, really tiny town in the middle of nowhere for a job. My husband is here, but no one else is really our age or in the same "state of mind" (we don't have kids and many of the people our age have at least one). It is hard to make friends, but I am happy to say that I did and so can you. One of the things that I did was to sign up for (and subsequently go!) to tennis lessons. I met some really nice people and did something active during the early evening that didn't require drinks or smoky bars or much intropective conversation. We ran around, sweated, cheered each other on and had a good time. Another one of my friends that had similar issues (different small town) signed up for tap lessons. She has a blast. Cheesy? sure. Scary to do something new (and sweat) in front of strangers? You bet. Really and truly beneficial? You better believe it.

Now I like a smoky bar just like anyone else, but honestly - I can't for the life of me justify going to a bar and drinking as one of life's greatest joys. Plus, I generally go to drink to get drunk and my conversational skills aren't at the top of mind during those nights. This is my tip to you - stranger to stranger - sign up for something (lessons, classes, etc.) and participate wholeheartedly. And get out of your own head (and the smoky bars and your apt.) and into the outside.
July 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterElizabethR
the cliche "happiness is a state of mind" is a crock of shit - your environment is everything.

go where it feels good!
July 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterrosie
We all search for things that make our lives fulfilling. We dream of perfection and think we can recapture those moments in our lives that may have been perfect or close enough to get the moniker. Looking into the future is the only way to find new perfections, new dreams, new excitement. Safe comforts within our minds or our expectations from the past are mere illusion.
July 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterThe Seeker
hi monica.. ive just sort of been a quite listener (or reader) but i just wanted to say that your writing is excellent. im sure youve heard that a lot.. but hearing it again cant be bad right?

i was also wondering how you got your flicker picture thing there on the side. id really like to do something like that but cant figure it out for the life of me. do you need a pro flickr account? is that it?
July 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterblaine
Monica--

I am a first time poster and I think you do some great work here. I'll tell you what, I used to live in the Chicago area and now I live in the winehills of Southern Illinois and I could never go back. No more giant billboards and expensive cars and pretensious assholes. It's cheap. It's open. Lots of shade and haunted places. I can let my beagle Riley run free. Now, I'm not trying to advertise Southern Illinois here, no way. But if you need to go, you need to go.

Say hi to Serge for me and let me know if he's read any of the books I gave to him in St. Louis.

Cheers,
JB
July 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJB
In the 1800's, residents of Charleston, South Carolina routinely made visits to the mountains during the summer. The cooler weather allowed them to escape the brutal heat and recoup mentally.

Might I reccomend the same to you?

BTR (new reader, first-time poster).
July 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHarry
Hello folks! Am home... will try to jump on The Internets a bit later on tonight.. just got back from London.. Zillions of photos, gazillions of stories about me making a fool of myself in London... God damn that kiss hello business! I cannot get that shit right.. End up nearly making out with folks or copping an accidental feel during an aborted hug when I realize I should have kissed instead.

Talk soon then?
July 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
Accidental feels and aborted hugs...

Hell, how do you think I got through high school??

Welcome HOOOOMMMMEEEE!
July 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWry Bri

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