This is what your life looks like after you can’t extend your visa and your wallet is stolen. So instead of renting a car to transport all your worldly goods to store at your boyfriend’s home in Scotland, you have to pack it up tightly, shove it on a taxi from Haggerston to Euston, and find room on a overcrowded Sunday train from London to Glasgow.
This is what your life looks like when you see a Facebook post from a friend of a friend who you don’t really know on Facebook who just happens to have a room available in Brooklyn the weekend you fly back to New York from the UK. And you take it.
You don’t think.
You just go.
It’s been 70 days since my feet were on British soil. After spending the past seven years of my life in the UK (probably the most important years of the transition between childhood and adulthood), America feels more foreign to me than the England, Scotland and Wales in many ways. But it’s been a blessing to have family and friends already in the city ready and waiting for me, so that this displacement feels less awkward than other moves, like my move to London in 2012 that was somewhat painful and lonely at times.
Despite feeling very American while abroad, the learning curve to real life in New York has been steep. The first few lessons:
1.) You will be almost overwhelmed by the interest of men. American men are undaunted by my casual brushing aside of their attentions. In the UK, a simple sarcastic eyebrow raise will put an end to any funny business. In New York, a much more direct approach is needed, and sometimes even a very stern no alone won’t do the trick.
2.) Sorry, the MTA doesn’t care if you want to know exactly when your train or bus is arriving. This is especially difficult for me to accept after living off the Overground Line in East London, where I could look up each trains arrival and departure time all day online. Or the amazing bus tickers at most bus stops in London that let you know when you’re bus will be arriving (and the visual confirmation of each bus stop as it approaches while sitting on the bus. Literally the best).
3.) You will be able to find the most amazing, delicious cold pressed juices and amazingly flavored ice cream/frozen yogurt almost everywhere in the city, but they will be at least the same price as your hourly wage.
4.) If you live off the L, you will have no problem finding a relatively easy way to get anywhere in Manhattan. But try at get anywhere in Brooklyn. Just try.
5.) Umbrellas are useless. But after living in Edinburgh, this is not new.
6.) You will be grateful for the abundance of warmth, of work, and of energy that is sometimes absent in the UK. The pleasure of stumbling into a city in a constant state of flux and new beginnings, of growth and youth. And while the social and economic structures of the city are sometimes uncomfortable or painful to witness, you will be fortunate to experience the clashing of different cultures and people that makes New York a city unto itself.
Brooklyn and Manhattan, NY
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192
Strand Book Store
Manhattan, NY 10003-4805
Photographs by Diana Eastman
For more follow Diana on Instagram at @thedianaeastman