NYC Girl Blog: The Brooklyn Experience

The Brooklyn Experience

I’ll never forget the day I pulled my little white car onto my new street in Brooklyn, NY. I had made the harrowing but scenic drive from south Florida, and the repetition of I-95 had slowly become broken up by the concrete jungle highways that hold the northeast together.

It had been a week since Hurricane Sandy made her devastating visit, and while you could tell that there was an upheaval in the general area, Brooklyn hadn’t quite gotten the message. But the things that stood out to me, including the architecture, the scenery, lack of parking lots, was totally different from what I was used to. Suddenly this southern girl was more out of place than an accordion on a deer hunt. But I would not be deterred on my move-in day. “New York City girl,” I said.

My father, who had joined me during my second leg of the trip when I stopped at his home in Virginia overnight, helped me move my suitcases and other various trinkets. Some of the items I brought to my chic, very adult Brooklyn apartment were some of the same things I had had since college. I’ll never forget how he hauled my pink blankets from 22nd street to 21st street because there was nowhere to park on my block.

I took note of the sandwich shop across from the small school that rounded out my block, and after we met with the landlord and hauled all my crap from my tired vehicle, we went over there so I could have my first meal as a New York City girl. After we gave our orders, my dad announced my arrival to the butcher behind the counter. He was a man of advanced age with an accent and a thick Italian build that proved to me that he was a native New Yorker. I smiled congenially to the man, and with a nod and a smirk, he said, “Welcome to the neighborhood.”

Fast forward to the present day. I am walking around to the corner store to find peanut butter cups. This is a common habit of mine whenever I study, feel like I haven’t had my chocolate fix in a while, or I’m just too lazy to take the short subway ride to Starbucks. I hold my plastic bag close to me and slowly walk back to my apartment. I’ve gotten to know these streets well in my year and half of living here. In fact, I find myself giving directions to the new people in the neighborhood. Sometimes I even see fathers helping their daughters with large boxes of clothes and pink blankets.

I see the little school in front of me, devoid of the energetic students who have gone home for the evening. I look to the other side of the street. The sandwich shop is gone. It was turned into a locksmith place less than a year ago. I wonder what happened to the Italian gentleman who gave me my first Brooklyn meatball sub as well as my first housewarming sentiment.

I finally learned that if I move my car precisely after the street cleaners come, I can get the best spot on my block and I don’t have to move my car for an entire week. What luxury! So with my buttercups in hand, I pass my car on 21st street. I have the best spot on the block. My car is now slowly filling back up with my pink possessions. After a year and a half of hospital rotations, I am preparing to leave New York City forever.

And then it happened. For the first time since I moved here, I caught myself singing the lyrics to that old song, “Native New Yorker”.

Twenty-five, thirty-five, hello baby…New York City girl.

My life here had been defined by my joys and my grievances, my triumphs and my disappointments. It gave me confidence as much as it brought a sense of inferiority. It gave me style while simultaneously lowering my financial resources. But the most important thing it gave me was a home.

Brooklyn gave me a place to live and work so that I might achieve my dreams of becoming a doctor. Considering that the main reason I’m leaving is to pursue post-graduate medical training, it’s safe to say that my goals have been met.

In a few short weeks, Brooklyn will no longer be my home. It weighs heavy on me knowing that things are changing. Brooklyn was a place that I truly learned the meaning of independence, and while I had always more or less relied on myself throughout my life, it was here that I learned what it means to be on completely on my own. Things that seemed easy in my previous life as a sunshine-spoiled southerner were suddenly tiny obstacle courses that could take hours. Grocery shopping, parking, driving into or out of the city, or even getting a simple cup of coffee – these were all enjoyable things that became annoying as I adapted to my New York state of living. But then again, it may be a few years before I can fully comprehend what it meant to live here.

I’m sure that at some point I will grow nostalgic for the bodega that carried my favorite peanut butter cups. I will pine for the breathtaking view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the F train. And I even think that I’ll recall how long it takes to get to Manhattan from downtown Brooklyn, but then I’ll remember that from anywhere else in the world, it’s a lot farther. And I’ll realize that this experience, though short and filled with a unique brand of difficulties, was nothing short of divine.

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Elizabeth McKinnon

Elizabeth McKinnon

A lifelong lover of books and the stage, Elizabeth set out to write her first book in college and her second one while she was working as a medical assistant at a dermatologist's office. In her spare time, she writes plays and short stories and enjoys sharing them with friends and family. She plans to pursue a writing career in medical fiction and is currently working on her third book. Elizabeth is a Pathology Resident at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Elizabeth McKinnon

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