it’s up to you, New York

I often wonder if people are sick of New Yorkers always talking about New York City. Living here makes up such a part of who we are, that “New Yorker” often becomes a personality trait. And why wouldn’t it? This city has been hyped for years as this international hub of good cuisine, fine entertainment, and a societal grasp on the pulse of the world. Everyone came here, everyone wanted to be here, and everyone always had a fabulous time. The glitz and glamor of a city so packed with people yet remained a shining beacon of America’s heart. You could always find your place here because the opportunities of discovery never once ceased.

That is not the city of today. But many who represent it sure like to think so.

I was born in New York City. I’ve lived in the same apartment for ten years. I’ve grown here, loved here, work here, contribute here. This is my city as much as it is everyone else’s, and I feel my voice is completely lost in the sauce. And a big part of what it boils down to is my status. It’s not the correct one that complies with all of NYC’s insane pandemic-era policies they are for some reason cleaving to like a rat on a New York slice. When a policy is bad, it more often than not leads to bad outcomes. And New York City from the 2010’s onward has been nothing but one step into the proverbial manure pile after another. We cannot seem to get things going because we’re revving a long-dead generator, hoping a bit more juice gets pressed by the pressure. We’re the only city in America with still-in-place vaccine mandates for the public and private sectors, and we’re the only city in the world requiring toddlers ages two and up to mask in schools. The progressivism has seemingly crawled right back up its own behind and it feels like there’s absolutely nothing any of us can do about it. Because, more often than not, this is what the people want.

There’s just something so cruel and malicious plaguing this city. Those in charge treat the citizens like they’re stupid and cannot make choices for themselves. We have a health commissioner, who none of us voted for, threaten the city with reimplementation of vaccine passports and mask mandates, based on a completely arbitrary metric of positive tests for a multi-season virus that has dwindled to nothing more than a seasonal flu. These are protocols that did not work to begin with and would end up with even more devastating outcomes than before. At this point, this is just straight up punishment for the people who have no control in completely eradicating a virus that cannot be gotten rid of. This is not science, this is malice. And I want to know who we have to talk to in order to get our complaints to the manager seriously heard.

And the worst part about this all is the health commissioner has the gall to speak on New Yorkers’ mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. There is not even a whisper of self-reflection or reading the room with these people. The policies in place can be directly connected and correlated to the astronomical rise in crime, worker shortage, and overall holding back of a once-thriving city. When you tell a people their only chance to “end this pandemic” is to get a vaccine, get a test, and wear a mask to prevent the spread, you have failed entirely to pretend like you’re a human. Those are robotic actions to take to feel well and safe in a population-dense city. They are gaslighting us into thinking cases matter and hospitalizations are “rising,” when the numbers are nowhere near pandemic levels of panic. Yet those with celebrity status are treated ‘equal’ while the mayor blows kisses at the dissenters while on his way to another high-profile event.

This city has chosen to remain a joke with clowns at the helm, and they feel content in punishing people for reasons I still don’t understand.

This scrutiny and discrimination has done a number on my private feelings, and there’s no better place for me to get them out. I have never once in my entire thirty-six years felt like this much of a target based on something that didn’t matter then, and certainly doesn’t matter now. I’m honestly not trying to complain about it, as I choose to remain here, but things have felt so obviously wrong lately, and I have nowhere I can turn without someone telling me it’s the right thing to do. My company requires me to get a rapid test every day before entering the building, meaning a swab of unknown origin goes in both nostrils before I even take my first sip of coffee. I have not been able to smell anything since being infected with this virus seven months ago, and I don’t know how much these swabs are deterring it from coming back. I also am required to wear a mask in the control room for three hours a day, while the option is given to my “fully-vaccinated colleagues” to remove it. My status was called into question when I refused to put one on, and I was not given any kind of reassurance that going to Human Resources for a written copy of this policy change would yield any results. So I’m stuck in this strange compliance stage of my life, all because I refused a medical procedure based on concerns about my reproductive health. Which is kind of ironic to think about as many blue states are reaffirming a woman’s right to choose on a completely seperate but equal issue.

It’s all so backwards and cruel and wrong and I honestly think it’s giving me an ulcer. And it’s even more disheartening when people go along with these everyday injustices that show no signs of stopping. I got snapped at at work the other day where I felt it was unwarranted, and it was made all the more ironic considering my face was the one covered up. My mask prevented me from speaking back, to say I didn’t feel that was called for, and it caused me to shut down for the rest of the work day. I felt invisible and all-too visible, and there’s no one in the work world I can speak to about it right now.

This is quite possibly the most miserable time in my life, although I have every comfort I could possibly ask for. I own a home. I make over six figures. I have the world’s cutest cat. I have everything going for me. And yet there’s one thing I’m constantly striving for that these circumstances are taking away from me: a place I can call home.

The rallying cry of the ‘right’ people online has become “Get out of cities.” And I’d love nothing more than to do that right now. But there’s still a fight in me here. Maybe it drives to the point that I really am a New Yorker at heart, though my soul will always be in New Jersey. Either way, I want to make sure this place is at its best quality before I go. I can’t just abandon a place that’s crying out for guidance and proper standards. I can’t just run away from the myriad testing tents I see every day, to which people justify them by saying “We need tests.” I know I alone can’t fix it, but I can at least do something. Maybe just presenting you the reality of what it’s like living as a singular woman in 2022’s New York City is enough for right now. It’s a unique perspective I’m not sure enough people talk about. I’ve been documenting a lot of it as I’m just so incredulous to the moment in time I’m currently living.

I’ll bring you on a tour sometime of my reality here in the city. A city I’ll always love, even if it’s not sure it loves me back.

the eyes have it

I walked into a Nordstrom maskless the other day. I wasn’t flouting the rules. There were no signs saying one was required for entry. It was a bit surprising, actually. Many businesses here in New York City still want your face covered, even though Governor Kathy Hochul lifted the state’s indoor mask mandate on Thursday. I expected a big department chain like Nordstrom would have just followed suit. Not so. And so in I went, wondering if anyone was going to stop me. No one did. But I can’t help but see a big problem here, and it’s as clear as the nose on your masked-up face.

Even with the rule lifted, people here just don’t want to let go. Everyone in the store had a mask on, including the employees. I was the outlier in there. It felt like I was doing something wrong under the watchful eye of the law. I could feel the stares. People’s eyes followed me longer than they would on any other day. Most of the time, New Yorkers just mind our own business. Head down, mask up. No one bothers another. We’re all on our own missions here. And we can’t be bothered to waste our time with a little thing like extended eye contact. But I’m slowly realizing it’s me who’s holding the longest stare these days. Because I don’t understand why so many want to stay as nothing more than a pair of eyes. And my campaign to be a voice against it never got off the ground.

One can’t understand the depth of this unless you’re living in a city like New York. Most U.S. cities don’t have citywide vaccine passports. We were the first major city to do so, and it’s been this way since August 2021. New Yorkers welcomed the idea. Majority rule thought this was the best way to keep everybody safe, though I think some were in it to punish “certain people” from participating in society. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to tell you the reality of what it’s like to live in such a place. Because it’s all part of the ongoing vibe that we need to give up our civil liberties in the name of being “the right thing to do.” We’re keeping ourselves and everybody safe. This is just how it has to be now. The new normal. Masks for all, forever and ever. Why should anyone want to take it off? There’s still a sign in my apartment building, a place I’ve lived for the last ten years, saying “Welcome: Masks Required for Entry.” That’s funny, because I walked through the doors just fine without one. It just doesn’t make sense to me anymore. Half the people here don’t even wear one properly anyway. It’s down below the nose or chinstrapped up. At that point, just veto the look already.

And it’s clear I can’t hide my disdain for it much longer. It’s showing up all over my face as I stare in disbelief at one masked-up face after another, even outside the indoors. And on the children, too. That issue doesn’t even seem to be on the ballot. Why is everyone just following suit? Who is that really for? When is the moment you’ll feel safe to lose it, and will that day ever even come?

I can’t ask people these things. I don’t want to make anyone feel stupid. And blatant questioning right to their face is me telling them how dumb I think they’re being. Really, I’m not trying to judge anyone else’s choice. If you want to keep it on, that’s fine. It honestly doesn’t affect me either way. I just have a lot of questions about why it’s even there in the first place. Like why outside? It’s not that cold out, just put a scarf on. How come you have to order a slice with it on, but can take it off at the table three feet away? After showing your vax pass, of course, something none of us were even asked if we wanted. Just another consequence of New York’s down-ticket mindset. Do I still have to wear a mask at work? I can’t get in the building without passing a daily rapid test, which then emails me a QR code to which I scan at the visitor’s entrance. Eleven years with the same company and I’m just a visitor to them. And I have to still wear a mask inside. Though we haven’t seen an email from HR to tell us one way or the other, so lots of people inside are starting to make their own rules. Passing their own laws with a not so obvious majority.

But why does it have to be like this for New York? What have we done that’s so wrong and so backwards? I’m going back to Florida next week and I don’t intend on bringing a “just in case” mask. People are going to see my whole face whether they like it or not. I have very expressive eyes, but they are just not enough anymore. You need to see the words come out of my mouth. You need to hear them. And you need them to come from someone unafraid to let you see the truth all over their face, a very tall executive order for the likes of me and my big mouth.

I’ve been free from the mask since June 2020. I decided all this was all over for me, and then it was. Even if the rest of the world didn’t think so, or how many scoldings I got from HR. It was a freedom I chose and didn’t need anyone else’s approval for. If I didn’t have to wear one, I wouldn’t. And if I did, I’d make it cute. But at this point, I don’t feel so alone in my thinking anymore. Many out there see what I see, even if they don’t express it in the way I wish they would. They’re on all sides of the political spectrum, but that doesn’t even matter at this point. They’ve uncovered their face as they uncover the truth of what we saw and went through over the past two years. The ones we gave our votes to didn’t do their jobs, and it’s about that time to see them for what they really are.

I’m not out to make fun of anyone for their choices. That’s a tiresome venture that loses its luster quick. I also don’t need anyone to think exactly how I think. I’m just here to provide pathways to the whys. The what ifs. The what fors. Wonderings about the wonders one can see, once you take it off for good. All I’m asking is that you try it. I’ve elected to stay right here, and I hope you vote within your best interest on it as well.

I don’t know what’s got people so scared. I just wish they all can see past soon. It’s very unsettling when only the eyes watch you. Let’s finally see what that mouth can do, too. All in favor? Say ‘eye.’

31) inner celebrations

My December to Remember: Day 31

I don’t think I’ve made it clear just how scared I am to be alone outside in this city. At least at night. And catching a cab at 2:50AM to go to work doesn’t count. Especially now that I’ve been barred from the building. But I don’t feel safe here. I did, but not anymore. It’s a terrible feeling. I used to love being in this city at night. It was always alive, no matter what time it was. And I wasn’t worried about anything that may be lurking in the shadows.

I am now. And I fear that won’t change anytime soon.

Most people will tell me to just move. “Get out of cities” seems to be the rallying chant for anyone who doesn’t live here. But this is where my home is right now. It does me no good to just pack up and go at the moment. Unless you want to pay for any and all closing costs the sale my apartment incurs. No, for now, I’m fine. All I’m going to do is stay home until further notice. I can’t even go into my grocery store anymore because everyone is being strictly adherent to this unjust mask mandate. I can’t comply, so therefore I won’t. I can get everything I need delivered right to my door.

This won’t last forever. I really do think they’re trying to break everyone’s spirit, especially those who did not play along and get a shot. But I don’t think they took into account that introverts exist. I haven’t gone stir-crazy this whole time. I’m just naturally crazy. But it never bothered me sitting at home all the time. I used to think I was missing out on what’s going on out there, or that I wasn’t taking advantage of living here. I don’t think that anymore. Now, I think people are missing out on what I’m cultivating in here.

2022 stands to be a good year for all of us. We have every opportunity to do some good here and actually transition into a new life. We don’t have to keep doing things that aren’t working anymore. We can make changes and hone our powers. I bought a standing desk today because I have no idea how long I’ll be working from home. I see it as a gamechanger. I don’t need anyone and no one needs me.

I’ve written something down every day for thirty-one days, and I intend on keeping up with regular entries here. I feel like I’m working toward something all the time. And maybe I don’t need to “get out there” and feel the grind of life right now. Maybe all I need is to stay right here until everyone else catches up. I only need to stay in my cocoon for a little longer. The time for celebration is here.

22) we must go back

My December to Remember: Day 22

If all this means that I can’t participate in your little society, then fine. Shun me. That’s what this is starting to feel like. Ostracization. I walked home today and just saw sign after sign on each New York City business: present your pass in order to eat at this establishment. Partake, whatever. You can’t come in unless you show that pass. I thought some people would be cool about it and say, “yeah, we know it’s BS too,” and let me on in. That’s not so. I’ve been in two separate places that asked for my pass. I held up my phone and winked. “It’s right here,” I said. No one understood. They were puzzled as to why I wasn’t showing them the pass. I had to finally ask, am I not allowed in if I don’t show it? They told me yes, so I was on my way. Or I ate outside instead. Or I got lucky and stayed in a little speakeasy until closing time. I eventually find what I want, I guess.

It’s fine. No, honestly. It’s annoying, and I’m still that ranting lady on the street, but it’s fine. I know these past few entries have turned into a diary of sorts, but there’s a lot to document, quote, “in the middle of a pandemic.” It’s the one thing I really want to talk about. Because they’re about to hole me back up in my abode until further notice, and no one’s stopped to ask me how I feel about that. We’re going back to a time where we have to hunker down and wait it out, just like did at the beginning of this mess. But that was the right thing to do at the time. We didn’t know what had breached our shores, but we were prepared to fight it. March 2020 mindset. All in this together. I get it. We all did our part to make sure we were safe.

Now? I can’t go into my office because I didn’t get a medical procedure that’s just making everyone sicker. Only for a time, though. It is flu season after all.

I just wish I could get past all the “you must” talk about it. The president just told Americans it’s practically their patriotic duty to get a shot. Funny that I thought part of that duty was to stand up to unjust laws. Like covering my perfectly healthy face with a piece of cloth because a governor who was not elected says anyone ages two and up have to have one on in an indoor setting. How do you expect me to stand behind anything that advocates cruelty to children?

I know part of me is ostracizing myself when I espouse views in this manner. I wish I wasn’t, but I don’t have a whole lot of social outlets these days. I’m just at home, writing, working out, eating, and getting baked. It’d be fun to be at a health club and swim a few laps a day, or get a monthly pass to the Met and just walk around for a few hours. But no. Off limits for only a thousand more years. So what else can I do? Still won’t get it. At least right now. Maybe when I’m in my seventies and not in the greatest health, I’ll choose to get the new yearly flu shot. That seems like a no-brainer to me. But right now, in my mid-thirties, I have no intention of getting one. Simple as that.

Except it’s not simple. It’s completely taken over the entire American psyche. The White House can’t go one discussion without bringing up vaccines, or saying there’s a big problem because of no testing kits, or “the unvaccinated” are a thing to be feared while “the vaccinated” are safe but don’t mind that they’re also getting sick with the new variant even though we keep trying to blame it on the ones who didn’t take the same medicine they did, even though they’ve all been gathering together without us for a few months… I mean, phew. I’m sorry. It’s just so maddening sometimes. It seems so crystal clear to me that the simple solution is to just stop everything that we’re doing and let the chaos work its way back to flat ground.

But that can’t happen. Because no one’s asked me what I think about all this. They all won’t get to hear my great ideas. I’m the one who has to stay home. I’m the one who has something wrong with her. I’m the one who doesn’t get an extra bonus for uploading her vax-status. And so? What else can I do about it? Where else can this energy go? I try not to let it out at work. At least when no one is around. I don’t trauma dump my opinions onto people, and I don’t tell anyone outside of the show what to do. I just want to work with these people, get to know them, have a good time, and then go home.

And you know something? I still got narced on. Like I knew one day someone would. I was warned people are scared shitless, and I guess I manifested it. On Christmas week, no less. I was told my simple, white silk scarf could no longer serve as a proper face covering. I needed “an official mask” now. Because someone saw me and told me “You need a mask,” as it’s against the rules to be maskless in the control room. It infuriated me. I sat silent for minutes, maybe longer when I received, in writing, that I needed to put a proper mask on. I just felt so broken. So tired. So unbelievably done with all this.

Why, why, why can’t people just let some things slide? You can’t just be cool for a few more days and let me wear my pretty scarf? I was covering my face. Even so, I’m not sick, I’m not worried about getting sick, and I’m not going to apologize for that. Going into work is about the only social activity I get to do these days, and they’re taking that away from me. And then when I do talk about things like this, I get called selfish. I just can’t win. I’m a professional loser. It’s a never-ending cycle where I feel like I’m just chewing on my toes over and over again until one day I gnaw away so much that I implode in on myself like a dying star.

We’ve been caught in the loop of “staying safe.” I want everyone to feel safe, but I cannot abide by these safety rules it when it comes at another person’s expense. Especially if it’s mine, because, well, self-preservation. If this is “selfish,” then so be it. Because it is never my intention to put anyone else at risk. I just want people to figure out how not to be afraid of living again. And when reasoning doesn’t help or the conversation never begins, sometimes becoming a little wrench in the machinery is the only tactic one has left.

One thing I know won’t get us there is repeating the same cycle that caused so much destruction in the first place. If something isn’t working, we never admit fault. We just try it again until we can fudge the numbers enough to make it look like it was a success. Shutting back down, going into panic mode, and letting all the nefarious ones feed on your fear is going to make it that much harder to crawl back out of this toxic cycle and begin to get back to ‘normal.’

We’re all so close. We just have to stop wishing for bad outcomes for people. How another person lives their life has no bearing on yours whatsoever. We have “rules” in place, but try and understand why someone would willingly ‘break’ it. Things will be a lot better if we worked to understand one another. Maybe spending a bit more time with myself at home will be the best thing for me. It’s not like I’ve lost myself or don’t know who I am. There’s some other housekeeping that needs to be done to get me to the next level. No more crazy ranting lady on the street. Perhaps these entries will find direction once again. In the meantime, I thank you for listening. I’m not sure what people are expecting from me in these entries, but at least they’re going out. Maybe we all need a little disappearing in on oneself from time to time. Perhaps something new will emerge from the nothingness of our vanishing. We’re kind of getting a chance to start over again. At least, that’s how it is in the Northeastern United States.

10) unmask and the city

My December to Remember: Day 10

Sex and the City was a genuinely accurate portrait of late 90’s, early 2000’s New York City. At least if you happened to have an endless bank account. All four women were so glamorous and lovely. They made navigating this city so effortless, and make life here look like endless opportunities were abound if you only turned down the right side street.

Unfortunately, the reboot And Just Like That doesn’t quite capture that New York anymore. I will be talking more about this series separately (in what medium yet I do not know), but this felt like a good as any jumping point today. Because one thing I noticed in the reboot is this: not one New Yorker is wearing a mask. This, despite portions of the script paying attention the fact that we have emerged from a global pandemic. The ladies in AJLT have already gone post-pandemic. And while I’ve been in my own post-pandemic world since June 2020, the rest of this city has not. Clearly not the state, either, as installed Governor Kathy Hochul just implemented a mask mandate again because we have too many cases of the new yearly flu. During flu season. In December.

This made me wonder because I still see plenty of people outside all masked up. I’m not here to force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. I’m actually seeing a lot of people say that having a mask on curbs their social anxiety in a way that wasn’t possible before. I’m not about to tell someone that they’re wrong for that. But what I will do is ask people who don’t fight the instinct to do as they’re told, why they’re complying with such utter nonsense.

I’m sorry guys, I know we all had to do our part way back in the day, but today is not that day. The pandemic is behind us. You can be cute and say we’re in an ‘endemic’ now. But for real, where do you draw the line for yourself? I’ve “demasked” and never felt better. And the ladies of AJLT I’m sure feel better. In a show where nothing is cohesive and every moment is unearned and weird, the strangest thing of all for me is seeing no masks on New Yorkers. Because they’re not there yet. And it’s sad.

Personally I think a lot of people keep the mask on because it’s cold out. I genuinely see that as a reason. And whatever, no skin off my nose. But what happens when it gets hot out again? Are you going to wait for the sign to come down before you take it off your face, or are you going to try something new and tell those in power to finally fuck off?

Listen, you can snark about this Manhattan shithole all you want. But I live here. I work here. I was born here. I’ve loved here. And I’m not ready to wave my white flag and give up on her just yet. This city has a lot of healing left to do. We’ve left the bandage on too long without changing it. We just keep going back and doing the same thing we’ve always done: listen to whatever everyone else tells us to do. New York Strong means strong New Yorkers. We don’t need to be nasty or rude or spit in everyone’s face. We just need to actually be strong. Know what’s right and what’s just for show. Who are you doing that for, everyone else or just yourself?

It will end soon. These extraordinary measures to curb something that we’ve done everything conceivably possible to curb are nothing but overreach at this point. And New Yorkers will soon see. We are not stupid nor are we uneducated. We just like to bend over and take it a little too much. That’s all. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved being on the giving end of things. But not if you keep covering my mouth about it.

Wake up and smell the coffee from the street carts and kick down the corner Covid testing spots. We’re better than this, New York.