Constructing Rituals and Claiming a Room — Steps to Becoming a New Yorker

After approximately six weeks in New York, Anthony and I have fallen well into a comfortable routine. We wake up an hour and a half before he starts work, giving us time to leisurely eat breakfast — eggs and bacon on some days, waffles and cereal on the others — and ride the subway into Manhattan. During the roughly six hours I have to myself, I run errands, meet up with friends around the city, and spend time at various coffee shops. After work, Anthony meets me at my chosen coffee shop of the day, and we decide on a neighborhood to explore (and subsequently a restaurant to try) before going home. We watch an episode of “Law & Order” — the original only, on Netflix and read a page of The Intellectual Devotional (Kidder & Oppenheim, 2006) before going to bed.

This routine, comprising daily rituals that reflect my current state of unemployment, has almost predictably led me to becoming a modern-day housewife. Yet, obligatory feminism aside, I’m not repulsed by this at all, as one may have expected. Perhaps it is because I know this state is only temporary. Or perhaps it is because I relish the freedom I have to explore the city on my own. Whatever the reason, these daily rituals have created a psychological sense of belonging. Being recognized by baristas, choosing a favorite grocery store, and knowing exactly which exit to walk out of from the subway station are all markers that necessitate regularity and indicate, in a sense, what all transplants hope to become: a New Yorker.

After over a month of crashing at our exceptionally generous friends’ one-bedroom in Astoria, Anthony and I knew it was time to find another place for August while we wait for our own studio to become available in September. Within a day, we found the perfect room in Sunnyside, right by Long Island City. Apparently we were meant to live in Queens because we’ve gone from Forest Hills to Astoria and now to Sunnyside. For $850/month, we get our very own bedroom and, perhaps more importantly, an official, physical sense of belonging. Paying for ownership (or, in our case, rentership) in a capitalist society is so, so important.

Sunnyside feels a lot like Forest Hills, with large brick apartment buildings and tree-lined streets, but with more ethnic diversity, younger people, multiple 99-cent stores, and interesting restaurants. Anthony and I were excited to finally unpack our clothes out of our suitcases and into real closet space. We are sharing the apartment with three other people, all of whom seem to be older and unobtrusive, which is exactly the type of roommate I like.

Although we’re living in a completely new neighborhood, most of our rituals have remained the same, from our mornings of alternating breakfasts to our nights of casual exploration. However, rituals are fluid and should only exist to cater to the present; all progress requires flexibility. My favorite ritual of Mondays-at-Morini, at which we partake in heartbreakingly good $10 pastas where our friend Rob bartends, has been downsized to Once-a-Month-at-Morini — at least until we’re both employed. Next week, when I start my new job (I’ll be editing patents for a translations company in Chelsea!), I won’t be dropping Anthony off at work; instead, maybe he’ll be dropping me off. Who knows what other rituals will make way for new ones?

With an air conditioner installed and clothes properly hung up in a closet, I can finally reassure family and friends that we are no longer homeless. Anthony and I have been trying every flavor of Tate’s cookies and studying at various Gregory’s coffeeshops scattered throughout Manhattan. However, constructing rituals — routines of everyday life — and being able to officially call a room our own have undoubtedly been the two most significant steps taken so far to make life in New York all the more real.

Our new view of Manhattan every day, from the 40th Street station in Sunnyside
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