We are simple people. Give us an open field and a football, a sandy beach or a slightly damp towel by the pool and we’re content. Living only 5 minutes away from the beach turned us into a spoiled kind of folk – two people who spent nearly every weekend spitting salt water out of our mouths and brushing piles out sand out of our cars. Did we ever think that we would trade our little slice of paradise for an overcrowded, 24/7, brightly lit, concrete jungle of sorts – no. But did we? Yes.
The last week in May was one of the hardest and most rewarding weeks that I’ve ever experienced. After nine years in school (five undergrad and 4 professional), my love graduated with his Doctorate in Pharmacy. His graduation marked the closure of a chapter – one heck of a chapter at that – and the beginning of what has already become the craziest thing we’ve ever experienced.
Back to the beginning: we both grew up in Orlando, Florida. Orlando is where we met and fell in love. After graduating from UCF, Ruben’s studies took him to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and after I graduated from UCF, I joined him down south. Our lives were beautiful. Our apartment was perfect– it’s kind of funny because we always referred to it as “our little apartment” – little did we know. We had so many amazing memories in ‘Kelley’s No Fun Zone, OK?!” (thanks, Gustavo).
It was there where I discovered that I could cook, save for the time that I nearly poisoned us with raw BBQ chicken. We would dance in the living room; take turns scaring the bejesus out of one another (“Come here, WHITE GIRL!”) and laugh until the wee hours of the morning. Apartment 318 is where Ruben proposed amongst piles of dirty clothes, where we would deck the halls with a 13’ Christmas tree every year and where we called ‘home’.
On June 2, we gathered what was left in our apartment. We spent the entire morning going up and down the three flights of stairs, cramming every last bit of our junk into Ruben’s black beauty. We showered one last time and then threw the rest of our toiletries away – there was absolutely nothing left in our place. We paused for a moment to take it all in. The large dark stain on the living room carpet was in full display and for the first time, I didn’t care. I grabbed my camera and we snapped a photo – one that is still hard for me to look at.
After a quick lunch with two of our best friends (who are also going through the residency experience), we started the three hour journey north. With my knees pressed firmly against the glove compartment, (which btw, why is it called that!?), I sipped on an iced latte and bawled my eyes out. Ruben was sad too, but true to his nature, he kept finding ways to make me laugh. We reminisced about the memories from the past three years and began talking about the new chapter in our lives. We referred to ourselves as nomads and gypsies – for the first time in three years, we would be staying with our parents for longer than three days. Though brief, the stay marked the beginning of this new chapter and was not nearly as relaxing as we had hoped.
Fast forward through giving up our cars, very difficult good-byes and sore backs and shoulders – we finally made it. Hello, Brooklyn.
We walked into the lobby of our new apartment building. The building itself is taller than any other building that I've ever seen and our doorman Peter, affectionately now referred to as “Peta”, gave us the keys to our spacious, no bedroom, one bathroom studio with ‘views’. I kid, but really, setting up our new apartment required some very careful planning and a quick tetris lesson or two. We retrieved our boxes from the package room (how else were we supposed to move?) and headed upstairs. One shattered flat screen TV (yep!) and many unpacked boxes later, we finally stopped moving and turned in for our first night in Brooklyn.
For the first time ever, we have had to cook with gas (a huge thanks to Gustavo who showed us how to do this!), go downstairs to do our laundry and rely on public transportation to get everywhere. We've learned very quickly that it is nearly impossible to go grocery shopping and now prefer to order our groceries online. Going to Target is no longer fun and buying things in bulk takes a lot of planning.
In the four weeks that we’ve been here, we’ve discovered some quaint eateries and were ecstatic when we realized that we have a CHIPOTLE! I often joke that I’m not sure if I’m more excited to go to Chipotle for the delish burrito bowls or for another luxury that has been completely ripped away from me: COKE ZERO REFILLS! For a diet coke/coke zero addict, there are only three places that we’ve found that offer free refills: Five Guys, Junior’s and Chipotle. Needless to say, I find myself begging for the latter two quite often.
Before Ruben began his residency, we would use the evenings and the weekends to venture into NYC. At first, riding the trains was intimidating, but with the help of Google Maps on our phones, we’ve turned into seasoned pros. We’ve seen exotic foods in China Town and tasted so many different kinds of pizza, all of which, even the “crappy” places, put Florida pizza to shame. We’ve been poured on in SoHo and drenched as we walked along the Hudson in Brooklyn. We’ve stared at the Statue of Liberty from afar and admired the Brooklyn Bridge up close. Ruben has punted a rat, no literally, punted a rat on the sidewalk and I screamed with perfect strangers while it happened.
New York has definitely been a learning experience so far and one that I’m excited to continue to share.