Story of past New Yorker

It was Thanksgiving Holiday  weekend in the year 2006, and I was living in Manhattan upper east side area with two other roommates trying to live the “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” life.   At the time, I had already been living in Manhattan for over 10 years….way longer than my original plan; having “a few” years of work experience in NYC after graduate school (Columbia University), and then moving back to Toronto.

Well, that did not happen…. During one of the fateful days in that holiday weekend while having the quiet late lunch by myself at the apartment, it suddenly occurred to me; Why am I doing this?    Why am I here? Why? Why? Why?  There were many “why” questions about my life at that moment.  

Maybe it was due to experiencing one of those rare quiet moments (roommates left to visit their family for the holiday weekend, no taxi honking sounds, or the famous NYC ambulance silent sounds) I was able to think and hear(?) my thoughts…It was at that exact moment right before start writing my ubiquitous weekend to do list, I realized that I could be having the Thanksgiving dinner with my family in Toronto, Canada rather than aiming to be at the laundromat  when there would be least number of people. (another absolute must item for the New Yorkers to understand!)

During my past NYC days, I had some amazing professional experience….one of them would be working with the team of architects on the iconic Museum of Modern Art building project ( which brought me the opportunity for me to go to Tokyo, Japan for 6 months!  It was a joint architecture project between the NYC and Japanese architecture firms.  I was selected by NYC firm to work with architects in Japan.  Working and living in Tokyo for 6 months truly was the most indelible work experience I had in my whole entire professional life.  I will never forget the moment in Tokyo realizing that I was passing by the construction site for weeks without knowing that there was the construction going on!  (The construction crew cleaned up the job site meticulously so that it did not look like the construction site.) As a New Yorker at the time, not being able to recognize the construction site in NYC was not possible!

Now that I have been living in Toronto for the last 6 years after moving back from NYC, there is one enduring question I get from Torontonians (means the people in Toronto); Why did you leave NYC?. Don’t you miss the city?.  After talking for sometime with the person, I realize that he/she means the “ professional opportunity” the NYC offers which they think  I left behind….As one person asked, I unquestionably miss NYC, however, I realized quickly that was not  the place I missed , but the people I met there and also the moments I had with those people;  reading Sunday New York Times in the corner of my favourite Starbucks late Sunday afternoon, walking from 86th street to 14th street Union Square to meet friends, and one of my favourite activities- hanging out with my girl friends to talk about our life in the city like the so many TV sitcoms based on.

Life in Toronto has been vastly different from my past life in NYC.  The biggest difference would be that I became my own boss starting an architecture firm, Studio Jonah (  five years ago.  It is ironic that I move back “home” to start focusing more on the professional side of my life. Instead of “hanging out” with friends, now I “network” with potential clients, consultants, contractors, etc.  My days are filled with different activities that have to do with building/growing my business. Recently I had a phone call from a close from NYC, and she had called  out that I have not been good at keeping in touch with her which I answered with my usual excuse, “I have been so busy with work” comment.  However, her being the true New Yorker, she came back with the ultimate truth about the life in NYC – “I live in the city that never sleeps!”- and she drives home with her point that we can all do better putting effort in our personal relationships if we were able to do in the midst of crazy life we were leading.

What is your past story? Where have you moved from? What is your life like right now?  I would love to hear from everyone what your stories have been like…

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