What was it like growing up in your home town?
My version of small town life was epitomized by community traditions: the haunted house, the sock hop dance (which is why I know every Golden Oldie ever), the strawberry picking festival and even an annual musical. The most epic tradition was the May Fair. There were tons of rides and games — as many as the local school’s black top and soccer field could hold. Each year, the child stars of the annual musical would lead the May Fair parade through town in an old convertible, and every year, I dreamed of the day I would be one of them. I never was, but New York is where dreams come true, right? Please?
When was the exact moment you decided you wanted to move to New York?
New York won me over in spite of myself. When I graduated from college, I got a job in generic finance based in New York, so I migrated to the big city. First I was in Stuyvesant Town (living on a blowup mattress), then Hell’s Kitchen (which earned its name), then Brooklyn.
What was it like when you first arrived?
When I first arrived, I spent most of my non-working hours taking advantage of my Blockbuster unlimited DVD pass to watch Lost from start to finish. I somehow managed to miss out on all the legitimately cool things about living in New York, instead experiencing the myriad ways in which you can get by by being a complete sloth (that’s what I wanted to be anyways because of my job, and post-college burnout).
Even though I didn’t get out much, I was still eating fantastic food. It was ludicrous to me that I could eat so well without even trying, but that’s New York for you. In Hyattsville, Red Lobster and Chili’s were my only nice dining options. In New York, I can wake up and have Himalayan food on a whim. I still sometimes go to Uno’s on the UWS, but that’s because chains will always feel a bit like home.
I didn’t truly fall for New York until I started exploring it. My boyfriend (now husband) and I began a tradition of ambling through Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill and Williamsburg before crossing into the Lower East Side and into the villages. We’d stop for drinks or food or to see friends scattered along the way. In the city that never sleeps nor moves slower than an Olympic-paced speed walk, we meandered at our leisure, discovering new spots, people-watching and falling in love with each other and our new home.
How has your time in New York changed you?
For better or worse, everywhere that’s not New York feels quaint in the kind of condescending way that makes people refer to New York as “the city,” which I always hated, even though I do it too, now.
What makes you homesick?
I have my own start-up: Eu’Genia Shea, a line of all natural shea butter-based balms, and all of our operations are in Ghana. As a result, I travel a lot. I have so much family in Ghana, both literal relatives and my work family, that my time there feels warm and energizing, which makes the return to New York particularly jarring.
Also, maybe it’s just me, but it seems like all the gateways into Manhattan are designed to repel. Taking a bus into Port Authority or a train into Penn Station always makes me want to about-face and never return.
What makes you want to stay forever?
I spent a few months living in San Francisco for work. Somehow the weather was perfect the whole time. I made new friends, caught up with old ones, ate healthier, worked out and saw daylight more than I had in all my New York finance years. But one night, I tried to order pizza to my apartment near the financial district, and no one would deliver. Not to start talking about food again, but that’s when the West Coast scales fell from my eyes and I realized I could never live there.
Because I’m my own boss at Eu’Genia, I could technically work from anywhere. In Ghana, I’d be closer to family and our company’s 1500 registered shea nut pickers. In Europe, or anywhere else, I could be expanding sales. However, it’s hard for me to imagine raising children away from the diversity of New York. If you want to expose your children to millions of different people and things with minimal effort (which I do), there’s no better place to do it.