I was only paying $600 for the one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side. I don't think I'd even get a closet for that in Seattle now.
The reason I was paying so little for this place was because it was an old-school rent controlled place and my friend was splitting it with me. She needed a place for her stuff since her boyfriend's place was so tiny.
It was that fall of 2010 when they found the melanoma. I didn't want to officially move back to Manhattan. But how often does a cheap, furnished Manhattan apartment fall into your lap? It was the middle of the recession and all my work contacts were in NYC.
As ready as I was to get out of New York, I knew how lucky I was to have that apartment (thank YOU Jess!) and plenty of work opportunities. People were throwing me gigs left and right. But I could only do so much on my feet because of the leg surgeries.
A colleague was offering a food writing course online. I thought "well that's clever." I needed a new way to make money. I offered my first online course, "How to Teach Cooking to Kids" mostly because I was tired of repeating myself when people asked how they could do what I was doing for a living. It seemed more efficient to share the information this way.
I had no idea what I was doing. Nobody was really teaching online courses back then. It was 2011. There wasn't any technology to support it at that time.
But it was a success. I think I had over 20 students in my first class. I couldn't believe it. I barely advertised it! I could make money sitting in my pajamas and teaching people about my favorite subject!?!?! Ding ding ding!
I knew I was onto something and had stumbled on a way to escape the exhausting, physically draining culinary work that kept me tied to NYC.
For two years, I plotted my escape from New York. I collected as little belongings as possible. I researched how to teach online and different technology options.
I looked around my space and imagined what I would give away, what would come with me. I dreamed of light. Of space. Of using new appliances. I used to love old apartments. But this one hadn't been updated in years!
But where would I move? For awhile, I considered every city in the U.S. But in the fall of 2012, both my parents were hospitalized and I knew I had to be in the same time zone as them. While talking to Megan on the phone, we discussed an exploratory trip to San Diego and possibly San Francisco.
After about five minutes, I realized SF would be too expensive. I also didn't have a strong support system there. I didn't want to end up in a city like New York where people are more focused on career than community. I needed a friendly town.
Per my usual decision making process, I decided to move to San Diego during a 20 minute phone call.
I had a lot of colleagues and friends in San Diego. I'd been visiting there for over ten years. I knew the area well. And there was plenty happening in my field, lots of grants and organizations, so I knew I'd find enough work. My one hesitation was the heat. I like winter weather. But I figured I could tolerate the perpetual sunshine!! Ha!
In February 2013, I visited the city. I looked at one apartment building in Little Italy and I decided I wanted to live there. I never looked at another building. Have I told you how lucky I am in the apartment category? I ALWAYS score great places to live!
This building was JUST being renovated so I put in my request for a western-facing 2 bedroom and 2 bath. It would be much more affordable if I rented out the second room. I'd get to live in a swanky downtown palace with a pool, hot tub, and gym inside the building for the SAME rent I'd been paying for years in New York. I felt weird about renting the room but I soon discovered that there wasn't a stigma there about having roommates. People had roommates at all ages in San Diego. It's a much more community-vibe city and it made living there much more affordable.
I figured I should network in the area before paying rent and I needed to get my car down the coast. So I sublet my place in NYC to people who would care for my two kitties. My friend and I drove down my car down the coast. And I crashed on couches and house-sat for I think almost three months? This way I could make sure I was choosing the right neighborhood, save some money, and figure out my game plan.
After about a week in San Diego, I knew Little Italy was the right place for me. It was downtown so I could walk everywhere. It was hip, had tons of restaurants, health food grocery store, and a close walk to Gaslamp (which wasn't my style but still fun to live near). And per all my other apartments over the years except Brooklyn, I lived very close to a large body of water. I have to live near water.
In the summer, I flew back to New York, taught my teen cooking camp and did a few other gigs and packed up the rest of my place. Between my lucrative camps and working a zillion gigs the previous year, I'd saved enough for the move, new furniture and to tide me over while I looked for regular work.
I'd read somewhere recently that commitment-phobes never own new couches. I was determined to change my ways!
I settled into my new place, started dating someone new, and landed a few teaching gigs.
However, underneath my lovely new life something felt off. I remember laying in bed that August and thinking "I shouldn't be this tired. Why am I so tired." I'd moved into my new place by then and had settled in. I should have felt rested. My skin looked puffy and blotchy, which I attributed to aging but it seemed too sudden.
I spent so many years working to heal my digestive problems, I am very, very attuned to what's going on with my body. I also noticed I had to pee way more frequently. Which my friends that had kids complained about. But that was new for me. I also seemed super puffy around my middle no matter how much I worked out. I had a gym in my building, was walking everywhere and was eating salads every day. It didn't make sense.
It was hovering beneath the surface, this feeling that something was wrong over those few months. I checked out new yoga studios, met new friends, explored San Diego...but something kept gnawing at me.
It all felt surreal. Temporary. It was the same feeling I had in high school and when I started college. That I was pretending to be like everyone else. But something was going to happen. Something was going to change.
Like the other shoe was about to drop....
And then. It did.
HEY FRIENDS! Tomorrow is my birthday and the last day of the project! Holy SMOKES! I can't believe I wrote every day and shared so many personal things with you. But I'm SO SO glad I did. Thanks for reading and listening and celebrating the good times, and offering support about the bad times. I couldn't do any of this without your support! Seriously, who would listen to me ramble? ;) I'll be continuing with more stories soon. Stay tuned...
PHOTO #29. This post is part of a series celebrating my life before I lost four organs to three cancers in 2014. It is an “online memorial” honoring the person I was, in the hopes that I can make peace with the disabled person I’ve become. Every day for 30 days until my birthday, I will challenge myself to write a post inspired by the photo I’m sharing. I will not plan the topic or write ahead of time. I will merely look at the photo and write whatever it inspires. Thanks for reading! #julesfor30 #happyrebirth