Lonely And Drifting: The Flipside Of Being An International Playgirl
Sometimes, being an international playgirl sucks. Sure, you’re constantly meeting new people, having wild adventures, and challenging your own comfort zone, but it’s not all triumph and passport stamps! When you pause for a second, sometimes an overwhelming feeling of sadness and loneliness can sock you right in the guts.
Below is an excerpt of an email from a Kiwi babe named Danielle, who is battling with exactly those emotions. Instead of replying to her directly, I wanted to share my thoughts with you.
“I was hoping you might have some insight/tips on how you handled making the move to the U.S. being from New Zealand. I know you have a great support system there now in the U.S. but was it always like that and do you know many people who don’t have a stable home but still manage to stay in tune with themselves? After traveling a lot I feel like I have acquired so much but am struggling with being a nomad and having no roots.
For some reason I thought of you to ask. Maybe because you took a chance and you come from a great southern land like I do. I know you are busy being fab and whatnot. Just feeling a little lonely in the big U.S.A right now. Maybe your Love Letters will do me some good.” (Danielle)
Even though my biggest dream was to move to New York City, the way it happened was an accident: I came over for a party, and decided to stay. My boyfriend and I packed a suitcase each, flew over, and stayed at the New York Palace for a week. At the end of the week, he had to go to London for work, and instead of heading back to Melbourne immediately, I decided I’d stay in NYC for a week or so.
That week became three months. By the time I boarded the plane for Melbourne, my relationship had completely fallen apart, but I knew that New York City was where I was supposed to be. There was nothing keeping me in Australia anymore.
On May 19th 2008, I moved into my first New York apartment. It was spring, and the city was full of sunshine and blossoms. I remember ecstatically walking to Ricky’s and choosing soap for my shower, and the huge thrill that would surge through me when I walked to Wholefoods to get my groceries at 10pm on a beautiful warm night.
When I first got to NYC, I didn’t have a single friend in the city. But that changed quickly.
A street style photographer shot me on my roof. I became friends with a fashion blogger named Gilda who worked at Patricia Field, and we’d go to parties. I met a stylist who took me to bubble battles and we’d eat midnight snacks while magicians performed card tricks. I went to New York Fashion Week and laughed with Yuli when we snuck into Betsey Johnson’s show. My friends Jess and Felicity came to visit. Molly Crabapple emailed me, and introduced me to the world of tawdry burlesque, as well as many of her friends. After years of knowing each other online, I finally met Shauna when she came to the city for a visit, and we started talking all the time. (We also threw a huge public birthday party in Central Park.) I met one of my heroes. I delighted in the halloween parade. I visited Las Vegas, Paris, Los Angeles and Missouri. And I had a couple of romances, which opened up new social circles.
Some of these people are still in my life; some aren’t. It’s all part of the journey.
Even though I was making friends, I still spent a lot of time alone. My explorations of the city and of myself ran parallel; I may have been getting lost in Soho, but I was also rediscovering who I was. I flew cross-country in headphones, thinking about my life and what I wanted to make of it.
When I felt lonely, I would listen to sad songs and buy myself flowers, or sit on my fire escape, watching the city below. I wrote in my journal and spent hours Skypeing with my friends. I would meditate, read books, and walk for miles. Sometimes I would go and get a massage or a pedicure, not only to help with stress, but to feel human contact.
The hardest time was before I got my visa, and could only spend a few months at a time in the USA. It was that feeling of impermanence, of not having any roots; of that suitcase in the corner that I knew I would have to repack soon enough. The thought alone was emotionally exhausting.
But all of those things strengthened my resolve to make it in New York City. I knew I wanted to live here, and nowhere else. There was absolutely no way I was going to go back to New Zealand with my tail between my legs. And when you set your mind to something, you make it happen.
When I think back on that period of my life, I don’t really remember feeling sad or lonely. The main thing that sticks out in my mind was the overwhelming feeling of unlimited possibility and opportunity. The world was full and rich and it felt like there was a new adventure around every single corner.
I am so glad I had that time by myself to get acquainted with — and fall head-over-heels in love with — New York City. It helped me to figure out who I was, to get comfortable with myself as an independent woman, and to discover what I was made of.
The truth is that you can just as easily lose touch with yourself whether you’re living with your parents or in the wilderness, in Nowheresville or New York City. Getting reconnected isn’t complicated; it can be as simple as just committing some time to meditate, journal, pray or exercise, and to do it regularly.
We are what we continually do, so if you feel like what you’re doing isn’t working for you anymore, do something else!
Moving to the other side of the world is not easy. It’s scary, difficult, and extremely challenging, and that’s why most people die in the same town in which they were born. You are to be commended for having the guts to up sticks and take a risk.
The world may seem scary and you may feel lonely right now, but over time those fears will abate, and your loneliness will transform into a sense of comfort. You will begin to feel more at ease with yourself. You won’t be so petrified of being alone. And of course, that’s when your life will start to fill up with wonderful things, people and experiences.
Chin up, playgirl,
Blast from the past photographs taken by Craig Arend, Sean, and Chloe Rice.