New Kid on the Block

In high school, I was the type to spend every other Friday night holding a nondescript can of beer and thinking of the least obvious way to get it off of my hands. Occasionally I’d tip it back and wet my lips, but I’m pretty sure I never fooled anyone.

Nothing got by the cool kids, and everything/everyone was fair game for ridicule. Most of the time, I endured little more than good-natured teasing. But I also remember a handful of hot and humiliated nights that ended with my mom brushing my hair back until I felt better. She used to tell me that all of us had a long ways to go before becoming the best versions of ourselves. Wasn’t that the truth?

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I never became fully part of the popular crowd, though I did link hands with a few of the boys solidly planted inside their inner circle. A few of the girls – all size twos and Barbie-doll beautiful – pulled me into their orbit for awhile too, but my new True Religion jeans and flat-ironed-to-death hair were never quite enough to keep me from being pushed back out.

Mostly, I remember desperately wishing that high school would end. I bruised so easily back then, and it didn’t help that I couldn’t see that most of my wounds were self-inflicted. All I wanted was the chance to start over somewhere new, in a place where nobody knew how many friends I had inadvertently backstabbed or how many times I had gotten caught in a lie.

“Somewhere new” turned out to be both southern Maine [when my family moved] and upstate New York [when I became a freshman yet again]. In college, I did a much better job resisting the in-crowd’s magnetic pull, although that first year was still something of a learning experience. Eventually, I dropped the masquerade altogether and embraced my not so inner nerd. It was a small school; word got out pretty quickly that Hannah went to bed before 9pm and was always a week ahead on every syllabus. When I did go out, everyone knew I’d be carrying a water bottle and ducking out early.

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Now I’m moving to Manhattan, and I’ll be starting at square 1 again. I’m looking forward to so much of what the city has to offer [especially my new internship!], but I know that if I’m not careful, life in the city might feel awfully similar to life in high school.

I have to remember that it’s going to be pointless to try to keep up with NYC. Besides the fact that the designer labels are WAY out of my league this time, I can’t even let myself dream about living somewhere even remotely hip/trendy [at least not at first]. The landlords in those exclusive neighborhoods would probably share a good laugh over my price range.

People here look like they’re fueled on coffee and adrenaline and hurry. Many of the women march around on heels so high they’re just as impressive as the skyscrapers towering overhead. I have to remember that I can’t actually walk in cute shoes for more than 5 minutes, and that I can’t go more than 3 or 4 hours without any food. I’m going to have to swallow any embarrassment I will definitely have about bringing a brown bag to work, because going out to lunch every day just isn’t in my budget. I’m going to have to laugh at myself for eating kale salads for months after NYC decrees this “superfood” done and done.

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What can I say? It took me a long time to acquire a taste for raw kale. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I still haven’t acquired a taste for beer. I’m more than a little afraid that happy hour is going to be more like awkward hour! Anyhow, if I did drink, I would raise my glass to staying grounded and genuine in NYC.

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