How To Live Aloha In New York City

I’m here. I’m in New York. My thighs are chafed, my backpack straps are saturated in sweat, and I had a $23 salad for lunch yesterday. I’m back. And apparently, I’m on island time.

I stood in tap class on Tuesday watching the eager young college grads, decked in stylish leotards and tap skirts, frantically try to figure out what Randy Skinner (most well known for his 42nd Street choreography on Broadway) was saying in his soft voice while a few of us veterans stood in the back hugging each other and delighting in the random encounters that occur in this city when we least expect them.

My friend Robert came up to me halfway through class and said, “Girl, you’re on Hawaii time.”

“What does that mean?!” I joked.

He smiled. “Honey, I just got back from a month in Puerto Rico. When you return from a laid back place, you carry an easy energy that can affect the whole room. I can see it in you. You’re just here for the party. You ain’t tryin’ to impress nobody anymore.”

What an incredible way of putting it. Robert was 2000% correct. I’d gone to Randy’s class for years in my tap skirt and my magenta halter top leotard, nervous that he could see me struggle or that I wasn’t thin enough to be one of his girls. Years of knowing that the class wasn’t an audition but still treating it that way.

To stand there in my larger-than-it’s-ever-been body and enjoy the class for what it was, in my capri pants and my tank top, was a goshdamn relief. I didn’t “try” once. I just took class. I barely even looked in the mirror – I was too busy playing and laughing with my friend Topher who was also there to enjoy class on his birthday. Neither of us felt like “trying” or “working” or “auditioning”. We were just there because Randy gives a really excellent tap class.

Which brings me to my ultimate point. If you need a break from being a New Yorker, you can take one – while living in New York. Here is how, I think, I’m avoiding being a New Yorker while in New York this summer.

1) Stop trying so damn hard. I mean, it’s the culture. It’s what we do. We try to walk faster, we try to work harder, we try to give up gluten, we try to look better, we try to get it (whatever “it” is) faster than the next person. But like, where’s it gonna get us? I mean, don’t be late for work or anything but stop trying so damn hard. At the end of the day, will your sprint-life moves through the crowd on 34th Street really bring you a richer life? I know. Easy for me to say. I don’t live here right now, I’m just frolicking through Central Park in my tap shoes. I know. I don’t have to try. But I’m telling you because all I used to do was try. I would book it from one end of Manhattan to another with fifteen minutes to spare, not without using many profanities for each and every tourist that got in my way, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere any more special than you, other than almost in the looney bin.

Lululemon has a quote on all of their shopping bags that has always stuck with me. It’s something like, “replace the words ‘wish’, ‘should’, and ‘try’, with ‘I will”. I also say, replace the word “try” with “do”, or “enjoy”, or “live”. Because you know, it was just so interesting to take tap class this week with an acclaimed Broadway choreographer and not try for anything – but just simply watch and learn. You know, like what you’re supposed to do when you take a class. It was amazing last night to take Shrink Session with Olivia and not try – but just simply to move. Which is really what exercise is all about isn’t it? To move your body. All this burning calories and toning up and losing fat came along with magazines and diet books but if we go back to ancient times, people moved their body for joy, and for endorphins, and for celebration. An exercise class can be just those things if we stop reading Women’s Health all the time. Just consider it. Because I’m saying that all this “trying” I’ve done over the past eight years has given me the ability to walk very fast and swear very loudly, but other than that, I don’t have much to show for it.

2) Accept the heat. I swear the more we complain about it, the bigger the pool of sweat in our cleavage becomes. It’s summer. It’s New York. The heat sits on the streets like a protective mother hen sitting on her eggs. And aye aye aye, hens are known to sit for a while. Be thankful for the days the hen gets up and we gain a breezy day with cloud cover. Have a moment where you accept Mother Nature and her moods. Try to wear clothing that does not touch your body whatsoever. Cold showers seventeen times a day. No soup. Seriously why are you eating chili? No underwires. Comfortable flip-flops. Hair up. This is how I’ve dealt with extreme humidity, constant sweating, and curly hair adventures for the past year. At some point, we have to find the gratitude in the situation. After all, didn’t y’all just go through a polar vortex or some shit?

3) Walk everywhere. As Restore Your Roar superstar Olivia would say, “wwwwwhat?” Yes. I walk everywhere whenever possible. I am going to sweat whether I stand underground at West 4th waiting for the F or if I walk those 24 blocks, so why not walk in the open air with the pooping dogs and the screaming old ladies? Much more visual stimulation and for the same amount of sweat, I get to walk by the very air-conditioned GAP and/or Balducci’s and/or how much do we love the shops at Columbus Circle this time of year. It’s not even about saving subway fare as much as it’s about spending as little time underground as possible. It’s the best thing you can do for your well-being this summer, I swear to Buddha.

4) Make coffee at home. Do you know how many messages I’ve received from readers saying that $975 is out of the budget and there’s no way they can come to Restore Your Roar in Hawaii? When Olivia and I came up with the hard costs that we needed to cover to make the retreat happen, I was determined to keep it under a thousand dollars. Because I knew, that in just one week in New York City, I can easily spend $100 on Starbucks and two lunches at Whole Foods. I knew, that if I was living here, and I wanted to go to Hawaii, (which last year at this time, I did), that if I made my coffee at home and packed my own hummus and carrots six days out of seven, that I could save $900 in nine weeks.

Restore Your Roar is six months away. Imagine the money we can all save if we skip the morning latte. I mean this isn’t news, people have been writing about skipping the morning macchiatto for years, but when you have a REASON, a WANT, a NEED, or a GOAL that you’re working towards, making the coffee at home seems more important. It carries more weight because you know that it’s money saved, which equals money spent on a trip that you deserve and have worked hard for. You can literally GIVE yourself money if you really want to. This coming from the woman who has spent over $40,000 (not an exaggeration) in binge-eating and social-eating habits in just the past four years, let me tell you. If you want to make that money stay in your savings for a trip to Hawaii to change your life, you can do it. I am living proof.

5) Quit buying what you’re supposed to. Now maybe I’m absolutely biased, but darling, I have so many sundresses from Urban Outfitters that are gathering dust in my closet in Hawaii that I just HAD TO HAVE because they have a bow on them or because they are “my colors” or because they are “so me”. Funny how every single season, a new slew of dresses comes out at H&M that are just SO ME. These dusty dresses aren’t even going out on the town anytime soon because they were impulse buys and they quite simply just do not cover my ass. A short sundress on you is a long shirt on me. My thighs rub together painfully when I wear a dress in this city and I have to hold it down when I walk over the grates and so unless I hold a dinner party in a breezeless room, these dresses have no opportunity to dance or twirl in public anytime soon.

If I could take all of these dresses back to the stores from which they came, I’m sure I’d have at least $1500 on my hands and that’s just since 2012 when I tried to turn my binge-eating habit into a binge-shopping habit. Not only did that little trade not work the way it was supposed to, but I’ve always had an obsession with buying clothes in the size I WANT to be rather than the size that I ACTUALLY AM and so I am the lucky owner of four billion sundresses in a size four or six. If you’d like to raid my closet, you’re more than welcome to join me in Hawaii this coming year and I’ll send you home with anything you might want to take along but until then, quit buying those dresses if you’re never going to wear them. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you have to abide by fashion rules. Sorry Carrie Bradshaw’s, but it’s what I believe. I wore Lululemon Groove Shorts and a baggy tee that said “Normal Is Boring” all day long yesterday, even to a fancy lunch at The Smith, (sorry about that KM), and it’s the most comfortable I’ve been in a New York summer since 2007.

Wear what you need to. Don’t buy what you won’t wear – even if it is SO TOTALLY YOU. And even though this topic needs a blog post all it’s own, the greatest piece of advice I can ever give you is to buy clothes in your size. Your current size. You know it never works to buy a dress two sizes down. You and I both know it makes you feel like shit eternally. Eternal shit. If you are legit a size 12 right now, there is nothing wrong with buying a damn sexy shirt that is a size 12 and looks perfect on your body. If you’re gonna spend the money, buy something that you can wear RIGHT NOW. You never know where you’re going to end up tomorrow, and it’s not mentally or emotional fair to your well-being to buy something that you can only wear if you drop twenty pounds immediately.

6) Find gratitude for New York. This is the last thing I’m going to say because it’s the most important one. Whether you moved here for a job or you moved here for an adventure, there has got to be something here that you appreciate. For me, my closest friends and family live right here in these 10277651_753602493214_721886510577475500_nfive boroughs, or in a neighboring state. But for years I hated everything about the city. The audition buildings and the tourists and the lack of open space and the expensive groceries. Now, living 5,000 miles away, I long for the $23 salads and the hour long commutes to my friend’s Brooklyn loft. Once you move away, those commutes to Brooklyn become a lot longer. There’s no dollar pizza or 24-hour Duane Reade or Billy Porter sightings in Hawaii. There’s no Broadway Bares or Al Blackstone classes or Po-ta-topia. We have luscious jungle and crystal clear water and beautiful men but my goodness do I appreciate even the smallest things in New York now that I’m here soaking as much of it up as I can before I head back west. There’s probably a reason why you are here right now, and if you really can’t remember why that is, then it might be time to move on, but take it from me – cherish everything about the city now, because you have no idea how much you will miss the little things once you have moved on. I know the trek to Astoria sucks if you live in Washington Heights but like, do it anyway. The 45 minute M60 trip has nothing on an 11 hour plane ride.

Now pardon me while enjoy my eighth cup of coffee with perfect New York tap water and the sound of sirens in my dear friend Ruthie’s downtown apartment. It’s good to be home.