growing up

A Girl Grows in Brooklyn

By Ashley Rigby

In fall of 2005, shortly after my 23rd birthday, I moved to New York City. I always hated New York City. I wasn’t a “city” girl. I loved trail running, mountain biking, Dunkin Donuts, shopping at big box stores like Target and Marshalls, driving around in my 2000 VW Passat blasting the Garden State soundtrack and feeling safe with people around me that also felt, thought, looked and smelled exactly like me.

I moved to New York City. I always hated New York City.

But the people I loved, including my girlfriends, my boyfriend Jeff, and my sister Shawna, loved New York City. They were either living there or were headed that way. And I loved them more than I feared the City and so I went. I sold my car and left my bestie roommate Kelly, our cute West Hartford Center apartment and a job (also in the Center) that I loved. I told myself I would go for a year or two, expand career options, and then move right back.

The first year in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn came with ups and downs. Our apartment was great, but the neighborhood had too many rats and too few amenities. There was concrete for days, and barely a tree growing in that section of Brooklyn. I was interviewing like crazy and temping for a weirdo lawyer for $20/hour. I was nervous riding the subway and often had panic attacks commuting to and from work. At this point, I still loved the people I moved there with, but had mixed emotions about the city. The nightlife, the food, the city exploring, the opportunity and the energy pulled me in, while the lack of greenery and ease of daily living were bringing me down. But I didn’t want to leave the city, feeling like it beat me. I’m competitive like that.

I was conquering my fear of city-living and honestly, the fear of living in general.

Within the first few years there, I read books about anxiety, learned to control my breathing and my mindset. I had sessions with a few nutty therapists until I eventually found a great one. I was conquering my fear of city-living and honestly, the fear of living in general. We moved to a new Brooklyn neighborhood full of trees, with very few rats. I landed a great job, which eventually led to another great job.

They say if you can make it New York City, you can make it anywhere and I like to believe that’s true. The city will change you and you have to be open to learning, growing, and changing with the City. I don’t mountain bike anymore and rarely hike but I feel like I’m ascending a mountain daily. It’s exhausting, dehydrating, enthralling, intimidating, and 13 years later I’m mentally, physically, financially and emotionally stronger than ever before. I fucking love the city and all it’s given me. I made it here and will make it anywhere I choose.

Ashley outgrows her fear of city living and this too-small bike.

Ashley outgrows her fear of city living and this too-small bike.

30s are the new 20s

Jem jams and so do I. Also, Jem isn't creaky.

Jem jams and so do I. Also, Jem isn't creaky.

By Shawna Kitzman

I’m happy I’m still in my 30s. Some of my friends and my husband are 40. I don’t know why I’m happy to have a few more years in this age bracket. What difference does it make?

I remember packages of black napkins at a party store in West Hartford Center called Bennett’s. They were black with white writing: Over the Hill! I learned in design school that historically, black packaging was associated with death. Those black napkins inferred the inherent doom and gloom that comes with turning 40. I don’t think it’s all downhill from 40. When people lived to 60, sure, 40 was old. But now people live to 80 and up, so 40 is no big deal.

Recently I felt creaky after not working out for a few months. I woke up with sore a back and hips, from my lack of physical activity. It was unacceptable. I’m too young to feel creaky. I started running again, three days a week. And I’m not creaky anymore. I know it’ll happen eventually but not yet. Not today, friends!

One of the freedoms of being 37 is confidence in who I am. I can say with certainty that I don’t like fantasy as a genre, I have no idea how the game of football works, I loathe shorts, and if I had to live on one food for the rest of my life, it’d be cheese, no question. I’m glad I don’t have to feign interest in shit to impress a date or people I want to be friends with. I can say I like this or that, or I stand for this and against that. I know who I am, but I’m open to trying new things.

The moment I close my mind to other ways of thinking or reject feedback…that’s when I’ll turn to a crusty old bird.

It’s refreshing to know myself in a way that wasn’t possible when I was younger.