A little over a year ago, in the height of the pandemic, I stepped out of my story and began a new chapter in the beautiful Hudson Valley.
I had no clear, long-term vision. In fact, I’ve stopped sticking to plans, as they rarely stick to me. Instead, when I get the itch to shake things up every decade or so – and I was overdue at 52 – I act on instinct. Like Jane-of-the-Jungle, I climb to the highest branch to get a sense of the terrain. When I sense the time to leap, I take a deep breath, grab the nearest vine and swing to next best tree. It’s not always the palm I expected, but it’s usually where I need to be, or more specifically, to grow.
In this case, the dangling vine was an invitation to be a short-term tenant at the Fox Hill Bed & Breakfast in Highland, NY in October of 2020. I had met the owner over the summer during a brief upstate escape from Manhattan lockdown. Her invite was appealing because I loved the area, had friends nearby, and the timing coincided with peak foliage.
More importantly, I was itching to explore life upstate. Prior to the pandemic, it never seemed feasible. Not only did I have a private practice in the West Village, but I was also deeply rooted in my Upper West Side Jewish community. Now that COVID had blown up my world, along with everyone else’s, I was free to safari in the Hudson Valley jungle.
So I subletted my Manhattan studio apartment, and headed north, seeking mask-free outdoor adventures, including the opportunity to leaf peep from the B&B’s hillside hot tub. Funny enough, it was in that very jacuzzi that an NYC friend and soon-to-be Hudson Valley transplant encouraged me to consider buying upstate. Sure, nature, equity, and a bathroom larger than a porta-potty were calling. I just wasn’t sure I’d qualify for a loan, nor that I had the killer instinct and deep pockets to compete in the infamous bidding wars. But I figured I’d explore and stay open.
I began looking on my birthday and, to the surprise of many – but none more so than myself- bought the first house I saw. The charming, renovated colonial in the unassuming hamlet of Highland, was the right size, price, location, and artsy vibe for me. I closed in February and moved up in March, becoming yet another statistic in the mass exodus from the city.
Stretching Beyond My Comfort Zone
It’s been a magical adventure, and I am grateful for the privilege and opportunities that made this move possible. The Hudson Valley amazes me with natural beauty and its hidden cultural gems. I also love having more places to put my things, saving money, and the freedom to travel wherever, whenever I want without having to share germs and body parts with strangers. I’ve also made some wonderful new friends.
But it’s also, at times, been a rude awakening with painful adjustments. The fairy tale came to an abrupt halt on move-in day, when a tree fell on my yard in a windstorm, and my bathtub leaked water through the ceiling. There was no super to call to take care of things while I managed a full caseload of pandemic-fatigued clients on Zoom, which has also been emotionally and physically demanding. And while I can still stroll into town to grab lunch, I miss the days when walking out of my door meant bumping into friends in the first 10 blocks.
My Personal Growth Workout
As I describe in my book and Step Out of Your Story writing workshops, when authors create novels, they often have a vague sense of where they want the protagonist to go, but sometimes the character has a life of his/her own the storyline ends up going in unexpected directions. As the star my own evolving narrative, I never imagined the arc of my plotline would lead me to assuming the role of a single, middle-aged (bad ass!) female homeowner in the Hudson Valley. Yet here I am!
Though the city is only a beautiful, 105-minute train ride away, there are days when I miss aspects of my former urban life, especially the people, whimsical NY moments, and 24-hour food delivery. In those moments, I stop and wonder, how did I get here? Did I make the right choice? Am I being the good little protagonist conceived by a Divine Author or acting more like a rebellious teenager?
Whichever the case, if I view my story as a personal growth adventure, there is no wrong choice. With character development as my goal, every experience is a portal for personal evolution – to discover and embrace new parts of myself, the good, the ugly and all shades in between. The hope is that such inner journeys will not only make me a more well-rounded person, but also deepen me in compassionate self-awareness, so I can live a more authentic and happy life, enrich my relationships, and inspire others to grab their proverbial vines and swing.
Viewed through this lens, a leaky bathtub becomes an opportunity to practice surrendering, asking for help, and learning about plumbing. More time alone becomes an invitation to meditate, write, cook, and plan workshops for the coming year. And the downed tree on my first night of homeownership becomes an interesting story to tell at a barbecue.