A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

In the last year or so, I’ve gotten seriously hooked on watching House Hunters on HGTV. And I do mean “hooked” in the addictive substance sense.

It gives almost the same experience: while I’m watching, I feel great. I’m zoned out, fantasizing—practically hallucinating—about purchasing and owning a whole entire house with a yard and more than four rooms including the bathroom. It’s amazing. And then when it’s over, I’m left with only the vapors of that brief euphoria and the realization that I live in a one-bedroom apartment which is considered “pretty big!” for the fact that it actually contains a short hallway, and my bathroom isn’t in my kitchen. My world darkens, everything seems bleak and pointless. I feel an emptiness that nothing else can fill: I must get back to that world where regular people who have regular jobs purchase three- and four-bedroom homes with granite counter tops and fenced-in backyards! What glorious land is this?

Oh yes, it’s Cleveland.

Of course I’ve always been aware of the fact that we live in one of the most expensive cities in the country – and the world. But it wasn’t until I started watching House Hunters that I realized what is actually possible in other parts of the country. You can get a HOUSE! A whole house! With land, very often. For a price that begins with a TWO. A what? You heard me.

Perhaps I’m alone here, but I for one would rather never have been exposed to this information. What good does it do me to know that we could be living like kings in Nashville or Atlanta or Tuscon, when the best hope we have in New York is to one day afford an eighth of an acre in an “up-and-coming” suburb or take out a 30-year mortgage on a junior four? It was easier to feel superior before I knew how attainable property is in pretty much every other state in the Union.

I often wish I could muster up the desire to live in Ohio or some such place, but then I’d have to deal with the fact that everyone would make fun of the way I say “forehead” and “orange” (far-head and ahr-ange, obvs). Plus, I’m pretty confident that I would have absolutely no idea how to find a job anywhere but here. Somehow, as pricey, crowded, competitive and tiring New York can be, life anywhere else sounds next to impossible.

Are we lucky to be hardwired this way? For many, living here is a far-off aspiration. Something you only do on television or in movies. And we not only do it, we don’t know how not to do it. Then again, it could be awfully comfy to watch movies about New York from the “media room” in your shockingly affordable house. Then again, who needs a media room when you live in New York? The world outside your door is better than anything on the screen. Like that mental patient who does push-ups outside the McDonald’s at 3 a.m. as people nonchalantly step over him to get their late-night Big Mac.

I would miss him.


Do you ever think about leaving New York? Let us know in the comments section…

Dear Readers: I’ll now be writing about city life every day from now on. While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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