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Postcard from New York: Down but not out

Josh Pugh

Josh Pugh Contributor

It’s all we talk about these days — how COVID has affected work, life, play, friendships, community, and business. When will everything be back to normal? While sometimes it feels overwhelming living in a metropolis that’s regularly been featured as the epicentre of a global pandemic, the exciting and hopeful thing we notice every day is that the heart and soul of New York City lives on quietly in the background; while we get on with a new type of normal.

I moved to New York City in January 2017 with nothing more than an idea that it would be fun to live somewhere completely different to my hometown of Adelaide, and experience something new. Four years later I’ve found myself married to a New Yorker, Stacey, with a 6-month-old puppy (an Australian Shepherd named “Roo”), and living in a version of the city that’s unfamiliar to even me.

New York has featured heavily in international news throughout the last year, and seemingly never for the right reasons. The country didn’t pick up the ball fast enough to curb Coronavirus infections so instead of being open again for business, parties, and friends, we’re still inside and isolated, and most businesses are forecasting that offices won’t even consider re-opening until September. The mentality we see most days is very much, “how do we live and get on with life alongside COVID” as opposed to, “how can we do everything to stop it in its tracks?”.

At times, this has been difficult to grasp while watching Australia re-open (mostly) successfully, but masks, closures, and isolation have become our day-to-day norm, and we’ve accepted that.

Our daily routine traditionally (pre-COVID) started at six every morning, trudging through Tompkins Square Park in the East Village (South East Manhattan) to our local gym. Back home at 7:45, ready for work by 8:30, then onto the two subways it took each of us to get to our respective offices. I was in my office in Midtown (Central Manhattan) until 6ish, and we’d then each catch the subway (or two) again to meet each other for a drink, and dinner somewhere new from Stacey’s list of restaurants that she wanted to visit. Weekends added brunch and afternoons in Central Park with friends, while exclaiming constantly “Oh New York!” like we’d lived here for decades.

It’s basically the same now in 2021, except we don’t go to the gym, we don’t ride the subway, we don’t go to an office, we can’t go out for dinner or drinks, we can’t see friends, and it’s really starting to feel like it’s been decades…

But I’m still here!

Why? Because it’s still New York, no matter what you hear about its heyday being over. Sure, some companies have left the city due to there being no need for maintaining an office in an urban environment nobody can visit. But in their place have come opportunists who know that there will come a time where the city will look, and feel, (and smell) like it used to. We’re seeing startups in exciting new spaces in our work-from-home world, and old-world businesses finally adapting to the 21st century — even I’ve made a business of hosting trivia events for companies via Zoom! Broadway is still closed but it hasn’t changed its location, and there’ll be shows to see and experiences to be had before too long, which will bring back the nightlife, which will bring back the restaurants, which will bring back the bars, which will bring back the people. Like so many times before, the city has a chance to reset and reinvent itself, embracing the new, and in many cases, restoring those old charms that had been forgotten.

We’re the lucky ones in all this. We still have jobs, and food, and shelter, and warmth throughout an especially snow-filled winter. For so many this isn’t the case, and there are countless numbers of those who are struggling to live day-to-day, let alone thrive. It’d be remiss of me to also not mention the thousands of Australians who are stranded abroad. These are people with lives and families who couldn’t escape home to Australia in March last year, when none of us knew what 2020 would entail, and are now desperately trying to get back and start their lives again. Being so far removed from your home country with no means to get back, and no close network around you has been trying on these Australians, who are now desperately looking for a friendly ear.

By coming together and supporting those who are like us, as well as those who are different, we’ll get through this.

My one hope though is that we all come out of this having learned something. I hope that we’ve learned that life shouldn’t only be about the big wins, but also the small ones. It should be about the people we meet, and the savoring of every single moment at a dinner party with friends, because we now see just how quickly they can disappear.

The work-life balance is important, and in a city synonymous with sacrificing life for another hour at work, I truly hope this tips that scale back, even just a little.


Connect with Josh

Josh Pugh is an orange loving, business owning, digital marketing focused, charity driving, professional expat from Adelaide, South Australia, living in New York City.

He is the founder of America Josh which he started in 2017 for Australians wanting to move to America. America Josh is an online guide and community network helping expats from all over the world move to and thrive in America. America Josh started as a selfish hobby for Josh to make new friends and has evolved into a supportive community of fantastic people helping each other and working together to make their transition to America more straightforward. He is also the President of Variety – the Children’s Charity of New York and the Founder of Fortnight.digital, a digital marketing company specializing in websites.