To make it in NYC, stay uncomfortable


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  • Photo: Lorraine Duffy Merkl



Rest in peace, my Angel.

Angel Nails, the salon that I’ve gone to for the last 17 years, pushed back its last cuticle on December 31, 2017.

Keeping things in perspective, it’s not like my husband abandoned me, yet my initial reaction to the shuttered business would have fooled you.

On the Upper East Side, if you’re looking for a mani-pedi all you have to do is throw a rock; nail salons are as ubiquitous as Starbucks and Duane Reade.

Yet notice of the closing left me with an oh-no feeling, which is my usual response when a “go-to” suddenly is no more.

Frankly, I have no one to blame for my dismay but myself. Options are the name of the game in NYC and not keeping abreast of them defeats the purpose of living in the city where you can get anything at any time.

As a native, I should know better, but I allowed myself to fall into the trap many New Yorkers do: we want to feel that we don’t just live in our city, but own it. To prove that we put the word “my” in front of everything — my grocery store, my diner and yes, my manicurist. There’s a certain cachet of “having people.”

And then we get comfortable, which leads to being thrown when something as mundane as a bakery moves locations or shuts down completely.

My mistake of not broadening my horizons is not limited to neighborhood businesses. I have been a NYC freelancer from way before the gig economy became the norm. Ask any contract worker and they will tell you: it’s either feast or famine, and looking for your next job is a major part of the job.

Many a time, I made the mistake of exhaling during the heady “feast” times, when I had three or four clients consistently feeding me assignments and designating me their de facto writer.

I convinced myself I was too busy working to look for more clients. I got — yes, comfortable, and foolishly thought my good fortune would last forever.

The longer the clients enlisted my services, the rustier I got at networking. Naturally panic set in when a client decided they needed new thinking on an account (aka a different writer), fell on hard times and had to keep assignments in-house, or closed their doors.

I always managed to pick myself up off the floor, and start cold-calling again, but my pitches would feel less smooth, and the realization would set in that I’d fallen behind the pack, which can sting.

But never was the “comfort zone” more painful than years ago when I was young and single in the city. I prided myself on being a one-man-woman. Why, I don’t know. Perhaps because then like now (so I’m told), dating could be more exhausting than fun. But tying oneself to someone without the promise or even hint that commitment was on the horizon, often (read: always) left me feeling as though I had wasted time with nothing to show for it; and having to begin again with someone new was more daunting then exciting. (“So what high school did you go to?” Ugh.)

I guess with age comes, if not wisdom, at least the desire to not keep making the same mistakes. (After a while, that just gets embarrassing.) I decided to use saying goodbye to my go-to salon as the incentive to not tie myself to the same ol’ same ol’, and make 2018 the Year of Living Uncomfortably, trying something/somewhere new and keeping my options open. There’s too much going on in NYC to keep oneself closed off.

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author the novels “Back To Work She Goes” and “Fat Chick,” for which a movie is in the works.


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