Bridie Woodward, on the beach near her cottage in the Springs, NY - seven months pregnant with her daughter, Sylvie

Bridie Woodward is a creative producer and works in brand partnerships. She was Head of Agency at Protein before going freelance when her daughter was born in November 2017. She now lives with her husband, daughter and dog between their apartment in Brooklyn and a small cottage in the Springs, a bay-side hamlet near Montauk…

The way things were
Before I moved to New York, I was living in London and working in Protein’s studio there. I was born in London so by the time I moved I’d been there 28 years. I was living in a flat close to where I had been at school and spent most of my time with family and people I had grown up around. Apart from a brief stint at Brighton art school, I had never really made that big ’moving away from home’ step and as comfortable as it was for me, I found that the depth of my roots in London meant it was hard to break old habits and routines there.

I guess I sort of relocated to New York by accident. I had a brilliant boss at the time (who is now a close friend); she really pushed me to pick my game up and encouraged me to go to New York to help her set up the office. I imagined it would take a few months, I’d have some fun over the summer and then I’’d be back.

Going through the US immigration process makes you very aware that people from all over the world come here in search of a better life and some literally die trying to get here

Thinking back to those early days, it seems kind of unbelievable that it all worked out… Perhaps it was a mix of naive lunacy and luck. I found a beautiful apartment in the building I still live in today, Protein started to do well quickly which meant we hired people and moved more of the team over from London and we were working on really ambitious creative projects, the scale of which would have only been possible in New York.

New York, New York
In what still feels like a twist of fate I met a New Yorker who was living in Montauk – a tiny beach town on the very tip of Long Island – the Summer after I arrived, while sitting on a bench near the beach. We became friends and he invited me to spend 4th July weekend out there. I almost stayed in the city to finish some work, but at the very last minute I decided to go with a friend. He picked us up from the train station in a 1965 Gold Cadillac coupe deville that he was driving barefoot while smoking a one hitter – we’ve been together ever since.

I remember really clearly the first week I was there walking home from a dinner on one of those typical mid-summer New York nights where the temperature does not dip at all and people are out in the streets till late. Everyone had been so passionate about their hustle, what they where working on, and making it work so they could stay in New York. It was the first time I realised that people come here to do their best work and I found it really inspiring. I remember thinking how lucky I was to be here, promising myself to work super hard to keep up with all the talented people and not fuck it up.

I found the transition fairly easy, mainly because I did not think I was staying very long, so the separation felt gradual. Going through the US immigration process makes you very aware that people from all over the world come here in search of a better life and some literally die trying to get here; it’s an incredibly fortunate position to be able to just get a visa. The same is of course true about the UK but I think I just took the privilege of being a citizen for granted.

My life in NY has gone from feeling like some sort of short-term blag to feeling like my home. At this point I’ve gone through a lot of significant changes here

From the outside, America had seemed like a pretty strange and scary place to me. I had had loved ones who had suffered through America’s ‘war on drugs’ policies and been a teenager during the Bush era I definitely didn’t initially have ambitions to end up here. It’s been an incredible experience to gain a real understanding of the history, culture and people of this country first-hand from the inside.

New York in general is an optimistic, straight talking and exceptionally hard working city and tonally that feels quite different to London. It’s gone from feeling like some sort of short-term blag to feeling like my home. At this point I’ve gone through a lot of significant life changes here: I’ve run a business, I bought a house, I adopted a stray dog, got married and had a child here.

Now and then

I often still feel torn between London and NY, and entertain the idea of a move back several times a week (and more in the depths of the winter tundras) but I still feel that huge sense of gratitude to be here every time I see the Manhattan skyline when driving over the Kosciuszko bridge or walking to drink coffee on the beach in the mornings when we are out east.

From a British perspective it was eye-wateringly expensive; the insurance game is a complicated racket and I’m still paying off the medical bills six months later

These days I probably live a pretty different life to the typical ex-pat in New York. We rarely ‘go out’, we spend a lot of time at the beach, we listen to a lot of music, and I feel like I have space to think here. For the moment my week is made up of study with master herbalist and friend Karen Rose in Brooklyn, looking after my daughter and working freelance hours around taking care of her.

I had a lovely experience being pregnant and giving birth here. I spent a lot of my pregnancy at home in the Springs swimming, eating fresh local produce and fish and felt truly supported by our community here. Sylvie was literally created from that, so energetically this place will always be a part of her. After initially being nervous of the hospital system, the quality of the care I received was amazing and I had exactly the birth I wanted to…. but from a British perspective it was eye-wateringly expensive; the insurance game is a complicated racket and I’m still paying off the medical bills six months later. It massively brought home the inequality of the birth industry in the US.

Leaving London has widened my perspective and reference point, it has probably made me a little less rigid in my expectations

The worst things is obviously being away from family and friends. I want Sylvie to know her London connection – and sometimes it can feel like Im sort of out of the loop on everyone’s life over there. It must have been so much harder to live abroad in the days before WhatsApp and free international wifi calls.
Moving to New York widened my perspective and reference point, it has probably made me a little less rigid in my expectations and I hope I’ve learnt to adapt to change more easily. The thing that’s had the most impact on me and been the biggest surprise has been spending so much time outdoors and so immersed in nature, and how much more vital that makes me feel. In terms of the future, who knows… These days we talk about moving more often. All I know right now is that New York will always be a big part of our lives.

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