Tuesday, June 16, 2015

5 YEARS IN: WHAT NEW YORK MEANS TO ME NOW


There's a reason so many people talk about their experience in New York like they're talking about a lover. This isn't a city you just live in, it's a city with which you have a passionate, tumultuous and incredibly complicated relationship. There's simply no other way. You make sacrifices for New York you've never made for anyone, and New York rewards you in a way that no one ever has. New York is a lover who betrays and doesn't bother to beg for forgiveness—but you give it anyway, especially in the fall. New York is a well-endowed lover with an ego to match.

As someone who writes and lives in a zip code that starts with the number 1, romanticizing New York City in words is practically a stipulation in my apartment lease. Ever since I moved here, five years ago today, I've relished the occasions when I've felt inspired to communicate on the page my feelings towards this insane metropolis I now call home. My yearly anniversaries are, naturally, such an occasion.

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FIVE YEARS IN NEW YORK CITY...


Five years. It feels weird to have surpassed those 4-year increments we once used to define our lives (high school and then college, typically), and for some reason that also feels significant. I'm very much officially living in an era of my life that has no endpoint. No finish line. No certificate of achievement awaits me on this anniversary, yet I feel a sense of accomplishment all the same.

I read a personal essay on Medium earlier this month about leaving New York. If you're a writer and you decide to depart, you'll inevitably feel the need to explain yourself, validate your reasoning, and say goodbye in the best way you know how. The author, Ned Dymoke, did exactly that, and it wasn't quite a love letter. While he very accurately described the city as "boot camp for the soul," he also lamented how much it's changed since he arrived, and not for the better.

Read an article like this and it's easy to think, whoa, New York really is ruined and too expensive and only for the rich and the dive bars are gone and so is the character. And I won't deny what this guy is saying—so much of it is true. However, I won't spend any time lamenting a New York I never knew. New York has been simultaneously bleeding me dry blowing my mind since the day I arrived.

***

I touched down at JFK on June 16, 2010, at the start of what would turn out to be one of the hottest summers I've ever experienced, and the most expensive three months of my life. I remember my friend Duncan picking me up from baggage claim in his BMW, and dropping me off at my friend Gina's apartment 83rd and 1st. It was a kindness never to be repeated by anyone thereafter, and significance of that is not lost on me. The ride felt like a cheat—a comfort from my life before easing me into my life to come. 

After squatting on Gina's livingroom couch (Tully slept in her bed with her) in Yorkville for six sweltering weeks, we settled in a relatively sprawling 3-bedroom walk-up in Chelsea (to be shared by four of us) on August 1st. By the time I set my bags down at 274 W 19th Street, I had spent nearly the entirety of the savings I'd spent a year amassing—somewhere in the range of $5,000, I think.

Perhaps that first financial shock served to lessen the blows of all the outrageous expenses that have followed, which I refuse to even dream of calculating. It's not that I don't want to face reality, it's that I don't quantify my life (and my lifestyle) with money spent. That's not a New York thing, I'm aware. No one should be measuring their life in dollar bills, wherever they live. But, New York is particularly expensive, and it's easy to drive yourself mad going down that accounting rabbit hole in your mind. I'm not sure which would be bigger if I compared the pile of money next to the pile of experiences... but I don't go to bed at night dreaming about my bank account. 

***

Those first heady months and years were a time when every day seemed special, because it was happening in New York. That's what newness does to you in places and in relationships. New York is both, and the combination is at times overwhelming and definitely intoxicating. I feel lucky that my drunk-in-love feelings toward the city mellowed out slowly and naturally for me. We got comfortable with each other, it seems. At some indiscernible point, being in New York stopped feeling like an occasion and started feeling like life. 

***

So here I am five years in, trying to reflect on what living in New York means to me now. My affair with the city has indeed transformed from how I remember it at the beginning, into something a little less wild; something not quite so mysterious. It's become something that feels dependable and consistent—yet still full of rich new experiences that remind me why I've stayed committed for so long.

I know New York, but that doesn't mean it never surprises me. We have a lot of disagreements. We have days I hoped would go on forever. When I wish New York would cut me some slack, New York inevitably gives me more s***. Sometimes weeks go by when nothing especially interesting happens. I feel at home. I pay rent, I go to work, I order takeout from Seamless three nights in a row and eat it alone on my couch. Then I step out and fall head-first into the most perfect nights with New York, and I feel so damn lucky I could cry—it all seems to be happening just for me.

Alas, our romance feels one-sided much of the time, because I know that New York is busy maintaining relationships with more than 8 million other people, too. I am not singular to New York, but New york is singular to me.

I am still in love.

1 comment:

  1. Love this post! It's great that you have found your place in New York. I always enjoy reading your posts. Hope you are doing well! - Lauren

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