Monday, August 3, 2015

Looking at Things From a Distance

The first time I met up with my friend Alex for lunch after I moved to New York City, we had a long discussion about making it through the first year. He told me the first year is the hardest, and after that you can handle anything.

Although I'd wanted to move to New York for years and although I felt prepared to live here, I took Alex's words to heart because I already knew New York wasn't going to be an easy place to live. So I mentally braced myself for a tough first year. 

That first year is a few weeks away from expiring and it's turned out to be much easier than I was anticipating. Even the long winter and the humidity this summer haven't completely gotten to me. It's been a bit of a dream, really. Perhaps that is all thanks to the fact that I never doubted my place here, or that I was supposed to be, meant to be in New York. In all honesty, the things that have been the hardest to deal with haven't had anything to do with New York, but happened elsewhere. Like Rosie being needlessly euthanized by my own cousin - a cousin who is now dead to me.

New York, it turns out, will probably be the great love of my life. After a year I still find myself walking the streets thinking "I can't believe I live here." Or taking the M101 bus down Lexington and seeing the Chrysler Building twenty blocks away and always being astounded at how magnificent it looks in the light of a setting sun.

I've written, I think, rather extensively about how much I love New York. And I do, I really, really do. It's not for everyone, and it's certainly not a carefree place to live. If you think you know New York because you memorized the Taylor Swift song, or have seen every episode of Friends or Sex in the City, you're wrong. That's a glamorized New York, a Hollywood New York. Friends was shot on a sound stage in LA, gang.

New York is in the people who drive the city buses and get screamed at by passengers for stopping too far away from the curb. New York is 34 square miles of concrete that smells like an outhouse or a garbage dump in the summer and howls with wind so freezing it makes your eyes water in the winter, which lasts for six months.

New York is walking past the homeless man outside the CVS on my block every day, and every day him saying "Excuse me miss, can you help me get some soup or a samwich?". It's subway delays and rent that costs more than most middle class mortgages. It's a forty minute commute to go two and a half miles. It's expensive and dirty and loud and crowded. It's everything you hear from your friends who visit and it's everything you don't.

It's avoiding Times Square at all costs because Times Square is a tourist trap filled with hustlers. It's taking the 7 train to the end of the line to have cheap dumplings in Queens after a Mets game. New York is learning how to beat the expense of the city, ordering takeout that will feed you for three meals and making sure you get at least 43 swipes a month on your MetroCard. It's going to a movie before noon so it costs half the price, and smuggling in Diet Coke.

New York is people who always eat everything bagels. It's bridges and tunnels and looking at things from a distance. It's feeling like you're never going to make it out of Central Park because you decided not to follow the road.

But New York is also magical.

It's seeing Emma Stone and Alan Cummings in Cabaret at Studio 54, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir in concert at Carnegie Hall, and Taylor Swift play MetLife Stadium. It's the two subways and two New Jersey transit trains it took to get there, and never being happier to arrive back in Manhattan, never being happier to walk out onto 33rd Street at midnight with a crowd of people and see the Empire State Building lit up.

I've been lucky to have some really incredible experiences this past year in New York. I've also been really lucky to not have been flashed on the subway, have anything but a basil plant stolen, and always have food in my fridge, thanks in large part to my mother.

Mostly, though, my New York has been staying in my apartment, writing and reading for school, and learning that I can do things by myself that I would have never fathomed to do if I weren't here. It's the empowerment I feel at being independent and knowing that I can live on my own in a city with eight million other inhabitants. My New York is the Yorkville and 96th Street libraries. It's cupcakes from Two Little Red Hens and never ever Magnolia Bakery. It's occasionally meeting up with friends at a bar and ordering water, or soda, or a virgin margarita. 

My New York is the people I've met here. It's Elizabeth who brought a more pertinent meaning to having "a case of the Mondays". It's Lindsie, current assistant tour manager on the international tour of a well-known musician. It's the women and girls I work with at church, and Philip and Nicole who are way more adventurous than I am but take me along anyway. It's the incredible Kristi, the brilliant Kristen.

New York is the extraordinary diversity of people you meet and will never forget. That may be no different than other cities and suburbs and towns around the world, but "everybody here was someone else before". Something about this feel different to me. New York is the people. In that regard, Friends and Sex in the City got it right.

Love, Sarah

"...the lights are so bright but they never blind me."

1 comment: