There is no New York City.
New York is a figment of the world’s collective imagination. It’s a dream that will never become reality.
Well, not really. It’s a real place where over 8 million people work, live and sleep. But it’s also an idea. People fantasize about New York. Some people move there without any sort of plan, just a vague notion that New York is the place where exciting things happen.
Exciting things do happen in New York. Big money is made, mostly. But you what else happens in New York? People go to work at 4 a.m. at one of the over 500 Dunkin’ Donuts in the city. New York almost certainly has more Dunkin’ Donuts employees than successful writers, artists, or musicians.
What I’m trying to say is that New York is not a glistening metropolis where your wildest dreams will come true. It’s no better or worse than wherever anyone’s coming from; no one should move to America’s largest city thinking that just being there will improve their individual life and make them interesting. Fascinating people live their lives all over this country. Places like Milwaukee, Boise, and Baton Rouge have their fair share.
I’ve never lived in the city, but I spent my first 18 years living a 15 minutes drive away from Manhattan. I grew up on the fringes of New York, just like most New Yorkers. It’s only the very few who don’t; Williamsburg condos, Upper West Side park-view apartments and Soho clubs are not spaces the vast majority of New Yorkers have experience with.
They live in unknown places like Bensonhurst or Kingsbridge Heights or the St. Nicholas projects or somewhere across the river in Jersey City. Not glamorous neighborhoods. They’re just as much nowhere as anywhere anyone has ever been from. There aren’t any fashion houses, but there are Deli-Cigarette-Lotto storefronts; people eat at diners rather than blow $50 on a fashionable West Village brunch.
The “greatest city on earth” isn’t New York. It’s whatever city that makes you feel the best, the most comfortable, the most satisfied with this world. New York has as much bad as anywhere and just as much good. Just because it’s all on a larger scale doesn’t mean it’s any better.