The most challenging relationship I’ve ever had to deal with wasn’t with another person. It was with a city. I had given myself to the city of New York for almost 5 years and I was worn out and exhausted.
While I grew up in a town an hour outside of New York, the city always seemed like a fairytale, far, far away. When I was old enough to start choosing colleges to apply to, I only applied to ones in New York. In the city, I felt like I could conquer anything and I could be anything. The energy was endless. I had to be there.
And I did wind up going to college in New York. It was unlike other college experiences. We didn’t have an actual campus. The entire city was our backyard. Days were filled with exploring downtown, the east side, wherever my heart desired. I saw the bad sides to New York, like the endless filth and grime or the occasional person screaming in my face without reason. However, I was still in love with this city. In love with the way it made me feel.
I made New York my ‘end all, be all’. I had never experienced anything like it, so I put all of my faith in it. And all of my money too. I thought ‘This is it for me. I’ve found my love. New York, you’re ‘the one’.’
And for a time, New York was ‘the one’. I somehow finished college and I somehow got an apartment in New York. Imagine that? New York, known for the apartments being wildly overpriced and small as heck. I didn’t care. It just mattered that I was in New York and ‘making it’.
I decorated my bedroom in my new apartment just how I liked it. I bought a new bed, new sheets, new everything. New York, you still had it, I thought. New York still had me.
However, the months went on. Reality of post grad life in New York set in. What seemed like a cute, quirky apartment at first was now a broom closet to me. A very expensive broom closet that you couldn’t take an elevator to. I resented the money I was paying. I resented the space.
I resented the city that had once seemed like everything to me.
I walked outside my door and detested the dog shit on the sidewalk. I groaned every time a subway train pulled up after 10 minutes, already fully packed. I resented that a box of cereal cost $7 at the local supermarket. I wasn’t happy anymore and my pockets were empty.
I cried everyday. I felt like I was ‘falling out of love’ with the only thing I ever truly loved. I had put everything into loving this city. My heart, my passion, my time, my money. I had invested more into being in this city then I had ever invested in another person. To have my feelings change about this city devastated me. It felt like a breakup. I couldn’t understand myself.
Was I changing? Or was New York changing? It took some time to figure out. New York wasn’t changing. However, I was.
New York had raised me for 4 years. I became more open-minded, more worldly, more aware of things because I had lived here and met all different people here. New York allowed me to experience growth some may never have the opportunity to do. And when there is growth, there is change.
So I calmed down and gave myself a pat on the back. I didn’t have to be upset that New York wasn’t my ‘end all, be all’ anymore. I didn’t have to feel guilty. I should be proud that I graduated college, got a job and my own place to live all while 22 years old. New York wasn’t my end, it was just my beginning.
Now I’ve come to terms that New York may not be my ‘forever’. This city has given me countless memories and people that I cannot live without. I am forever grateful for this city – even when it pisses me off sometimes. I know now that I can go anywhere in this world because New York gave me the courage to fight, to explore and to be who I am. I couldn’t have started my journey anywhere else and then go to New York. I had to start with New York first.
Someday when I’m lounging in the backyard of my house in California (my new goal), I’ll think of my days in New York and I won’t be bitter or sad. I’ll be happy they happened. And If I ever miss the city that much, I know I can always hop on a plane for 6 hours and be here.
New York, I love you and I always will, but I’m keeping my options open.