“But you’re still the one pool where I’d happily drown.”
-LCD Soundsystem, New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down
New York City wasn’t good to me.
I spent some wonderful years there, attending school, acting, falling in love, growing up, and engaging in general debauchery. Without ever really thinking about it, I had always just figured I would end up in New York. I’d visited other places–Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, and more–but New York was the one for me. After five years of it, though, I was done. Deep down, I was unhappy and I wanted out.
Without much warning, I left. I disappeared for a summer in the Berkshires, and then purchased myself a one-way ticket to California. After nearly two and half years on the west coast, I don’t regret the decision to leave. But I’ve discovered that no matter where I am, New York is still with me.
New York City taught me to be tough.
I was born and raised in the middle of nowhere, South Carolina. When my parents dropped me off at college, my mom hugged me goodbye and wept, saying, “But, you’re so naive!” Well, there’s nothing like five years of living in Brooklyn and Queens to knock some sass into me.
For the longest time, I never understood people who would say, “Oh, I could never live in New York.” I mean, you could. Right? After moving to the West Coast, though, I get it. I’m a sweet gal, but New York gave my personality a bit of a razor’s edge. I’m not afraid of standing up to someone on the street. I can navigate public transportation blindfolded. The second an orange hand disappears and a walking man pops up on the pedestrian crosswalk, I’m prepared to step into the street and flip off any cabbies who try to get in my way. So yes, I’m sweet, but I’m not to be messed with.
New York City taught me that inspiration is everywhere.
New York is full of amazing museums, astonishing buildings, stellar shows, unbelievable restaurants, and breathtaking galleries. It will all inspire you, but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s where the inspiration stops. Look at the beautiful way thousands of people weave in between each other in Time’s Square. Feel how amazing it is to catch a train just as the doors are about to close. Enjoy a surprisingly intimate moment as you sit on a bench by the East River on your lunch break. You don’t have to go chasing the inspiring stuff all the time–sometimes, it happens to you.
New York City taught me that you can love something and hate it just as fiercely.
By the end of my 5 years there, I could not wait to get out of New York. I hated the crowded subway, I hated the smell, I hated the pissy drivers, the tourists, and…well, the list goes on. I didn’t return to the city until over a year after I’d left, and I found myself beyond happy to be back. Oh, how I’d missed the subway! The smell was so nostalgic, what a treat to be able to hail a cab anywhere at any time of night, and it was a joy to return to Time’s Square. I love all those things about New York just as much as I despise them.
I don’t really have an answer for how that makes me feel, other than it’s the most conflicted I’ve ever felt about one thing. It’s not necessarily good or bad; instead, it just is. I know I’m a better person for having that passion than never getting to have it at all, so I consider myself quite lucky.
So no, New York City wasn’t good to me–it was great to me.
Photo credits: yours truly!