Ex-New Yorker

Falling in and out of love with NYC

When you’re young, idealistic, and naive, the city can be intoxicating with its promise of fortune and that wholly coveted “interesting life” that every kid in the suburb (or at least I) dreamed of. My reality ended up being a basement apartment (very large by NYC standards) way out in the “un-hip” part of Brooklyn. You know, the “affordable” part that still evokes “old Brooklyn” with its corner bakery shops and dollar stores. To me, this was not the NYC I envisioned for myself. I thought I would live in Downtown Manhattan, living the rest of my youth in a flash of good times and incredible memories. Somehow, trudging laundry a mile to the nearest laundromat in sub-zero temps was not my idea of “making it”. That paired with the realization that barring winning the lottery or becoming famous, the likelihood of that “big life” I wanted would not come… ever.

What I gained instead in my two years in NYC was a deep well of strength from just the daily grind of living in a massive, oftentimes soulless city. I became incredibly resourceful and brave at a time when I most needed it. I went to places and met people I would never have met if I had stayed and “coasted” in the suburbs. In that sense, I did “make it”. However, I’ve always had an internal timer at the back of my head, always pushing me to the next stage of my life, wherever that may be. In March of this year, I left the city that I once loved, a city I formerly would have given anything to “make it” in. That was in the past. It’s funny how time, especially when you’re young, can push you towards a different direction from the life you were “absolutely” going to have.

Last month, I returned to NYC… as a tourist. It’s funny. Before I moved to NYC, I used to envy those who lived there, leading incredibly “interesting” lives. I mean, look at this background! It wasn’t until I met “average” New Yorkers that I realized how hard life in New York truly is. When I returned to NYC this past summer, I was merely someone who “used to” live here. I recognized familiar faces along landmarks that had defined my time here. However, in many ways, this wasn’t “my city” anymore. No, I live back in the suburbs, where I was born and raised. What I gained from my two years in “the city” was a sense of courage that I had never had before. It has completely transformed my life and I will always look back at those couple of years as pivotal for the “life change” that came as a result of it. My life is abundantly better than it ever was in NYC, but that’s the point I guess. Very few people move to “that” city and stay. In your 20s, it’s easy. In your 30s and 40s, not so much.

So, to my former “city”, I say this. You were harsh, dirty, flawed and ultimately the best thing to have ever happened to me. I’ll give you that, and frankly, that is more than I could have asked for.

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