Why I have a love affair with New York City
I got back from New York City last week. I was there for seven full days. And for those of you who don’t know, it has always been my dream to live there. Since I was seven years old. I know this because I can remember talking about it when I was that young. When I was eleven years old, my dad planned a big trip to take me there. My dad likely hates NYC and would only go to make someone else happy. I also remember that my mom got super mad that he was taking me because she wanted to be the first one to take me to New York City, knowing how much it meant to me.
That first trip was amazing. Of course, there was the awkwardness of being a girl entering puberty traveling with her dad (i.e. when I was packing my suitcase to leave the city, I couldn’t find a bra, and I has to ask him if he had seen it. I was mortified). But I don’t remember that when I think of that trip. I think of how my dad took me on a helicopter ride over Manhattan. I think of seeing The Producers on Broadway. I think of being on top of the World Trade Center, 14 months before the attacks. I think about how we went on a boat ride in Central Park. I think about how we were picking out framed photographs of New York City from a street vendor. I wanted one of a swarm of taxi’s in Time’s Square but my dad said that I would regret getting it and convinced me to get something more peaceful, a black and white photograph of the bridge in Central Park. I think he thought my love affair with New York would die after the trip and the yellow, blurry photo of a busy city would not bring me joy anymore. But to this day, I still wish I had that second photograph.
I don’t know why I’ve always loved New York City. Probably because I always felt weird and different and saw it movies and on television and thought I would belong there. I’m not sure. I tried to get there. I applied to colleges there, didn’t get into any. During my senior year of college, I flew out twice to New York for in-person interviews. Since then, I’ve probably had over a dozen phone interviews there, in addition to three or four in-person interviews, to no avail. Throughout the years, I’ve tried to let the dream die but to this day, it’s hard for me to watch GIRLS or any television show based and filmed in New York City, because my heart hurts when I watch it and I get depressed.
In January, I realized I had to spend a credit on airline credit before it expired in March. I told a friend who lives there that I wanted to come in February and she told me that she would be out of town the week I was looking to come, but I could stay at her place. It felt too good to be true.
I’ve traveled a lot in the last three years; I’ve been to ten amazing countries and Hawaii, as well as some other amazing domestic trips. I am so grateful for each and every trip that I’ve been on. But when I say that I was excited to go on this trip to New York City, it wasn’t like anything I felt before those trips. I researched, planned, bought tickets to stuff, something I never do. It’s not like I haven’t been to New York before. I’ve been at least 10+ times. But a lot of those times were quick trips. This was the first time I was going for a whole week, and completely on my own.
And I had a wonderful time. I saw people I hadn’t seen in 10+ years. Or people I hadn’t seen in a year. I met one of my branding clients in person for the first time. I saw shows and exhibits that will never come to Cleveland. I walked for hours in the snow. I walked when it wasn’t snowing and sweated in my coat and boots. I sat on a bench and looked at the skyline. I was so tired by the end of the day that I fell asleep by 10pm most nights.
Now I’m back in Cleveland and I’ve been depressed ever since. It’s not the normal depression I feel when I come back from a great trip. It’s like, I hate Cleveland and everything here. But I know that will fade. What won’t fade is my obsessive thoughts about how I can’t get there. Or haven’t gotten there yet.
New York has been in the back of my mind for the last five years that I’ve lived in Cleveland. But I’ve mostly written it off by now. With all of the student loan debt from grad school and the credit card debt I’ve accumulated throughout the years, it would only make sense if I had an extremely high paying job. But of course, I’ve decided to start my own business that is just starting to make some money, but not enough to live in Cleveland, let alone in NYC.
I try to console myself by reminding myself of all the things about New York that give me anxiety or would be harder than living in Cleveland. I turn 30 in May, and I’m not sure that I have the energy to do New York anymore. There’s a lot about city living that I don’t miss and no longer have to deal with anymore, i.e. taking public transit everywhere, walking my laundry to the laundromat, carrying groceries for a mile. Now that I live in Cleveland, I drive everywhere, even to get a pack of cigarettes. And of course, it’s a fraction of the cost. I’ve been trying to tell myself that it’s not worth it anymore. And it’s probably not. I don’t think I have the money or energy.
But I’ve been in Cleveland for a few days, and I am already so much lonelier that I was in New York. I’ve loved living in Cleveland for the most part. Mainly due to the people who have been so welcoming to me and the friendships I’ve built. It was easy for to meet friends here and I’ve met a lot of amazing people. But for the last year, I have been missing a consistent friend to hang out with or a group of friends. And I’ve been FEELING it. I’ve been lonely af the last year. That’s not to say that I don’t have great people in my life but I don’t have anyone I can text “Hey, let’s get drinks tonight” and I definitely don’t have a lot of close friends in the city right now.
There’s a lot of people in my life right now that I feel like I’ve grown in a different direction from. I don’t want to say “outgrown” because that sounds and feels derogatory towards my friends. But I’ve changed a lot the last couple of years, the most significant changes sprouting from the past year. Being fired, writing and sharing the most vulnerable parts of my life online, and starting a business has really made me rethink my own self-worth. After a lot of hard work, I finally now have a level of self-worth that I am proud of.
In this light, I’m noticing that some of my friends don’t really make me feel good. I often leave our hangouts together feeling very empty. Oftentimes, the experience of talking to them made me feel more alone than I was before. I’m much more of a fan of hanging out with people that make me feel full inside – full of laughter, joy, and love. And it’s not that these friends are consistently cruel to me. But I now notice their microagressions that stem from their own insecurities. This doesn’t make them bad people. But I don’t like the way I feel when I hang out with them. It makes me lonelier.
My trip to New York illustrated that I’ve lived in this city for over four years and I’m lonelier than ever. I am lonely for friends I don’t have. I am lonely with the friends I do have. I am lonely for a family that will never be.
And it’s okay to be lonely. It’s a feeling that’s a part of life. But since returning from New York, I’ve been thinking that if I’m currently lonely in a city that’s supposed to be my home, maybe all the bullshit of living in New York is worth it. It’s not guaranteed that I will find more friends there or find a romantic partner, but the city is certainly filled with more like-minded people than Cleveland is. And even more than the people, it’s a city that’s harder to feel lonely in, or it’s a different type of lonely. When I’m in New York, there’s a feeling of being swaddled by the energy of the city: the buildings, the hustle and bustle, and the different cultures, languages, and stories that are on every corner. I know New York can be a mean, difficult, and lonely place, but I think there is something about the city’s energy that comforts me, making it all worth it.