Dear New York,
I love you. I really do. But as much as I want to deny it, I’m becoming disenchanted with you. I used to once love your hustle and bustle, your brash attitude and your fast pace.
Our relationship has grown weary. These days, I find myself dreaming of green pastures, peaceful waters and … I long to just be. Not to achieve, just be.
I am lucky to live in the greatest city in the world. The bright lights, the overpowering skyscrapers, the multitude of people strutting down the streets, it’s all there to explore and make them your own. New York amazes you and pushes you; there are no limits as to what you can achieve or to whom you may run into. As the famous saying goes, “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”
Not surprisingly, New York is also one of the most expensive and frustrating cities. Wall Street, Fashion Week, 9/11 ring a bell?
Which is why, in days like this, when my spirit is running low, I have to wonder; New York, are you really worth it?
I remember perfectly the first time I visited New York City. I was 19, cruising through the bright lights of Times Square, in a yellow taxicab next to my then boyfriend (soon to be fiancé). I had been yearning to see it ever since I can remember, when I was planning with my girlfriends to all meet at a Starbucks in NYC. It was as I had imagined it: big and overwhelming, exciting and addictive.
I loved it all. I loved the noise, the people, the sheer amount of opportunity. I was a happy idealist; nothing could go wrong, if I did my best.
A few months later, now 20, I had moved to the city. After a few months of honeymoon bliss with the city, I realized that even if you do your best, things can go wrong. I had soon married my fiancé, and was forced to quickly settle as a New Yorker, American student and wife; I lost 13 pounds while doing so. By 23, I had come to the realization we weren’t fit for each other, so by 24 I was already separated, living by myself. For most people, 25 is the best age ever. When I turned 25, I was sued, and spent the first six months of my twenty-fifth year – mind you, it was summer time – writing depositions, meeting lawyers and going to court. I was spied on, intimidated and followed by private detective. I stopped all my writing for a long period of time, I just couldn’t. No, literally, I couldn’t. Sadly, it was taken against me to write about my travels, as if I was guilty of living life. In front of the law, I didn’t seem desperate or scared enough. I was, in fact. A few months in, having stayed my course, and having done it without any family close by, I had won, but not without a sudden and harsh awakening of what had happened. It took me a few more months after that to not wake up to a sensation of extreme anxiety and nausea; and about two more years to want to even think or write about it. Is New York just not my place to be and be happy in?
I had reached a cross roads, wanting to move as far away as possible. I would avoid entire neighborhoods, dodging certain memories to come rushing back. And in the end, after all the soul-searching, I went with the hardest route and stayed. Something made me to stay. I was now alone, but willing to make things happen. Come 26, 27 and now 28, I’ve actually enjoyed the city as I should have in my early 20s, exploring and going out with friends; building my career; realizing what I should be doing and how I should be feeling. Relationship troubles haven’t entirely gone away, but at least I’ve learnt from my mistakes. I now know what I want and what I need, and what I’m meant to be doing. For all the things New York took away from me, I am claiming some back. It’s my time to shine, and as I said in my new years resolution, 2013 is the year I will reach my full potential.
And so, I have experienced the city in every possible way: as a new immigrant/ expat, as a student, as both a Romanian and US citizen, as a model going to castings and bracing Fashion Week, as a journalist interviewing people and broadcasting from TV studios, as a fiancé and wife, as a young divorcee battling her husband in court, as press, and most importantly, as a traveler, a New York travel writer and blogger, and as a brand ambassador.
From what you can tell, each experience along the way had its glory days and bad days.
I’ve moved 6 times in 7 years. I’ve said goodbye and started over one too many times. I’ve traveled few months in between and have always dutifully come back to New York City. I loved every minute of my Study Abroad in Spain, but I came back. I was transformed by my internship in China, but I came back. I’ve longed to spend more time on my travels to Europe, but I came back. In many ways, I’ve escaped to far way places to forget about my New York troubles. But now, I realize, I’ve traveled because I simply like living more than I like living the way I am supposed to. I’ve lived in downtown Manhattan, midtown Manhattan, Queens and now Brooklyn. I’ve gone up and down the same blocks hundreds and thousands of times. But each time, I’ve discovered something new.
In the end, I know New York better than my own hometown (Bucharest, Romania). Every time I leave it, I miss it; but at the same time, every time I come back, my stomach cringes. What new challenge will arise this time? I love it and I hate it. The longer I stay, the more I love it in some ways, and the more I hate it in others.
I hate it because it is not home; I hate it because it keeps me away from my family. I hate it because I don’t have the luxury to see them over the weekend; I have to fly 14 hours to do so. I hate it because I can’t just move back with my parents if I want to save money, or if I have a fight with someone. I hate it because I only get to see my best friend once a year, if lucky. I hate it because it’s draining my savings, savings I had wished to save for travel. I hate it because of the ridiculous taxes I have to pay. I hate it now because of the amounts of people, the noise and the constant hurdle. I hate it because I can’t drive and I can’t have a quiet moment alone. I hate it it’s so stressful at all times; whatever you do, it’s never enough, and never fast enough.
At the same time, I also love it.
I love it because in a strange way, it does feel like home. I love it because New York has matured me more than any other place could have ever done. I love it because it has made me the woman I am today. I love it because I have made the most amazing friends, from all over the world, and met the biggest personalities I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I love it because it undoubtedly transformed me into an aggressive, savvy New Yorker. I love it because it is the one place in the world where you can just be whatever you want to be, and do whatever you want to do. I love it because you can create your own opportunities. I like to think I have.
Not sure if spending my 20s in New York was the best way to go, but for now, New York, you still have me.
This is my New York story. What is yours?