It’s not difficult to write a love story about New York City. In fact, I think it’s nearly impossible for anyone with the slightest of creative impulses to walk down a Manhattan street unaffected by any slick inspiration or bubbling thought. New York holds the ideal formula for invoking emotion, for making the smallest of moments seem significant and trying. It’s a city filled with contagious energy, so powerful and lovely and harsh.
I thought my first week in the city would never end. I asked my roommates multiple times if they too felt as if the days were weeks long. The city felt foreign, unsupportive, intimidating. I was small and it was monstrous just waiting to swallow me whole. It sure felt like it at times, in dim subway tunnels and on tourist filled avenues, but out of each day came a new understanding, a passion and a reason to keep going.
New York is a city of contradictions. It’s the kindest city in the world. It will coddle you with rays of sun, blooming flowers, and false, boisterous confidence. It is also the cruelest city. It will kick you when you’re down, leave you hanging and wondering how you ever felt you loved it. It’s like a horrible boyfriend who makes up for every nasty, insulting fight in the end. And at the end of the day, you just can’t let go of him. You stand up, wipe the garbage juice off your new jeans and keep walking, silently reminding yourself there’s a reason you’ve stayed this long.
But as with every stale relationship, life runs its course and eventually you find yourself forced to make a decision for your own wellbeing. I find myself at this crossroad, leaving New York for the first extended amount of time since my arrival a year ago. Many would argue that a year is nowhere near enough time to fall in love, but I was hooked on my first day. I have never felt a place so loyal, so comfortable. New York is my city through and through and I can’t imagine enjoying another place knowing it’s out there.
As I sit in my tiny window watching silent cabs drive by on an empty Tuesday night, I think back to the moments I’ve felt safe here. This view has talked me down from numerous self-sabotaging thoughts, from bad highs to my lowest moments. 3rd Avenue has become my friend. And leaving its side feels like a betrayal, like I’m giving up on a support that has never given up on me.
I’ve been taught to enjoy each moment as it lasts and to be open to everything that comes my way. I’ve been told that everything is temporary and the way to live a happy, peaceful life is to grasp things as they come and gently let go as they drift away. There is no controlling the send off awaiting me. There is no fighting for another day. I must simply accept the fact that this 3rd Avenue perch is no longer my own, that it will never again be the silent friend to coddle me and calm my storms. It will never again be the place I run to, the landmark that tells me I’ve made it another day. It is no longer mine. And I am no longer its.
And I’m trying to come to terms with that: letting go. I always embrace the fact that I truly love change. You can see it in the colors of my hair, the design of my surroundings. I love to change what I can control. I love to change what I know cannot change me.
But I’ve found a place that has turned my world inside out. I’ve found a life that suits me, that makes me feel worthy. I’ve found a me that can handle the road, can handle the stress, the breakdowns. I’ve become an incredibly poised, strong woman, something I had always considered myself until the reality check that was Manhattan. I’ve come out a better person, a tougher character. I’ve abandoned the past and the people who lived there despite the small few who can handle me now. I’ve fallen in love for the first time, not with a person, but with a place and with the me who resides there.
Perhaps every love story to New York City is really just a love story to oneself. This city will change you. It will beat you up. But it will make you more than you imagined you could be. You will sleep beside the roaches, you will fend off mice. You may not have the glitz of a Park Avenue penthouse, but every moment, even the grimiest, depressive, downright awful states, will feel just as glamorous as you imagined your best day in New York City would be. There’s no changing that no matter the mood, you are in the most incredible place in the world.
So in this first chapter of my love story, I must say goodbye. Not forever, just for now. I must tie up my loose ends and make peace with the fact that the best thing in my life will be slipping through my fingers in a matter of hours. I must set it free, the same way it has done to me. And I must thank it for changing my world, my poise, my demeanor, and crafting me in its ever contradicting vision.