I originally posted this on July 10, 2012. But since it’s my last week in the city, I’m posting it again.
My friends and I used to say that the highs in New York are very high and the lows are very low. This is true literally–we have both the Empire State Building and the subway–but we meant it figuratively. The high you feel making new friends on a beautiful rooftop you didn’t know existed a few hours ago is amazing. As is the giant party the city turns into every year on every holiday. My favorite is Marathon day where my friends and I celebrate other people’s athleticism by cheering them on and getting drunk brunch. But the lows are terribly, terribly low.
Public crying and puking are kind of a joke to New Yorkers–we’ve all been there, we just won’t all tell you about it. You don’t always have a car to retreat to or an easy (or private) route home. Groceries are heavy and winter is the worst. I can’t explain the awfulness of New York winters. It’s dark and cold and dreary and your friends are hours away on a cold, dark, dreary train and your tiny apartment can only hold you for so long before you go insane but insane is better than waiting for a bus that may never come with a fever you can’t shake. We’ve all had days where going home is an epic tale of bad weather, crowded trains, pickpockets, and violence. You’ve heard these stories before. Mine aren’t new.
I find myself telling my friends not to come. “It’s too hard. It’s way harder than you think.” “It’s too cold and too expensive.” But what I can’t quite articulate is how this city has a unique way of completely kicking your ass when you’re down. How many other cities actually fight back? Actually actively try to kick you out, like you’re a virus invading its system?
And yet. My favorite thing about New York is probably what others hate the most. It really doesn’t give a fuck. So I can do what I want and wear what I want and go where I want, and, you know what, it doesn’t matter. The city doesn’t care. It’s allowed me to relax and just be what I want to be. I started knitting as a way to pass the time in a small apartment where I live alone. I love it. Other people like it, and some people don’t. I see it on the train. There is always someone worse at it than me and always someone better. The same applies to my hair or my clothes or whatever other activity I’ve picked up. So relax. Stop trying to be the best–someone else has it covered. Just do your thing. You’ll fit right in because no one fits in. It’s perfect in its carelessness.
And when the city doesn’t care, the people do. One of my favorite nights out in the city was a Sunday night where me and my friends took over a corner of a bar and just hung out. We danced and chatted and shots were poured and stories were shared. I think it was raining, but we didn’t mind. We just made some friends and passed the time and tipped our bartender. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions. People might not know, but the ones that do are eager to share the city. (I’m convinced that people like to help out to prove they know more about New York than you do. Don’t hold it against them.) I once saw an entire subway car help a tourist get directions in their own language. That sense of community and that we’re all in this together is overwhelmingly fun.
New York doesn’t define me, but it’s helped me be me. I could go somewhere else and be happy, and I miss my family a lot. I believe other places are just as valid and almost always more logical than New York. I’m not married to the city, but we’ve had a very torrid affair. Well, on my end anyway. New York probably doesn’t care.