Staying in Love with New York
I love New York, but after living in the city for years, the novelty has worn off and the honeymoon is over.
A once exhilarating and unspoiled New York is now broken in, comfortable, and more familiar than it was when I moved here. Admittedly, on certain days, I wrestle with the notion of becoming just another jaded New Yorker.
Years Can Become Decades
I’ve lived in NYC for more than 16 years at the writing of this post. I know that’s nothing compared to native New Yorkers, especially since loads of folks live in this town for life.
Ten, 15, or 20 years can become decades in the blink of an eye. Some days, I still feel wet behind the ears like I did when I landed here with all of my belongings in 2007. And on other days, I feel like it’s time to move on to a more affordable, stable, if not “normal” life where backyards, washers and dryers, and cars are not luxury amenities.
Keeping the Love Alive
Like any long-term relationship, keeping the love alive in New York requires ongoing effort, and sometimes, work.
Some New Yorkers don’t realize what they have waiting in this city each day when they awake, or what lies beyond their apartment doors. After years of living in NYC, many settle in and no longer feel the spontaneity and enthusiasm they once did. They go about their daily routines like anyone would anywhere. I don’t want this––as long as I live in New York City, I want to feel the anticipation and excitement that I felt when I first visited the city in 1979, also similar to what I experienced when I moved in 2007.
Meanwhile, my biggest fears while living here aren’t what they once were (I’ve already been stuck in an elevator and lost in four of the five boroughs). Rather, I fear falling out of love and joining the ranks of ex-New Yorkers who flee and never look back, believing that this city isn’t worth the cost and aggravation at times. Believing that it’s too dysfunctional for the long haul, and isn’t at all what it’s cracked up to be. I fear that I’ll look at the skyline one day and feel nothing.
Even in a place with endless options for food, nightlife, art, culture and passionate people, a city in which no two days are ever the same and boredom isn’t accepted, how is staying in love with New York possible?
Stepping outside your usual 10-block radius or even your borough is a good start. Hop the subway and visit a neighborhood where you haven’t been; ride a bus instead of the train; or better yet, walk and discover a little something along the way that has probably always been there, but you’ve been too consumed by your smart phone to notice.
Explore the unknown––there’s lots of it, especially in New York City. When I visit a new area of town, I feel like I’ve gone on vacation, yet I’m a subway ride from home. From Little Italy in the Bronx to picturesque neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York offers variety, and of course, diversity. When I haven’t been to a certain section of the city for months and then finally return, it’s like seeing the neighborhood for the first time all over again.
Walking a Different Route
Every day for more than a year, I walked along the park and through Midtown East on my way to my job at the time. Some like to start their day with a cup of coffee, but I prefer Central Park to caffeine. I miss that commute along Central Park South. I consider 59th Street and Fifth Avenue to be one of the greatest intersections in the world, at the Plaza Hotel, Grand Army Plaza and the Pulitzer Fountain, Bergdorf Goodman, the Sherry Netherland, and the 24-hour flagship Apple store. Plus, every corner is teeming with people. That intersection pulses with life.
As I walked to work, I felt privileged to see this intersection every day. Usually, I would scan the streets quickly, while never missing a step before landing eyes on the Empire State Building in the distance. And so, recently, I followed that same route that I hadn’t taken in quite some time and found myself smitten with that area of town I rarely experience anymore. Since I hadn’t passed by in so long, that iconic crossroads almost felt undiscovered.
The area was a tad more crowded during late afternoon than it would be in the a.m. rush hour, but I managed to weave in and out of the tourists along Central Park, yet take in plenty of sights along the way. This once familiar walk brought back fond memories from years ago, especially those early moments during a crisp winter snow when the streets were quiet and navigable; or evening rush hours with lights glistening in the distance. I would take this route toward Columbus Circle before jumping on the northbound 1 train to get home to my apartment on the Upper West Side.
Stepping Away from New York
If you really want to miss New York and feel it in your bones, leave for two weeks or more. It’s only when you can’t listen to the humming traffic along Broadway, soak in the skyline, feel the pulse of the city by walking through Midtown at rush hour, or immerse yourself in the nooks and crannies of neighborhoods like the Upper West Side and Greenpoint, will you ever truly miss New York. Talk to people who once lived in the city and left. Most often they’ll tell everyone how much they miss it. They’ll elaborate on the minutia of life here: grabbing a late-night snack and the corner bodega; riding the 7 train through Queens; eating one of the best meals of their life; and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn.
I’ve been away from this city for four or five weeks at one time, and while I cherished the break and don’t regret a single moment, I couldn’t wait to return and be a part of it all once again. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that’s especially true with a chaotic, overstimulating, and ever-changing place like New York.
Every day, I’m reminded how staying in love with New York is possible, even years after my first encounter. I think Woody Allen said it best…
“….I love the city in an emotional, irrational way, like loving your mother or your father even though they’re a drunk or a thief. I’ve loved the city my whole life — to me, it’s like a great woman.” –Woody Allen
I will always love New York.
If you love NYC, tell me why in the comments.
Plus, there are a few bad things about living in New York.