Saturday, May 28, 2011

New York anniversary.

I arrived in New York City one year ago, today.

One truly does arrive in New York. I don't think it's possible to show up without at least some (potentially false) feeling of grandeur. Soon to be squashed, of course. Unless you're Beyonce, one of first things you realize upon arrival is that the city hasn't noticed your entrance.

But you push through feelings of unimportance and announce your arrival to friends and family, proud as a parent watching a child taking its first steps. Your first steps in New York are important in that way, even if no New Yorker would be caught dead acknowledging them.

I unfurled my hastily packed-up life, set up our beautiful DUMBO apartment and waited for the stuff of movies to start happening to me.

Of course, it didn't. Maybe it does for some, but for most, you have to earn it, or at the very least, go out and find it. But I didn't know any better.

So I kept walking. And started running, despite the heat. I ran the streets of Brooklyn, to the park and back, along the bridges to Manhattan. I ran in the morning, evenings, all the time enveloped in waves of unbearable heat. 

For some reason, it never occurred to me that a New York summer would be so damn hot. With the heat, a resentment of New York began to build.

A note: It seems appropriate that, in honor of our anniversary, I should let loose with a confession. Here it is.

About two months into the summer, I broke down and admitted to my mother in a ridiculous fit of hot, embarrassed tears, that I hated it here. I hated the heat, the garbage, the smells. I hated the swarms of tourists by the office, hated fighting through masses of people just to get to and from work each day. I hated living among such poverty, shocking as it was to be venturing outside of a variety of cushy well-off bubbles for the first time in my life. I hated my boyfriend's schedule, the long hours, the traveling. I admitted to my mother and, cathartically, to myself that I missed Chicago.

I missed the sparkling clean streets, living on the beach, the miles and miles of breezy bike paths along Lake Michigan. I missed kindness, polite strangers. I missed running by the water. I missed working with my best friends and walking to the office every day, unencumbered by trains and tourists. I missed the beautiful park behind my apartment, missed sitting quietly by the fountains night after night, dreaming about moving to New York.

Chicago was a beautiful safe place, where nothing ever happened.

My mother, blunt as ever, asked if I would like to move back, and I said no. And I really didn't. I wanted the dirt, the grit, the strife. I wanted to struggle to achieve, to not have anything handed to me. I wanted the badge of résumé honor that came with making it in advertising in New York. I wanted to be worthy of a city as dark and beautiful as any on this earth. Lying in bed that night, waiting for Sir to come home from a business trip, I took a deep breath and blew it out, letting go of Chicago and committing to my relationship with New York.

It sounds stupid, but it worked.

Once you let go of what a place isn't, you can start to see what it is, and you remember why you were so dead set on arriving there to begin with. The tragic charm, the history, the beauty of the whole thing. The pulse and the energy. The quiet parts, flanked by madness. The nights in the Village, the weekends in Brooklyn. The bridges and the cabs and the trains. The weird interludes and "only in New York" experiences that made me want to write and write and write, even if I didn't. That magical movie feeling - it really is everywhere. And my god, the food.

I've spent twelve months eating my way through this city, and I'm definitely larger for it. And I don't just mean fatter, although I won't argue with you there. It's been my own little Eat Pray Love experience, the 'eat' portion. I exist more than I did, I am more than I was capable of being. To quote Lewis Carroll, I'm much muchier than I was before, and all the better for it.

People are always asking me which city I like better. It's not a fair comparison, really. Chicago embraces you. New York waits for you to embrace her. She just doesn't have that kind of time.


I'm celebrating my first anniversary with New York on the sand in Miami, quietly allowing everything I've accumulated over the past year to strip away with the waves. Somehow it seems fitting - balancing a year of extreme emotions with ultimate peace and calm. 

It's also one year living with Sir, who remains buried in the Times as I head out to the surf. Yet another scary, hurried decision that could not have ended better. I can't remember the last time I felt this content.

Because I'm realizing, in the middle of a perfect vacation on a perfect beach, that I won't be sad when it's over. That this vacation is a time to reset, not escape. That I miss my life in New York. I don't think that's ever happened to me before.

I think that's when you know you're doing it right.

I think that's when you've finally arrived.