Confession: I’ve had a decade long crush on New York City, and even in my late 20s, the allure of the big city continues to make my heart race with excitement.
My first trip to the Big Apple happened in March 2002, just months after the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th. Obviously, it was difficult to gain an accurate perception of New York as it was still in a very shell-shocked state, so my very first impressions of the city are difficult to recall.
Fast forward a few years when I returned as a college student, and the full effect of New York City took hold. I loved the fast-paced speed of life in Manhattan and the idea of getting lost and found within the city’s enormous skyscrapers. I could walk for months around the city and still never truly see all of it in its entirety. I made many trips to New York in my early twenties for the typical young adult NYC experience of sleeping on friends’ couches in Brooklyn, going to art raves and hipster parties, and sampling all that the Empire State had to offer. Like Taylor Swift, “I dreamt about moving to New York, I obsessed about moving to New York,” but unlike her I didn’t ever do it.
Visiting Manhattan in my late 20’s left me with a whole new perception on the city I’d written numerous love letters to just 5 years before. Maybe it was the fact that I took the scenic route this time, averaging 11 miles of walking a day, but Manhattan lost a bit of the luster that it once held. Although my mom, who was visiting New York for the first time since she lived in Manhattan in the 1970s, said it was by far way cleaner and safer than it had been back during her brief residency in the city.
Many parts of the city continue to hold their sway over me–the extreme hustle and bustle just to do everyday things in life such as go grocery shopping or buy inserts for your shoes was both an adrenaline-pumping rush, and a huge source of stress. I’m young enough that I still love the faster pace of life, all aimed at (mostly) maximizing one’s output in addition to offering tons of choices. However, I’m also old enough that after a while I got annoyed at being pushed around to walk faster or shop faster to get out of the way of others. Also adding to my new reality of the city was the lack of remaining friends and contacts in the area. All of the hipsters, artists, and aspiring New Yorkers I’d known in Brooklyn had left in search of greener pastures–the last surviving friend I knew of was ironically moving to the Pacific Northwest the week I was visiting NYC. It seems I’m not the only twenty-something millennial coming to terms with a changing New York either (besides Taylor Swift in her latest NYC love anthem, that is).
So when I finally returned home at the end of the trip, I looked at the Emerald City with fresh eyes. The endless evergreens, fresh ocean air, people walking around in jeans and Keens, slower pace of life, and (most importantly!) tantalizing arrays of premier coffee choices and (relatively) reasonably priced food, I breathed a sigh of relief and appreciation for not buying into the grandeur of the big city and choosing to call my middle sized city home. After all, as Ann Friedman says, “Why would I want to make it there when I can make it everywhere else?”
P.S. I still love you, New York, and I’ll definitely be back soon. Just not to stay forever.
First Trip to New York – March 2002
Most current New York Trip – October 2014