July 16th, 2013
The first time I fell in love with this city was back in high school, when I used to ride the train into Grand Central almost twice a month. I would look out the window as the trees and lakes of suburban Connecticut slowly transformed into the outer boroughs of New York City. And as the skyline emerged, I would always feel a sense of limitless possibility.
I never failed to experience the overwhelming noise and movement that bombarded my senses each time. Everything happened so quickly in New York that the people and things I saw before me would vanish in a moment’s time, sometimes like they had never even existed. In retrospect, perhaps it was this ephemeral quality that made the city so mysterious to me, because what appeared on the surface was never quite what it really was.
I loved New York for its spirit and energy, its dazzling shops and boutiques, and its tall buildings and magnificent skyline. I remember enviously watching women in skirts and high heels walk into tall glass corporate buildings, hoping that I could one day do the same. I wanted to be part of this ever-changing city, and to explore and push the boundaries of what I could do and what my future could be.
Five years later today, I find myself sitting on the 49th floor in one of the tallest buildings in New York on one of the most visited streets of the world called Times Square (which actually just occurred to me is anything but a square). Every morning, I stride down Seventh Avenue in my skirt and heels weaving in and out of crowds of tourists. I’m greeted by building security, who never fails to smile and wish me a good day. I ride the escalator to the lobby, and then an elevator that on a good day can take me express to my floor in less than 30 seconds.
I moved into Williamsburg, Brooklyn – a trendy neighborhood with new restaurants and bars appearing every weekend. I’ve been here for just a little over a month, but already the New York I know today had never been so different.
The truth is, I fell in love with the city all over again, but this time for different reasons.
I love New York for its remarkable diversity. On the way home from work, I would see businessmen in suits, tourists speaking French, Orthodox Jews wearing suits and top hats, China men selling fruits on fruit stands, homeless men sleeping on sidewalks, hipsters in their thick rimmed glasses, and students with eccentric clothing and giant headphones. Everyone went about their lives with little judgment for who or what the person next to them did or was like, because none of us were “normal”, all of us a little weird in our own ways.
I love New York for its unbearably hot subways and sometimes filthy streets, because it’s only because I’ve hated that I’ve come to appreciate the things I’ve taken for granted almost all my life. I know this because I’ve never been so grateful to find an empty seat on the subway at 8:30am in the morning. In this way New York is a city of contrasts – it will give you lavish glimpses of what your life could be like, but still constantly remind you of how lucky you are already.
I love New York because it’s tiny, for better and for worse. The lower side of Manhattan is so small that I could walk through entire neighborhoods – from Tribeca to Soho to Chinatown, in under thirty minutes. That’s access to some of the world’s best shops and restaurants in one afternoon, and the only transportation I need are my feet. But with great location also comes great prices. The “Manhattan Premium” is the way I like to put it – rent here can be easily 3x those in other cities, which means just not having to share your bedroom is considered a small luxury.
I love New York because it is also extraordinarily large beyond my wildest imaginations, in the sense that I’ll never truly figure out this city. I could walk the same streets every day and I’d still see places now and then that I thought had never even existed. The city is full of these surprises, hidden gems tucked away behind an old poster or banner, up a flight of stairs, or the basement of a factory. Here one day, and gone the next.
And so New York is a city of paradoxes – it’s large yet tiny, filthy yet luxurious, intimidating yet laid back, unpredictable yet routine. Everyone has a different perspective, because at the end of the day - the city really is what you make it out to be. And that’s also the beauty of living here – the city changes with you as you change, and you see what you want to see.