My friend M recently asked me a very interesting question: What are the five things you love most about living in New York, and the five things you like least? Having started this blog almost a year ago now, I can say that New York has been more than I ever could have expected, in lots of ways - good and bad. The thing about writing a list of things I dislike about the city is that they all end up seeming really trivial. Yeah, I can name five things I don't really like about life in New York, but ultimately this city is the love of my life - and when you find the love of your life, you put up with all his or her bad qualities because you know you can't live without that person. Here, a comprehensive list of my top ten (negligible) hates and (not remotely all-inclusive) loves.
1. Being far away from my family. This has probably been the hardest part of living in New York. According to this random and possibility inaccurate Geobytes site, I am 865 miles away from my home. Thus far in 2009, I have seen my parents on three occasions: I went home in March and July, and they came to NYC in October. I'm going home again for Christmas for a nice long stay, but I won't see them again until then. So when 2010 rolls around, I will have seen my parents only four times over the past year. This is criminal.
2. The initial daily lifestyle adjustment is difficult.* When I first came to NYC, I was still in a Southern mindset, having never lived anywhere else; I was used to going to school/work, then spending my weeknights either watching TV/movies, going to dinner/drinks with my friends, working out in the gym or whatever. In New York, I spend all my free time doing something, whether it's going out with friends or going to magazine events or writing or going to blogger conferences or watching theater or going to museums. It might sound silly but at first it was a really difficult adjustment. My natural inclination was always to want to go home and watch a movie or just chill out at night, but all my friends were always doing stuff, and of course I wanted to be a part of it. Now I've gotten so used to it that the thought of just going home after work and chilling out literally makes me anxious, which might not necessarily be a good thing.
3. It's hard to do normal everyday stuff that it's easy to do in the South. There are no Wal-Marts. You can't just go out and buy a piece of furniture and throw it in your trunk or the back of your car and bring it home. When I moved to NYC, I had two suitcases full of clothing and bedding, and that was it. I had to find an apartment and then somehow fill it with furniture, and it was a pain in the ass. You might recall my chair follies from earlier this year. However, I will say that the learning to do this stuff in the city has made me a more patient and easygoing person.
4. Being single in NYC can be hard. When I moved to NYC, I was in an LDR, and the strains of making a life for myself in the city while trying to maintain a relationship with someone outside of it eventually tore us apart. While I have spent the past few months mourning the loss of someone I truly cared about, I have also been dating and learning what it means to be on my own as a grown-up in the most populous city in America. There are literally millions of single people in the city, and yet it's surprisingly difficult to meet someone I would actually consider dating. While I am very happy with my life in the city, every now and then I wish I had someone to share it with. Or I at least wish it wasn't so damn hard to meet anyone worthy of the pleasurable privilege of my company.
5. Public transportation. This is both my most and least favorite thing about life in the city. The public transportation in NYC is amazing because it never stops. Unlike cities like DC and Boston, where the subway might close as early as midnight (aside: what the fuck?!), the subways and buses in New York run all night and all day. I live off the 6 train, which is arguably the best train in the city; the longest I've ever waited for a 6 train is probably 30 minutes, and that estimate is really pushing it. But when it rains, or there's a "sick passenger," or they are doing any sort of work on the tracks, it really fucks up my life. I am 100% reliant upon the MTA to get me where I need to go, because aside from the occasional drunken decision to take a cab I can't really afford, I take the bus or the subway everywhere. On the upside: my friends and I never have the "Sooo who's gonna be the DD tonight?" conversation. I actually forgot that people still talk about DDs, and when I went to Oxford way back in March I was unpleasantly reminded. Long live public transportation.
1. *But it's worth it. Yeah, it took me a while to adjust to an incredibly active lifestyle, but it has been totally worth it. I literally feel like I'm squeezing every possible drop of life out of being in the city, and I couldn't be more thankful. Some people never even think to live the life I live in New York, because they don't have the opportunity to; they go to work, they come home, they spend their nights at the gym, watching movies or TV, and generally vegging out. Their existence is the definition of mundane. I don't look down on them, because I used to be one of them, and honestly if I hadn't taken the leap to live in New York, I doubt I would have been any different. After I got over my initial phase of shock at the pace of life in NYC, I really grew into it and I now love every minute of it, and I'm so grateful to be surrounded by people who all share my appreciation.
2. The breath of New York. That's the only way I can think to adequately explain the experience of New York as a living, breathing entity. I love waking up late on the weekends and hearing my landlord fighting with one of his tenants, or his brother, or his mother who lives just down the street. I love walking down Lexington Avenue and seeing flower shops and people walking their dogs and holding their children's hands. I love walking through Times Square at 1 a.m., when it's empty but the lights are still bright and there's an eerie energy in the air. Right now I'm sitting in the window of a bakery on the upper-UES, writing and watching a million different walks of life stroll by the window. You just can't do this anywhere else in the world.
3. The dream and the opportunity. I was sitting on the bus one late night recently, and it dawned on me that I have actually achieved everything I wanted to do with my life, at least up until this point. My dreams were always pretty simple: I wanted to move to New York and work in magazines. Now I'm doing both. What's amazing about this city is that, even though I've achieved what I set out to do, I don't at all feel finished or satiated. People keep coming into my life and inspiring me to do things I never set out to do. I wrote my very first play recently - based on one of my blog posts! - and that's something I never thought I would do. I really enjoyed it and if everything goes as planned, it's actually going to be produced and staged. It's so amazing to know that even after achieving what I wanted to achieve, new sets of goals continue to be born of my life here. As it should be.
4. New York is small. One thing I've learned after nearly 11 months of living in the city is that it's actually a very small place. Physically speaking, the island of Manhattan is only about 13 miles long and two miles wide. But more than that, it's becoming increasingly clear to me that everyone knows everyone else. This past weekend I went to a jeweler because a stone fell out of the ring my parents got me for graduation, and as I was talking to the man behind the counter, he told me was really good friends with the owner of Parade magazine, where I interviewed earlier this year for an internship. Random connections like that happen all the time, but it never really fails to surprise me, and it always makes me feel like I have really started a life when I meet and get to know two people who I discover already know each other through other channels.
5. Harlem. The most unexpected love I've developed since I moved to New York is my love for Harlem. When I moved up, I never planned specifically to move to Harlem; it's just where I found an apartment and street I loved for a reasonable price. Now that I've really settled into Harlem, I am so so in love with it. I still maintain that my street is one of the cutest in the city, and I love the history and culture of Pleasant Avenue. I fell hard in love when I discovered the public pool and park near my house, and the walkway by the East River. Harlem is one of the most affordable areas of the city, and you get your money's worth because you get all the peace and quiet of living in a borough like Brooklyn or Queens, but you're in Manhattan. And (shhhh) don't tell anyone I said this, but I'm a total snob about living in Manhattan. It has everything you need, available literally whenever you need it: cabs, trains, grocery stores, ATMs, greasy drunk food, coffee, takeout. None of the other boroughs can claim that.
God, New York. Sometimes I walk around and just say that aloud to myself. God, New York. This city is so amazing in so many ways, it almost feels wrong to make a list of things I don't like about it. But it is true; you have to sacrifice a lot to make a life here. God knows I've given up a lot of the comforts of my past life, and in the process done a lot of growing up, just for a city. But that's the thing - New York isn't just a city or a place; it's an experience, it's a challenge, it's an opportunity and, most importantly, it's a dream. And now it's my life. And I am so thankful.
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