I used to tell people the idea of moving to New York had never occurred to me before that miserable winter in Boston, and it was a lie I believed for a long time. After college, a solid number of my friends decamped from Philadelphia to move to New York, which baffled me. I found NYC to be too confusing and big; I had difficulty remembering if it was the avenues or streets that ran north to south. I wanted to stay in Philadelphia, where I had gone to college, or eventually move back home to Tennessee. Boston, a hail-Mary pass for post-grad satisfaction, felt crazy enough. Never in my post-college daydreams did New York seem like a possibility.
But then, nearly a year after moving here, on a gray March day, walking through the lingering snow slush, I suddenly remembered, apropos of nothing, that I hadalways wanted to move here. My mother, in an attempt to get me out of the house and out of her hair during a slow summer, had enrolled me in a musical theater camp. Even though the camp was in Chatanooga, it began a one-sided romance with New York that lasted until I realized I absolutely couldn’t sing (at around age 14). Because once I knew I loved Broadway musicals, that meant I loved Broadway, which meant I wanted to be on Broadway. Thanks to Rent, I even thought I’d do well crashing as an artist in a condemned warehouse. I wrote songs about my big-city dreams — songs that (bless them) only live in my memory. Then I grew up, and the New York of my adolescent ideals faded until it never felt real in the first place. Nowhere is that magical.
Except, for twentysomething me, it is. There aren’t choreographed dance numbers, or meet-cutes with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, but after living here for three years, New York still feels like a miracle. It’s like one day I realized I could actually slip through the Looking Glass.
When I first arrived, everything felt so much more alive than anywhere else I’d lived before: riding the subway, or jostling through crowds at Union Square. Even being inside took on new meaning. I would be at home— which, really, could have been an apartment anywhere — and I would think, with a shock: New York City is outside! I reveled in those surprising moments of quiet, like watching the yellow cabs barreling up Lexington Avenue at 1 a.m., and it felt like I had found a secret that only New York and I knew.
Everything that made my heart swell into my throat was totally banal: foliage in Central Park, or dollar pizza slices when I was broke. I still crane to see the Statue of Liberty whenever the B train goes over the bridge into Brooklyn. I stop every time I can see the Empire State Building, thinking about people who have traveled from around the world to visit the top, and I just get to see it as I’m making my way out of Duane Reade with a Diet Coke and new tube of toothpaste.
One day, leaving a street fair on the Lower East Side, I found a canvas pouch with block letters that read “New York Is My Boyfriend.” I knew I had to buy it immediately. I love showing it to people — it’s almost a litmus test when I meet new friends — true New Yorkers just get it. But the real question I have now is this: Is New York my husband? Am I committed to this city for life?
It was a crush that drew me to New York. I moved not so much because I wanted to be in this city, but because I needed to leave the bad relationship I was having with Boston. If you asked me then, I would have said NYC would be home for the next two or three years, five max. Now, I’m three years in, and the idea of leaving in two years makes me feel queasy. I can’t imagine being satisfied — the city is too big, and there’s still so much to do.
Like any romantically involved couple, New York City and I have a few things to work on. At the height of the summer — with the crazy heat and terrible smells — I take every chance to escape for a weekend. But when my plane lands on the return flight, my stomach does flips when I see the skyline. I am home, reunited with my one true love.
It’s fair to say that most people have fanaticized about living in NYC. As Frank Sinatra famously bellowed in 1979, NYC is the, “city that doesn’t sleep.” It is the American epicentre of all things modern and relevant. It is the city that is always one step ahead of the game, going non-stop 24/7 in its quest to dominate the world stage.
I’ve basically lived the entirety of my 26 year life in Toronto, Canada. Although I love my city and I’m proud to be Canadian, I have always had a primal desire to move all of my belongings into a sardine-can-sized Manhattan apartment and venture 1000 km south-east to the Big Apple where I would, ideally, become a Yankee and dispose of my vehicle the moment I would cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Arrivederci Civic – hello yellow Taxi/NYC subway line.
Here is a short list of facts that attract me, wholeheartedly, to this magnificent and historic American metropolis:
1. The allure that “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”.
New York City carries a reputation of being cut-throat, cruel, capitalist, over-crowded, and ridiculously expensive. But this is the kind of environment I find appealing. This dazzling city is served bloody rare and you better be able to stomach it. Disregarding the negative things that have been said about NYC, one has to remember that there are also so many possibilities in this bustling metropolis where you can actually touch opportunity in the air as it floats and sparkles beneath the gaze of the Statue of Liberty. The city opens doors, even if you’re stuck in a low or unpaid internship. It’s an amazing feat to be able to slap NYC experience on your resume. There is so much real competition between NYC residents that you can witness it being swished around in a cesspool of unmatched ambition, determination, and self-control. The city will force you to constantly be, in the true sense of the phrase, “the best that you can be.” I need to be in an environment where I am constantly trying and encouraged to better myself, and NYC is the perfect place for that kind of “tough love.”
There are over 1500 art galleries operating in New York City every single day. Among the art galleries, there are over 80 museums, 50 of which are located in Manhattan. NYC is also one of the major film capitals of the world. Imagine being able to run over to the Museum of Modern Art on your lunch break and walk by the set of an upcoming blockbuster? Instead of watching Jay-Z’s performance of “Picasso Baby” on YouTube, see yourself being there, in that NYC art gallery witnessing that monumental combination of hip-hop and performance art. I dream of being in the same room with Marina Abramovic, not simply reading online reviews on her mesmerising performance art in the New Yorker. I secretly hope to run into Bill Cunningham, a living icon, on Fifth Avenue and watch him snap pictures of Iris Apfel. I want to grab a breakfast sandwich and devour it in-front of Tiffany’s at 7am. I want to have the ability to frolic throughout the city, stumbling in on new exhibitions, shows, concerts, and theatre productions when I desire to do so. I want to have a date in Central Park and watch a screening of West Side Story while twinkling lights from the many skyscrapers shine in the night’s sky. I want to “be a part of it, New York, New York.”
Did you know that there are over 18,696 restaurants currently open in NYC? Did you know that there are over 4000 street food vendors? There are also 222 new restaurants, on average, opening every year. That would mean that currently, it would take me 62 years to try each restaurant and food vendor, once a day! There is no other city in the world, in my opinion that has such a wide variety of meal choices as NYC. Whatever you’re craving, there’s going to be a restaurant that will cater to your stomach’s grunting. To top it off, your food of choice will more than likely be available at any given time, a short distance away or even delivered to your doorstep. Having the option of only take-out pizza or Chinese at 4am is not a fact of life in NYC. Say goodbye to your local mall’s food court; you can indulge in cuisine from all over the world without having to leave the 5 Burroughs.
4. The people.
I dream of being surrounded by 8.337 million New Yorkers in one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world. I want to hear one of the 800 languages that are spoken on a daily basis in NYC. I want to be a part of the crowd in Times Square every single New Years Eve and count down the seconds until the ball drops, screaming with the crowd. I want to know that even though I enjoy being alone, the company of other people is potentially just around the corner in yet another interesting and dynamic NYC hotspot. I want to truly understand what it means to be a neurotic-New Yorker. I want to see and understand the difference between a person from Staten Island and those that live in the Upper East Side. I want to be able to grab a Cosmopolitan and gaze as hundreds of people walk by on the street, while indulging in some non-judgemental people-watching. I want to thrive off of the creative energy from the residents of Williamsburg and jog alongside the many fitness enthusiasts in Central Park on a warm summer morning.
5. Innovation and Inspiration.
I want to be immersed in an environment that reaches in the pit of my soul and yanks the innovation and creativity right out of the far reaches of my brain. I want to indulge my mind by focusing on all of the interesting and different things that take place throughout the city, as everything seems to move and dance amid the statuesque skyscrapers. I want to be inspired by simply having the luxury to walk by the Empire State Building and Grand Central Station whenever I choose to, just because I need an inspirational kick to combat writers block. I want to be present for the beginning of a social movement and one of the first people to witness a trend. I want to understand Ayn Rand’s fascination with the New York City Skyline, as she famously wrote, “I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline. Particularly when one can’t see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them.” I want to let my creative energy unleash and truly “think outside the box”. In New York City, there is no box…it’s stomped on, kicked, and squished the moment you sign a very expensive rent agreement.
That’s exactly what I need – no limits. New York City, I love you. Hopefully someday soon, I’ll be able to call you home.
image – Shutterstock