Dear New York,
Hi. Been a while. Hope you’re well.
So here’s the thing. When I first came to you to live, I knew you would give me so much. I didn’t realize that you would take just as well. But it’s always push and pull isn’t it?
You were the longest relationship I’ve ever had. With a city or person. Now, having left you, I should probably explain why. I present you my thanks and grievances in equal measure. Whether you want them or not.
You Gave Me
A Sense of Exploration
I’ll never be able to find another place that feeds my wanderlust like you. You had so many new places to see. Every time I thought I knew a neighborhood, you’d change it on me. I loved that. It was like a game. On occasion, if I had the time, I’d take the bus instead of the subway. It was slower yes, but it allowed me to see as many of your nooks and crannies that I could. I used to make notes that this was the new street I’d walk down on my next day off. Then the bus would turn a corner and I’d find another one.
An Appreciation for the Finer Things in Life
I dress better because of you. I drink finer wine. I can tell a good play from a bad one. I can determine when something is a bargain and when other things are worth their full price. I can spot a fake ‘anything’ from a block away. In a playground for the rich, sometimes it’s the little things you’d offer me that feel like a true luxury. Like a cocktail on a rooftop with friends. Or tickets to see my favorite singer who always made a point hit you up. Or a long cab ride home, watching your lights twinkle like they were all for me.
A Thicker Skin
I was fairly sensitive and in many ways still am. But you kicked my ass enough to create a better shell for protection. From small stuff and big. Others think people here are rude. They’re just strong. I can hold my own in a confrontation. I’m a better negotiator. My voice is louder. I know my limits and you showed me how to push them. You made me unafraid of change. I’m ready to take on the rest of the world.
A Reason for Slowing Down
You play it fast and loose don’t you? Your pace was maddening. But you knew how to take it easy. You taught me it’s important to unwind. Take a walk in your many parks. Get lost in your sea of bookstores. Have a leisurely coffee on your sidewalk. Or just sleep the day away at home. Sometimes I’d get away from you for a while. Smell the roses, or in some cases, palm trees. And when I no longer felt tired, I would return. Renewed and revitalized, ready to take you on again.
With you, there are no bad ideas. Anything is possible. No museum in the world can compare to what you offer. There are bars behind hidden walls. There are opera singers on subway platforms. There are gardens growing out of railway tracks. Writers, brokers, painters, policemen, dancers, dowagers and monks all line up to get a bagel and cream cheese from the same little man on the corner. You are a living art installation. And I got to be a part of it.
You never bored me. Everyday was full of endless possibilities. I spent the better part of a decade trying to figure you out. Nice try. The options are endless. I rarely had to have the same day twice. There is never just one answer, route, person, experience or situation. It’s only from sheer laziness that people fall into a mindless routine. I’ve carried that lesson with me everywhere I go. Seek it all out.
You Took from Me
Like, all of it! I’m so broke! It was a constant battle of you vs my wallet every time I left my apartment, which on it’s own took a fair share. Some things I needed like food and the subway. Some I relied on like coffee in the morning and drinks in the evening. Some I just wanted like that stupid cashmere scarf I wore once or that comedy show you promised would be good but it wasn’t. Everyday I was a fool and you soon parted me with my money.
Why is everyone and everything so late?! Myself included. When will that new ATM open? Why is the train taking forever? How long does it take to get a god damn seat to eat brunch? Nothing will ever be quick enough for me. The world beyond you is too slow. They say patience is a virtue. Well I didn’t lose it. You stole it. One of the fastest things you ever did.
My Well Being
It’s a myth that this city makes you healthier. More resilient maybe but certainly not in a clinical way. The weather changes constantly, challenging my allergies and antibodies. My legs ached from walking, waiting and climbing countless stairs. Rats, roaches and pigeons carry disease above and below ground. The efforts I put in at overpriced gyms were eradicated by all the delicious sweet and/or alcoholic vices thrust in front of me as I exited the building. I cheated death daily, avoiding murderous cabs, falling construction and dangerous crazies everywhere. You’d think I’m a better person for it but in reality I’ve never been sicker.
I’m warier now. Friendly faces want something. Cheap food must be poisoned. A too-good-to-be-true deal must mean it’s crap. Its impossible to meet new people without them being vetted by current friends. And even then, you don’t wholly trust in their judgment. Hunting for a perfect partner is plagued by negative thoughts. Who are you? What do you want? What’s wrong with you? What’s the catch? In fearing pain, you helped me cause it more than once.
My Sense of Surprise
You’ve ruined other cities for me. I’ve been to countless metropolitan areas and each time locals will rave about what their respective town has to offer. I deem it ‘cute’! Look at that, they’re trying! Too bad you did it first. Or at least better. It’s hard to get excited about anywhere that isn’t you. The few times I’m impressed it usually has something to do with architecture, landscape or real estate envy. Besides those, nothing compares. You made everyday a surprise party. But the candles were already blown out.
Perhaps it’s a combination of all prior grievances. But suffice to say, there came a point where I couldn’t go on. I felt drained by you. I didn’t want to explore anymore. I stopped buying all the shiny trinkets you dangled. I felt wounded, fatigued and actually bored! I didn’t feel creative like I used to. When I went away for a while I no longer looked forward to coming back to you. I didn’t feel like fighting anymore. I respect those that have and continue to do so. What I think sapped me most of all is the realization that you don’t need me. Maybe you never did.
So, in closing, I thank you New York. I’ll see you again. I’m also glad to see the back of you. At least for now.
I’ll return sometime on holiday or to visit friends or just to pass through. I look forward to inevitably being mesmerized by you again. And to wondering why the hell I ever left you.