It speaks for itself. And when it doesn’t, Frank Sinatra, Jay-Z, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and hundreds of other writers, poets, photographers and movement leaders do. I tell people I come from New York and their eyes light up instantly with that spark of recognition, that distant dream, a tightly-clutched memory or a hint of envy. It’s one of the greatest, if not the greatest place the world. And I, by sheer luck, get to call it home.
The funny thing is, I didn’t get it. There are a lot of days when I still don’t get it. Home is home. I saw Broadway shows, I went to the MoMA on school trips, picked apples on upstate orchards, spent summer days digging trenches in the sands of south shore beaches and it was all just normal. Everyone always asks me if I spend a lot of time in Manhattan – if I take advantage of all the opportunities that seductively sparkle just 20 minutes from my bedroom window. The simple answer has been no, I don’t. It’s 13 degrees outside, the city is expensive, the railroad is a hassle.
Home is just home. For most of high school I thought I was too big for it. I needed to get out, stretch my ambitions, chase my dreams. I needed to access the inaccessible and peek behind new walls. New York City was just too close to explore.
So I left. It’s made me better and has helped me grow into myself but above all of that, it’s shown me that New York, and Home, are incredible, and I was simply being a big ol’ brat. There you go. I admit it.
I’ve come to love the accents that I used to abhor. The familiarity of the ‘aw’ in cAWfee and the playfully aggressive “yo you mad?!’s” and “nah chill’s” that slip out of the corners of my friends’ mouths. The hate-to-admit-it-guido outfits and everyone’s confrontational nature. The fact that I can’t rest at a stop sign without being honked at. It’s all still there, but now I understand that it’s part of what gives New York its energy. Walk through the streets of New York and ambition and drive seep into your bones. Great people have walked those streets. Millions of people from all walks of life from countries around the world share that city and although each looks out for his or herself, New York is a community and it’s people are proud to be a part of it, all together and in unison. New York is freezing or it’s boiling, it’s crowded with pockets of peace, it’s both light and dark but it’s stunning and it triumphantly perseveres.
Over break, I caught myself rushing to the 6 train in SoHo, looking out over the skyline as the sun was setting. I momentarily forgot that I was in New York, the same city that lives just outside my backyard. I thought to myself “my god, that is gorgeous.” It was the first time I had thought that in a while, even though I was spending many of my days in Manhattan, and I realized that I was looking at that view through a stranger’s eyes, a traveler’s eyes. I was feeling that same sense of wonder that I get when I happen upon a foreign city for the first time, never knowing how much time I’ll have to absorb its vibrations.
Bill Bryson said, “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” Leaving has given me the space and capacity with which I can appreciate all that is so close, that which I know I have taken for granted. This won’t stop me from leaving time and time again I am sure, but now I know with full conviction that New York will forever be home, and a home I am so lucky to return to.