I don’t like New York City. I don’t love it either, just in case you thought that’s where I was going with that.
New York City is a strange, smelly, dangerous, opportunity-filled place. This first time I came to New York, I was 17 and pretty sure I didn’t want to live here. Now, on my second trip to New York at 22, I’m pretty sure I’ll have to live here to have the career I’d like to have. Don’t get me wrong New York has its good parts, like the Chelsea neighborhood, for example. Mostly, though, it's expensive, scary and lonely out here.
Based on the conversations I've had here, this is what it seems like people do when they have a dream: they put up with New York.
I watch a horse-drawn carriage cross the street in the rain, people going here, going there as the drops fall down. A guy in a dusty blue jacket goes running past as everyone else walks with their heads down to keep the rain out of their eyes. And I sit here, in a Starbucks on the corner of 10th and W 57th damp from the rain but no longer experiencing it. I’m just watching it now, knowing I’ll have to return to it eventually.
The truth is as long as I stay honest with New York, I think we’ll be fine, New York and me. As long as I don’t tell New York I love it when I don’t, we’ll be okay. Expectation is the ruiner of good things. I said it of London, and now I’m saying it of New York.
I met a man named Sean at a bar here a few days ago. I was telling the Mizzou alum about my struggle with New York and the myth of loving it. He asked me if I believed people who say they love New York. I told him no. People who say they love New York love to visit New York, I said. They love being a part of the city’s narrative for a predetermined amount of time. Then they go back to their lives, where they can afford to buy expensive clothes and grocery shop exclusively at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. They love New York because they’re supposed to. They love New York because it makes them feel like they're a part of something. The thing is, it’s easy to love New York when that “part of something” is temporarily residing in a nice hotel a few blocks from Times Square. It’s harder to love New York when that “part of something” becomes trying to make rent and to not starve while you look for work.
If you say you love New York, I’m going to need a compelling reason to believe you. A very compelling reason. Love is a serious sentiment. And I don’t love New York. I love the career opportunities here but not the city. At least, not yet.