I can’t be sad while looking at Lincoln Center.
Wistful, maybe. But every bad feeling I have seems to instantly dissipate among the glittering display. It’s magic to me.
It’s the place I immediately thought of when an editor once asked all the writers to each pick our “favorite spot in New York” for a staff article. I tried to come up with something a little edgier, a little less touristy, but in the end, I couldn’t deny the sacredness of it.
Its power lies in its ability to lift the burden of New York, if only for a moment.
This city really is a burden.
Everything is harder here: apartment hunting, dating, grocery shopping, ordering coffee, getting yourself to work.
I always knew this, but for a long time, it was a burden that was worth carrying. I knew the costs (financial and otherwise) of existing here and I was willing to pay them. For the first two years, the question “How’s New York?” was always met with an enthusiastic “good!”. And I really meant it. It was, truly, good.
I was brand new to this lifestyle and it hadn’t hardened me yet. I had a boring job but I didn’t care because it allowed me to live in the greatest city in the world and it wasn’t forever. I didn’t mind long subway rides because they gave me ample time to stare at my reflection and pretend I was the waify protagonist in an indie movie. It was exciting and new and people told me I was brave for moving here.
Everything was beautiful. Even the ugly stuff. The grime was charming and rainy days were my favorite. (They still are.)
Sometime in the past year or so, my answer to the “How’s New York?” question got heavier. It was usually, “expensive”, and it was usually accompanied by a sigh.
A lot happened to me this year; things that made me wonder whether I had misunderstood my place here. I had roommate issues. I got laid off, twice. I got bed bugs, something I would 10/10 never recommend to anyone and was legitimately traumatizing.
It was starting to feel like the city was practically screaming at me to get out. Stability seemed impossible and there were a lot of days that I felt like packing my bags and giving up.
Normally, when something you claim to love is adamantly trying to destroy you, it’s called an unhealthy relationship. But when that thing is New York City, it’s called a Tuesday. The bitterness started to become my normal. It started to feel like I would never get out of this cycle of misfortune and that New York was just not that into me anymore.
Two of my friends left New York for other cities at the end of 2017 and I know that this is the inevitable fate for 90% of transplants. For the first time, I started warming to the idea that it might be mine, too.
But not yet.
In 2018, I want to get back to saying “good” and meaning it. It’s my only resolution.
I don’t really know if this is even possible. I don’t know if I can ever really get back to the place I was in the beginning. Too much has happened. But I’m hoping I can at least get to a place of less resentment, less frustration, less burden.
I want to get back to loving the ugly stuff.
I try to look at the buildings more when I’m walking and fill my ears with the sounds of the city instead of my headphones. I walk past places I used to work or perform or the street corner where I got broken up with and think about how much has happened since then; how much more I know now.
Last month, I finally got out of my toxic apartment. My space feels clean and new and full of possibility. You can hear the train go by and it’s strangely calming.
It’s like New York is reminding me, every few minutes, that I’m still in it.
5 thoughts on “New York, We Need to Talk”
Catherine, your writing causes me to sign with satisfaction. Keep it up. Love, Nana
thanks so much Nana!!
I totally feel you on toxic living situations. I’m in one now, and it’s so hard to stay positive when your living space is unwelcoming. My lease is up at the end of the April. I got this.
I hope 2018 proves to be as positive for you as you hope it will. Moving away from a toxic living space certainly sounds like a good start.
Also, this piece is tremendeously well written.
Wow thank you so much!! I’m sure come April you will be on to much better things and much calmer places – stay strong 🙂