There was never a question of where I’d live after college; I always knew it would be New York City.
When I was a senior in high school considering my college options part of me wanted to go to NYU but the realistic part of me knew I didn’t have a chance in hell of getting accepted. I happily enrolled in East Carolina University knowing full well I’d just move to NYC after graduation. And that I did! When I first moved here people I met would say things like “oh you’ll get used to it”…what did they mean though? I never really knew what it was to get used to; I felt totally at ease the second I stepped out of the U-Haul. I knew my way around downtown, had no trouble with the subways or the walking or the crowds, it was home – albeit, a very small and at times mouse-infested home…but home nonetheless!
My first apartment was a 3-bedroom 6th floor walk up in Greenwich Village that was smaller than my current 1-bedroom apartment (and I don’t have a large apartment now) that actually housed 4 people for several months. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It even had a balcony (well, fire escape). My second apartment, again a 6th floor walk up, didn’t have closets in the bedroom. Instead we had 3 rickety wooden things that the management company was calling armoires. The hinges on one of them fell off and we closed it shut somehow using a highlighter. I still thought I was in heaven.
I’ve never lived like the ladies on Sex in the City with their fancy Sunday brunches showing off new stilettos recently purchased from a Bergdorf binge. I haven’t had my pulse on the chic gallery scene and am not a member of any of the exclusive social clubs in my neighborhood (despite the attempts to convince my Dad he should join the SoHo House). I don’t go to Broadway shows once a week, who can afford that and still make the rent.
My New York is considerably less fabulous than the glitz and glamour on the big screen. So then what keeps me here, states away from my family, where I grew up and in a place where the word savings doesn’t really exist? The city’s spirit has a pull…with its color, culture, diversity, opportunity, acceptance, grit and character. It’s intoxicating and invigorating. I don’t have a backyard, but I have my Hudson River Park (people, it’s totally acceptable to don a bikini in the park that’s just a few feet from the highway). I don’t have the Blue Ridge Parkway but I have my MoMa membership. I don’t have a sprawling grocery store the carries every brand known to man but I have my Green Market right outside my door. I don’t have too many neighbors that know my name but I have the old man on the corner of Bedford & Carmine that says hello to me every time I walk by. I don’t have a car but I have my feet that carry me past an art house movie theatre on my way to work. I don’t have my family here but I have my small, exceptional group of friends. In between the concrete I have inspiration and beauty all around me.
Every time I talk to my grandmother on the phone she asks “what’s it going to take to get you back down South”. I don’t have the heart to answer the question truthfully so I just laugh it off. But then again, never say never…it’s not a coincidence that I’m writing this in the summer while the sun is shining.
I only heard recently that apparently a lot of people say “make it work” is the New York mantra. I suppose it’s true. You make the smaller than normal living space work; you make the higher than normal expenses work; you make the walking with heavy grocery bags home and then up the stairs work; you make the crowded 6 train in rush hour with the guy behind you getting too close for comfort work (well actually you don’t make that work, you sternly tell him to back the eff off); you make a washer & dryer not only not in your building but not on your block work; you make 2 stolen bikes work; you even make living with tiny little rodents work. Though for me it never feels like work, it just feels like living.