It’s been a long nine years in New York, guys. I moved here fresh out of high school with nothing much but a few boxes of books, clothes I’d worn since eighth grade and dreams of doing Something Big. I remember sitting in the lobby of a building on Fifth Avenue on the day I arrived and crying, wondering if I’d been all wrong, if this wasn’t the place for me after all even though I knew in my heart of hearts it was. It took me a good year to start settling down – a year of depression, being broke, getting mono, staying up all night, long subway rides, notebooks full of terrible poetry, laughter, tears and a million other things that happen to you all at once the way they only can in a city like this.
Honestly, looking back, I’m not sure how I’ve done it half the time. The odds have often been stacked against me and yet here I am, still making due. New York City is not the dream it’s depicted as in films and on TV – or rather, it is, but in much smaller doses and with much more effort required than you might expect in order to get to it. In all the ways that count, I have grown up here, and as such, my time has been littered with successes and setbacks which have shaped my feelings about the five boroughs.
As any New Yorker will tell you, you won’t live here long before your relationship with this place becomes one of the “love/hate” variety. The things which once seemed charming – mariachi performers on your evening commute, the thick crowds of Times Square pedestrians, protests by political activists in Washington Square Park – quickly become worthy of an eye roll or three. You pay $700 a month to share a shoebox-sized apartment with three other roommates, smoking in bars is prohibited and the “city that never sleeps” means that you can’t either because the noise is incessant. After a few years, New York loses its glitz and glamour, its cinematic appeal and you find yourself wondering on a regular basis, “What’s so great about this place?”
I tended to hit patches of these moods once every six months or so in the past five years and considered moving – to the suburbs, to Los Angeles, to London; it didn’t particularly matter – about as often. However, I haven’t felt that way in a long time, and there’s one reason why: I met someone.
Say what you will about my blatant sentimentality, but there’s no better way to rediscover a place or thing than to see it newly through the eyes of someone with whom you share an intense connection.
Suddenly, New York came to life again in every possible way. The slow-moving tourists in Times Square that used to annoy me suddenly didn’t seem so bad once I could see the look of wonder and amazement on that special someone’s face as she took in the billboards and theatres, the lights and noise of Broadway. The long-faded charm of Rockefeller Center became exciting again and hours were spent watching ice skaters whiz by, gazing at the legendary Christmas tree tower above the plaza. Neighbourhoods I hadn’t set foot in for years became familiar stomping grounds again. Experiencing her excitement was contagious and it wasn’t long before I wasn’t just in love with another person, but with this city that I felt privileged to be able to share with her.
The gift of being able to step outside my own jaded view of New York not only allowed me to stop taking it for granted but also opened me again to the magic and beauty that is unique and special to this city. It immediately became the most romantic metropolis on earth, the only place capable of sustaining the huge amount emotion that took over me. Like, who needs Paris? Yeah, I know. Stick with me here, guys.
As mentioned before, I recently moved to a new neighborhood – one that neither of us is familiar with. One of the most exciting things about the change has been the prospect of discovering things for the first time, at the same time. Every time I leave my apartment, I’ve got my eyes open for places to show her, things to tell her about.
Here’s the bottom line, people: you can be in the midst of the greatest experience in your life, and somehow, when there’s someone to share it with, it becomes even greater.
Photo by Jennifer Still
Jennifer Still has an overwhelming fondness for pizza, afternoon naps and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. She rarely changes out of pyjamas during the weekdays. Or the weekends. She writes at stilljennifer.com and tweets at @jenniferlstill