Wednesday, February 29, 2012
On learning to love New York.
February has been a travel-heavy month for me. I spent one weekend visiting a college friend in Evanston, IL and the following weekend in the Berkshires of Massachusetts for a winter getaway with friends. On both weekends, I had a somewhat startling realization- that I missed New York. I woke up on a sunny, mild morning in Evanston, looked out the window, and was struck by a distinct sense of longing for the place I now call home. During the last leg of my trip home from the Berkshires, I felt strangely content as I waited in the cold for a bus on a busy East Harlem street corner.
This is new to me. Sure, I feel a palpable sense of relief every time my car curves around the final bend in my parent's driveway, but that is different. That is permanent home. This sense of missing an adopted home is new to me. You see, I never missed DC. Sure, I looked forward to walking in the door of my dorm/apartment/house after a trip and releasing my load from my shoulder, but I never looked out a plane window onto the buildings of the National Mall and felt any sense of homecoming. And when I left the city last August, it was more of a sense of fleeing than anything else.
This sense of attachment to New York started to gain momentum around Christmas time, as I found myself regarding the heaving masses of people in Midtown with a strange, somewhat insane feeling of endearment. I loved watching everyone simultaneously turn their palms skyward at the first hint of a snow flurry as I ran through Central Park on a Sunday afternoon. The Christmas tree sellers on every street corner felt poignant to me, with their strings of bare-bulbed lights illuminating their piney goods. I selected a wreath of my own and walked home along Broadway with it slung over my shoulder.
Is New York perfect? Of course not. On occasion, a packed rush hour subway car full of sharp-elbowed people will make me briefly question my choice residency. And sometimes after I haul heavy groceries home and heave them up 4 flights of stairs, I long to get into my car, drive down a quiet, uncongested road, park in a parking lot, and shop at a spacious grocery store full of affordably-priced food.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that we don't love places themselves- we love our experiences in those places. I loved Nairobi, for instance, because I loved who I was there, not to mention the family-like group of women that surrounded me. Although I was completely out of my element in that city, I felt most authentically myself.
And so far, I am loving my New York experience. I am thrilled with my newfound ability to maintain a morning running routine. I'm grateful for how generously my friends have made space for me in their lives. I am thankful that the person with whom I spend most of my waking hours, my neighboring coworker, is a wonderful and hilarious person. It may have taken a few months and a bit of patience, but I finally feel like I own this life of mine.