Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On learning to love New York.

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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.

19 comments:

  1. This is amazing, Anna. I'm so glad to read it. New York and every single one of your friends here are lucky to have you :). See you tomorrow!

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  2. You are so very true in this, Anna. It is so much about the experiences and the people with which you share them. Pittsburgh is not perfect for me, and there is much I'd change about it - but it was here that I grew as a person, mentally & spiritually. I will always enjoy being in this space.

    I'm so happy that New York suits you. I know you were always hit or miss about DC. It sounds like you've found a nice corner of the world for yourself, and I'm so happy for you.

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  3. Love this. So much. Carving out your own space here - amidst the madness, hoards of people, and absolute chaos on any given day - is essential to survival (well, a happy survival at least). It's funny, as I move from stage to stage in life (earlier years of schooling, college, grad school, adult life or something post-grad) here in New York I find myself having to recreate my own little niche here. Obviously not as challenging to do with a whole support network here, but it still takes work in a place as anonymous as New York. I am so happy that you're dedicated to finding your place, and are well on your way to really carving it out as your own. I am also delighted with your writing. It's a joy to read. Keep it up, friend. See you soon :)

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  4. Thank you for making this site very interesting! Keep going! You're doing very well!

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  5. Yesssss. This was a happy read for the New Yorker in me. I know that you were initially had some trepidation about going to the city, so I'm so happy that you feel like you're in the right place. But come back to DC! Maybe you don't miss it, but we miss you. Gorgeous photography on your tumblr, by the way, per the usual.

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  6. I have not been to New York or Nairobi, but I concur with "... the more I believe that we don't love places themselves- we love our experiences in those places."

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  7. I love the picture on this post. The contrast of the snow outside and the living plants inside is fascinating. Thanks for sharing

    Joel
    http://hongkonghonky.blogspot.com/

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  8. Somehow you got to know you're going to be all right. Do you really remember how it used to be. Sitting under the christmas tree or something.. :(

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  9. This made me want to move to New York... And I'm usually an SF person ;) Please write again soon, I'm curious about what's happening in your life!

    Love and Light

    Namaste

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  10. New York is considered to be one of the best city's in the world. Enjoy yourself Anna

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