A Love Letter to New York
When I first moved the the city, I underestimated the type of relationship that we would have. New York and I have been through many ups and downs, but like any partners, we have found a way to keep going because the love is there. And that makes it worth it. I don’t like the idea of Valentine’s Day. I feel that every day should be a celebration of the people we love. So, instead of expressing my love to the people who already know they have it, I’m dedicating today to a place and idea that easily desrves a daily show of affection: New York City.
Dear New York,
Remember when I came here four and a half short years ago? It seems like I’ve been here for my whole life, and yet, for no time at all. I had driven a Hondo CRV from Boston to Philadelphia filled to the brim with objects I thought meant something. I left most of that behind when I came to you. It’s funny how I used to feel like these things outside of myself helped to define who I was and what I cared about. But you taught me quickly that things are only as important as the memories they carry. When you live out of a suitcase, you only get to bring the things that really matter. And what matters most of all is held safely inside of my heart.
I was terrified. Did I make the right choice? By choosing you over the temptation of constant sunshine and warmth, did I do the right thing? Should I have engaged with the city that is so very much like myself: unrelenting, driven, passionate? They, I’m not quite sure who they is but perhaps society, say that opposites attract and if you keep running towards the thing that is the same as you, eventually you’ll start a fire with all of that passion and burn the thing down to the ground. But knowing that, you still took a chance on me, like I did on you; you took me in like so many before me.
Some might call that first year tough love. I worked, at the peak of it, five jobs, slept on an air mattress in a home office in Harlem, made mistakes, made memories, moved out of that office and into a three-bed with a bedroom smaller than my childhood bathroom, took a chance on my past, moved out of the three-bed into a place in the Heights and sang Lin everyday that I was by myself to remember that actually, I wasn’t.
I got lost. I forgot why I chose to come here. I forgot what I cared about and who. But every now and then, when I was about to break down, or maybe I was in the middle of one as I am an excellent subway and public crier, you helped me find people and experiences that gave me back my light. You gave me late night walks in Upper West Side streets I didn’t know with people I did. You gave me summer nights of adventures and dancing in the middle of the street in the rain. You gave me days of sunshine, smiles, ice cream in West Village, followed my stomach aches in West Village because I didn’t know I was lactose intolerant yet. You gave me music, concerts with my friends from the age of four. And when my heart was broken, or my feelings were hurt, you gave me long runs in Central Park and sprints down the river. You gave me hills to climb so my mind could only focus on what was right in front of me.
I lost my voice; you showed me how to find it. You wouldn’t do that work for me because that’s not your way. I had to put in the time and the effort to reclaim a part of me that got lost in the constant trying and doing and pushing. I stopped believing in myself and you gave me a community that did. In you, I found friends to dream with, to build dreams around, to make dreams a reality. You taught me that when it’s real and true love, I can wander to the other side of the earth, but you will still, and always, be here waiting for me to come back. You’ll greet me as one does who has learned to keep the softer side of themselves hidden just beneath the surface: a subway rat might scurry across my shoes followed by a long hug from a person I haven’t seen in months.
And every time I get overwhelmed by the harsh winters and aggressive people and outdated subway system, you bring me bridge runs at sunset. I run across the water and remember that nothing is ever black and white, nothing is final, everything and everyone keeps moving. I see the city I call home backlit by the pinks and oranges and golds of the setting sun. Moments later when I make it back on the island, the tall buildings snuggle into the ink blue velvet above. The lights from the Empire State and Freedom Tower are the stars in my sky, reminding me the that when any New Yorker looks up, they see the same bright lights and feel that little bead of hope inside their bellies. There will always be challenge. There will always be frustration. There will always be reasons to leave. But, there will always be overwhelming the sweetness of the city reminding me why I have stayed.
Everyday, I discover new things about you. Like that time I took the sky tram to Roosevelt Island, walked to Lighthouse Park and thought, “this moment. I will keep it inside my heart forever”. I find inside of you multitudes, experiences as varied as the people. I still get lost inside of your vastness. Like, literally lost. I was down in FiDi the other day and completely got lost trying to find the subway. But also figuratively. I look up at the all of the apartments and people living inside of them and romanticize their lives. I can’t help but feel so lucky that I have you in my life. You’ve seen me grow up. You’ve helped me grow. Wherever my journey takes me, I know that I can always come back to you. Even when we both change and evolve into the next versions of us, it will be like no time has passed. I will have the pleasure of re-meeting you. This new you and this new me.
For many more sunrises,