I don't know that I've ever been so sad to leave a city and it's strange to me that sometimes, when I think of New York, I get that feeling that surfaces right before you let yourself cry. I think it's because I'm not letting myself? I don't want to feel how much I want to be there, because for now, I can't be and so I might as well stay in the present, right? But I find myself longing for New York, similar to how I used to feel when I'd lay in my bed at Biola and dream about what life might have been like in Boston.
I kept wanting to figure out why I didn't like New York when I went for the first time 5 years ago. If my feelings then and now weren't on such opposite sides of the spectrum, I probably wouldn't have been so determined to understand.
Impressions of New York in 2012: The pace and flurry of New York is unsettling. These people are kind of making me nervous. This place is pretty dirty. And bright. And loud. And people are kind of rude... Everyone is so in love with New York, but I don't really get it. It's just alright.
(If that was my attitude, you're probably wondering why I wound up there again...Well, I may or may not have really wanted to see Dear Evan Hansen, looked for tickets online, found some for a show on my birthday, and bought plane tickets within an hour because I have a fun, spontaneous husband who said, "Let's go!" Additionally, I've come to realize that since trips with Jordie are always a good time, it would be a good idea to give New York a second chance. Also, he'd never been so that's fun!)
Back to me in 2012 - I must've been such a different back then, wow. I had experienced a lot of loss and the type of undoing that typically follows that sort of thing and must've handled that disorientation much differently than I'm handling my current state of Umm-Which-Way-Is-Up?
I don't think I was able to see or receive what New York had to offer. I wasn't totally sure of who I was and clung onto what I thought I needed in order to be “me" so my hands were full, I guess. New York was overwhelming and felt like a lot to take in for someone whose heart was too busy grasping for something peaceful, something that would settle me down, give me answers, and help me get back to feeling okay as soon as possible. The city didn't strike me as a simple, question-answering, peace-giving type of city. It was complex, bustling, controversial. I remember feeling at odds with New York; it was too rough for me to embrace.
Fast forward to this recent trip - as hard as I tried, I couldn’t embrace it enough.
Impressions of New York Now: WHAT. A. DREAM.
I felt like just standing on the city streets, staring up, soaking in the view. I felt like taking deep, deep breaths. I felt like walking back and forth down Broadway and never leaving, touching the posters and the walls and feeling like a total freak, but knowing it's what I needed to do. I felt like people-watching until my eyes were tired and my body begged for sleep. I felt like trying more foods than my stomach could contain, like visiting more museums, sitting in more coffee shops, and walking more bridges than we had time for. I felt like 6 days wasn’t enough.
With each day there, I experienced more freedom, more creativity, more stories, and new things to reflect upon. I breathed in the beauty, passion, personalities, and space to just be. New York is a place with so many different types of people, so much diversity; people never guessed that Jordie and I were visiting - it felt like we had a secret only we knew.
We never felt out of place, and I felt really connected to everyone even though I didn’t recognize a single person passing by.
Maybe it’s the empathy I felt as I roamed the streets, sat in the Music Box Theater, or laughed in UCB. Maybe it’s that everyone seems to not give a shit in this refreshing way. Maybe it’s that people just dance in the subway stations if they feel like it. Maybe it’s all the eye contact I made there - eye contact with that many humans every day really does something to you. Maybe it’s that everyone’s busy with their own thing in a way that frees you to do yours.
Maybe it’s that everyone’s going somewhere or that there’s so much to do, see, hear, and taste. A sensory overload that I’d say yes to over and over again.
Maybe it’s that even when you sit quietly on the still shore, you see this busy city in the distance and feel the wind vigorously sweeping through from at the East River. Maybe it’s the paradoxes everywhere that make you feel welcome.
Maybe it’s that in the city that never sleeps, I found such rest.
I believe I was standing on the Brooklyn Bridge when I found myself reading quotes on the Internet about New York. This moment shifted things in me because when I glanced up from my phone, I saw the skylines sparkling and had found words that perfectly articulated my experience, that so accurately described this place.
“People go to LA to 'find themselves', they come to New York to become someone new.” HA! That’s amazing.
“One belongs to New York instantly; one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”
So maybe I’m romanticizing it. Or maybe I’m longing to make up for years that seem lost. Maybe it's that I feel more open or like I have less to lose. Maybe I’m more curious and creative when it comes to who I'm becoming. Maybe it helped that I got see it through new sets of eyes - Jordie's, Grace's, and my own. Maybe it's that the whole thing felt like a dream, that I mostly couldn't believe it was happening. Maybe my constant desire for excitement, adventure, newness, and inspiration is pinning itself to New York, this place my heart perceives as a blank canvas. This city is anything but blank, but ironically, it seems to be, for so many, the blank canvas they need.