Usually at parties, I like telling people that I grew up in New York City because they immediately think I’m cool.
Confession that I don’t like to tell people at said party: I don’t really love New York.
Of course some part of me loves it. It’s home. But I definitely have a love-hate relationship with this place. It depends on the time of year you ask me and what’s going on in my life, but I don’t really think I’m in love with New York. I think, like in any relationship, I have to ask myself if I’m really in love with New York or just sort of in-like with it too often to really want to be committed to it forever. In any case, we definitely need to work on our relationship.
“WHAT?!” You’re probably thinking. “You asshole, I would give my left nut to have grown up in as cool a place as New York, fuck off!” Then you glare at me, and think I’m a spoiled brat. I know, and I’m sorry. I know that I’m privileged, and lucky to have been exposed to such an awesome environment, but I’ve just never felt in love with this place. I’ve never been able to put my finger on the magic that’s here that other people seem to feel. Mostly when I walk around the Big Apple, I just feel that everyone is angry and stressed out. I also feel that everyone here is trying to follow their dreams and get ahead, at any cost. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I can feel the magic, but I haven’t wanted to voluntarily put the work in to participate in it as an adult. Because what people won’t tell you is that living here is a lot of work.
Maybe it’s because I grew up watching the people who live here struggle to do so at any cost throughout the 1990s, and 2000s, and the economic crash in 2008. My entire family is also here, and I had a not-so-fun high school experience, so like anyone who comes from anywhere, there’s a lot of baggage for me in my own hometown. Maybe it’s because I grew up hyper-aware of crime, and terrorism, and didn’t really trick or treat house-to-house because it’s pretty easy to get murdered here when you’re a kid. I just never saw myself living here, and I couldn’t wait to leave.
A childhood in this city is a weird thing to explain. You get exposed to so much, and it is amazing, but at the same time, when you travel and meet people who grew up in other places, you can feel like some sort of an alien from another planet. People have bullshit wherever they come from, but for some reason, when you meet strangers not from New York, the fact that you are from New York is supposed to automatically make all of your baggage magically go away. I hate that when I tell people I’m from here, they get some sort of stardust in their eyes, and imagine that my high school was like Gossip Girl. It wasn’t. I went to public school. Which in case you didn’t know, when you go to school in New York, you have to test into the better ones at least twice in your public school career. We are born competing and learning how to cut each other’s throats. We come out of the womb trying to be smart enough to beat out all the other kids to get into a good preschool here. Anyone who’s ever thought I’m neurotic, high strung, competitive, or mean—growing up in New York has a lot to do with it. The real New York is magical, but it’s also a dog-eat-dog city, where people will act like they’re going to eat you, but then confuse you and offer you the shirt off of their backs if you really need it.
This may feel like the whiniest, most entitled thing you’ve ever read, but when you grow up somewhere that is this fast-paced, shark tank-like, competitive, multicultural, full of the arts and anything you could possibly ask for at any time of night, you have no idea how the rest of the world functions or how to operate in other places. I have always been scared that I would never leave, because it’s hard to not want to live anywhere else, and in some ways, New York is such a bubble that it’s easy to be naive about how the rest of the world works. You just sort of expect to have 24-hour places all around you wherever you are, and to never be bored, and for everyone to be open to everything and all different kinds of people.
You know those magic feelings that people get when they come to NYC? The feelings that people in movies seem to feel, or the desire to move here some day and make a life here? I’ve never felt that about New York City, and I’ve always been jealous of the people who have been able to feel that. So when I turned 18, I bolted, and dreaded having people ask me where I was from. I felt a bit like I was breaking up with a guy even though everyone seemed to think that he was perfect. I was determined to find out what else was out there, and I left vowing to never live here again. Since then, I’ve lived in four different cities in the span of six years. I am lucky to have seen so much of the world. But what doing this mainly taught me, is that I take the place I’m from completely for granted. I’ve found that you can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take the New York out of the girl.
Through life circumstances I’ve found myself back here after six years of running away, living back at home for the next five months, and I think I’m finally ready to look at the magic. I’m not 100-percent sure why I’ve always felt like such a fish out of water in my own home city, but I’m excited to look at the reasons why for the first time.There is so much here to explore, and took exploring the magic of other places for me to really want to be here for the first time.
I’m ready to fall in love with you New York, that is, if you’ll have me. I hope that this time, we’re more compatible together. I just want to lay the law down right now that if we’re not, and we break up again, I get to keep the attitude. Love, (I think) -Rachel
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