Living in New York CityOn August 6, 2020 by admin
Okay, so maybe I am a little bitter. It’s the last thing I ever want to be. Bitterness adds an invisible coat of filth to anyone who carries it. My roommate is considering staying out of New York for good, making her temporary relocation to any sunny city she has been oscillating between during the pandemic permanent. It doesn’t help that we hadn’t been on close speaking terms since my return to NYC and her absorption into life in Florida and now LA, straining a relationship that was already in a difficult place.
So here is the issue. My heart aches for good friends. The ones I was closest to all left the city because of Covid except one. Living in NYC comes with a cycle of loss in friends that happens periodically, and you hardly ever see it coming.
This city has a way of teaching people the lessons they need to learn, then spitting them back out into another smaller city with hard earned stripes of being a former New Yorker and with all the skills they need to doggedly make their way to the top of any town of their choice. For the rest of their lives they will wax-poetic about New York and recount fond memories of a restaurant in the West Village that closed years ago. They’re great stories for parties, earning respect from hard to please Parisians and Angelenos, and for dropping into work conversations to make it clear you are capable of anything your boss throws at you.
But to truly be a New Yorker and make it through the daily subway rides, crazy people in the street, walking your laundry blocks away, and having to wrestle crowds to get to the hummus you want then stand in a line that loops around a store just to get your groceries, you can’t even have the option of another city. Sure, you can admire cities on visits. Los Angeles can be so lovely for a week or so, Boston is so clean and beautiful in the summer, you can stay in Toronto on work for a month, but at the end of the day those people and the pace of those cities drives you nuts. If you can have the heart for another place, you will leave New York.
“New York was no mere city. It was instead, an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself.” -Joan Didion
This is not Joan Didion’s “Goodbye to All That”. This is the story of the girl who had to stay behind. You see, I can’t leave here for good. This is not some passionate response you will often hear from young ex-pats who have moved to Brooklyn and can’t imagine living anywhere else. This is not the cry of a woman who upon seeing You’ve Got Mail decided that the absolute best lot in life was to live on the Upper West Side. This is the shattering scream of someone who is open to other places, but has a deep knowing in her soul that New York and I are bonded for life.
When I was 16 I dragged my Mom and my best friend from Boston to a hotel in midtown west to try to wait in the all night line for tickets to see Saturday Night Live. I remember lying on a piece of cardboard trying to sleep in the freezing early morning April air as halal carts began to set up around Rockefeller Center. I watched business men already in suits, buying breakfast and a coffee, and ready to get to work before 4 am. I couldn’t believe people this driven and with this much energy existed and did this every day. I wanted to be one of them.
The thing is, I’m not one of those “gets up at 4 am, never-stop-working” type of person. I am the type who sleeps in and can only trick herself into working by making it something creative. That’s why being a makeup artist has suited me so well. I get to work with creatives and appreciate their gifts, and be creative myself. I share the responsibility for how a shoot turns out, which can be good and bad. I lose some creative control, but I also gain freedom to concentrate on the makeup design and leave aspects of the image in more capable hands. So what makes someone like me belong to a city as fickle and mutable as New York?
Growing up in Boston
When I was growing up in Boston I always felt misunderstood. Creativity wasn’t encouraged; I remember being yelled at for using two different shades of purple for coloring in grapes in fourth grade by Mrs. Gilson (names have not been changed to punish the inept). Dressing different was weird, singing along to a song you liked at a restaurant was weird, anything that wasn’t the “right way to do things” was weird. I never felt a sense of belonging or comfort in a place too rigid for singalongs. Even going back now, the austere atmosphere has a way of stifling creativity and joy. I can’t placate my personality to accept Boston’s terms of appropriate societal behavior.
Los Angeles vs. New York City
At Eighteen when I moved to LA I felt some kind of release. For once I didn’t feel like the strangest person when I walked into a room and creativity was not just encouraged, it was celebrated. Still, there was something missing. It wasn’t just that I wasn’t exactly a beach person and that at the time I was not comfortable opening up to people. There is something about LA that keeps people from being truly vulnerable, and I don’t blame them because I have seen vulnerability punished more often than rewarded in relationships there.
Los Angeles can make you feel lonelier than you ever have, while you’re surrounded by a party in a packed house in the Hollywood Hills. You’re never quite sure whose house it is and if the person who invited you had any right to do so. Regardless you’re surrounded by bodies that are just as fake as the personalities inside them, and I’m faced with the realization that this is ideally how one would be here.
It wasn’t until moving to New York that I felt like a part of my heart that had never been touched was embraced by the city that had welcomed me with open arms. She wasn’t perfect. She smelled bad, she was overstimulating, and she kicked my ass daily, but I was encouraged in my creativity, rewarded for perseverance, and blessed by the most steadfast friends I had ever encountered.
This city either brings in those who are faithful friends, or it makes inconsistent people consistent. I became a part of a real community that felt more like family than the one I had by blood, more understood with fewer words spoken, and freely embraced for who I was and the creativity I brought to the table. I was spoken to honestly, directly, but still gently.
This city, however difficult it is, keeps growing towards the better. It doesn’t give up and it never considers itself as “having arrived”. Maybe that’s why it’s been under construction since its inception. I love visiting other places, but this place is home. Some people believe in soul mates, I believe in soul cities. I believe that your soul thrives where you belong for however long you are supposed to be there. I am open to other places and experiences, but I know the way you know when you meet “the one” that New York and I are for life. Sometimes she feels like the spouse I’m stuck with, but she’s the one I know I wouldn’t be better off without.
No related posts.