Manhattan is coined as a pretty dirty place -full of grime and crime, thugs and lugs –and everything in between. The streets are aligned with trash, and the city changes with the wind –one block can be completely high-rise and luxurious, while the next will make you hold your bag a little closer.
I’ve been asked (mainly by my Southern relatives) why “on God’s green Earth would you ever move to New York City?” In fact, why did I decide to move away from North Carolina in the first place –away from the back winding roads, the calm nights with fireflies, and miles away from my alma mater, making it impossible for me to come to homecoming?
Why didn’t I, like all of the other girls in my family, settle down, find a good country boy, and get married? Why did I decide to go to this huge, scary, and dangerous place…alone?
To them, I reply, “I love New York.” They will smile, tell me they are praying for me, and then whisper amongst themselves about my absurdity.
Eh –maybe I’m a little crazy. I think to willingly choose to move to NYC, you’d have to be a tad out of your mind. But, the city draws in the crazies, the out-of-the-boxers, the strange-and-the-beautiful, the very-talented and the overly ambitious.
But if you look closely, slow down, pay attention, and examine everything going on around you –you’ll find the city is full of love. It’s not just that I adore the city –it’s that the city itself provokes kindness.
When you cross the street –you’re never alone. There’s always someone on one side of you, if not on both. When you sit down on a subway car, leave it, or enter it –there are always people near you. When you go grocery shopping, buy new shoes, pay for deodorant, or even just wipe your nose -you’re always surrounded by someone else. Even riding home in the taxi after a night of drinking –the cab driver sits right in front of you.
And while it’s not typical to speak to strangers (unless you’re from NC, like me) –you will catch yourself leaning up against the person on the subway, or find them lingering on you a while longer after the initial jolt of a stop. Or when you cross the street, sometimes, you’ll notice someone step with you –a little cautious of the cars that may forget to stop. Or when you’re sitting alone reading a book, it’s not uncommon to notice someone looking at you, caught in their own world of thoughts –only using you as a focus point.
You’ll find people helping each other by carrying heavy bags up stairs or opening doors or waiting for you to pass by. You’ll find an old woman bring her husband lunch to his office on the same block they’ve lived and worked for 50 years. You’ll find children kissing their parents and running through the streets like it’s their playground. You’ll find a couple you just know are on their first date –completely awkward, but somewhat enthralled, drinking a few beers, and wondering what’s next.
Sometimes you’ll pass friends comforting each other on the side of the street, as one cries, and one remains strong –looking around to make sure no one messes with them. You’ll find yourself sharing glances with someone else who is responding the same way you are to a strange occurrence, a sudden sound, or a funny conversation.
The city makes you interact with other people –regardless if you want to or not. It forces you to come out of your shell and see what’s going on around you. It shows you that even in the most ordinary and most random of places –there is friendlessness and love all around.
I’ve been worrying that this process would somehow make me stop believing in love. It would make me cool and confident, but not warm and loving. However –as I wondered the streets today, both with a friend, and then alone –I realized that New York would never let that happen.
Gaining faith in myself and relaxing about being single doesn’t mean that my faith in love goes away. It doesn’t mean I have to stop enjoying seeing examples of love in everyday life or be inspired by seeing real love exist. Being okay single doesn’t mean I have to stop dreaming.
It simply means that the constant quest for love, the constant search, and longing for a relationship needs to fall later in my list of priorities. It means that I just let go of pushing and pulling for happily ever after, and allow something bigger than me take care of things for me. For now, watching love in the city fills my heart up with so much hope and peace –I can’t even put it into words.
I always knew I loved you New York, but I didn’t know you loved me this much, too.