Yesterday, I joined the happy tourists with sneakers and fannypacks at Rockefeller Center. I was feeling especially happy and particularly pretty, and as it rarely does in August, New York was cool enough for me to sit for a while without sweating my weight. Just as it blew the flags of every country, the city breeze tossed my hair and dangerously ran my skirt up my leg. I barely noticed anything around me though – other than the fact that I was so damn happy, I could barely stand myself.
Though my level of obsession with NYC has been out of hand since I was seven, it isn’t always easy living here. There are reasons why Frankie says if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. He doesn’t just mean in showbiz or in being successful in the career you pick for yourself, but just surviving. The cost of living is significantly higher than most hometowns newcomers come from, and while you save money by buying groceries, those groceries are not only more expensive, but far less appealing than the dozens of restaurants that send amazing scents into the streets every minute. To make it here, to start on the journey that makes you a New Yorker, takes a lot of patience. It requires you to fail continuously, to succeed randomly, and to trust in whatever process is happening.
Sometimes, you find yourself sitting alone in the small room you pay so much money for, staring at your dwindling bank account, fearful of what the next few weeks will hold, and you wonder why in the world you came here. Those thoughts are hard to shake when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope or your heart is starting to get that city-toughness you hoped it never would. I’ve faced them – if I had not decided to major in journalism, if I had stayed in North Carolina, if I had gone another path, if I had never moved more than an hour away from the house that made me, what would my life be like? Would I be married with children? Would I have an actual mortgage and responsibilities that aren’t selfish at their core? Would I be a different person?
Would I be happy?
Maybe I would be. Maybe if different things fulfilled me. Maybe if I never had the feeling that I was destined for something much greater than what I can even imagine – maybe then. Maybe if I hadn’t grown attached to taking chances and barely getting by. Maybe if I hadn’t braved the city and fell in love with it. Maybe then I would have been happy in the country. Maybe I could convince myself to find peace in the ordinary, without striving for the extraordinary.
At those low times, I can almost believe that moving back to where it’s easier seems like the right decision. But then those high times come. Then that phone call that I had been praying for actually comes through. Then the city captures me in midtown, sending friendly smiles and good weather my way. Then that smile that I was missing for months becomes impossible to erase. Then the answer that I was waiting for becomes the answer I really wanted, even if I tried my very best not to get my hopes up.
And then, there I am, playing the part of a walking cliché, listening to New York, NY in my new shoes, making eye contact with handsome strangers and grinning a grin that came from my own hard work. There I am, looking around at the city that knocked me down a few times and realizing it wasn’t up to New York to make anything happen, even if ole’ blue eyes makes it sound that way.
It’s always been up to me to make my life what it is. The city is just there for some moral support and some really killer inspiration. It’s what it is, it’s New York – and it’s worth every struggle, every downfall, every dollar lost, every everything – to call it home.
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