Four years ago today, I started seeing someone.
He had a ruthless kind of energy that was so captivating that I’ve yet to pin-point the reason I fell so instantly in love with his charisma. I was different on that Spring day when we made things official: I was three months out of college and full of the hopeful optimism that’s only available when you’re inexperienced and naive. I saw the world and my future as these untouched, timeless adventures: journeys that I had yet to plan, dreams I hadn’t felt yet, love I hadn’t held.
He made me feel like everything and anything was possible, that each shining light could illuminate inside of me if I just tried enough. If I just kept going from train to train and street to street, up one set of elevators and through another revolving door, all that I had ever wanted would be mine. Believing that I could be successful, that I could be loveable, that I could have all of unimaginable things that I wanted so desperately, was half the battle.
If I knew I could, if he said I should, I would.
It won’t be easy, he warned. You’ll have to fight for it each step of the way.
And while he was right, he was also the cause of my many frustrations. He didn’t take anything easy on me: he’d predict sun when the sky would part to rain, he’d say the downtown subway was running on time and then I’d show up late, he’d say another drink would be just fine and my head would disagree at dawn. He would ask for more cash than I could flow, more patience than I could muster, and then the very next day, he’d ask for double amounts of all of the above.
He was infuriating, but I was in love.
And each day for the first three years of our relationship were full of turbulent dramas and frustrations that made the romantic affair that much more tantalizing. I grew addicted to his carelessness and his candor. I loved the way he belittled me and then encouraged me. I grew attached to his inconsistent affections and his unreliable promises. He made my expectations so very high and yet, so very small, depending on the second of the minute of the hour of the day of the month of the year. I knew that though he had committed to me, he was prone to seduce many other young 20-somethings with bright dreams and eager eyes, and though we laid in lust, I knew I wasn’t the only one he loved.
How could he only charm one lady? His attention span was far too spastic for such an ancient principle like monogamy. Not only did he rarely sleep, he rarely slept alone.
I didn’t mind how he came and went, offering me everything and sometimes giving me nothing in return. I kept coming back for more. I worked harder. Smarter. I shaped myself into what I perceived to be his ideal mate, and in return, he gave me the most amazing – yet fleeting – advances. We’d go on the best of dates, dancing until the early hours and waking up to watch the sun rise over the Hudson, drinking coffee and passing time like we had it.
But then I grew older. I felt my heart break. I watched all that we built together – through the good times and the bad times – start to crumble. I wondered if the happy ending I had hoped for was merely a wasted dream.
Don’t give up on me, he had whispered into the night, the streets lights beckoning shadows across his side. He was cold that day in a way that he hadn’t shown me yet. He didn’t say what I needed to hear and that break that I needed, wasn’t coming. He didn’t offer to help me stand and he didn’t hold my hand. He sat motionless and let me walk away from him, unsure for the first time since we fell in love that rainy March day.
Was I really falling out of love? I wondered. Isn’t this the life I had planned and created? Isn’t he what I wanted all along?
We stayed together, even though I wasn’t sure if he right for me. He could be very persuading with his random acts of kindness and his unpredictable sense of adventure. Without warning, he would be that glowing being again, reminding me of what it was like when we were still new to each other, when we hadn’t explored all of the parts that made us work. He would give me reasons to believe in him and he’d give powerful examples of why I was meant to stay by his side. He explained that I was still growing, that I was still learning, that there was so much left to discover in his wild, wild world, and that I couldn’t let go.
Not yet. Not ever.
Things got worse.
I wondered if I’d ever feel that certain something in the pit of my stomach and the depth of my heart for him again. I didn’t know if all of that scheming and all of those outlines of the perfect little life I had planned for us would be realities or something to recycle into someone new. I didn’t know if I could keep holding on while he kept falling apart, only letting the light shine through here and there, often in ways that never measured up quite enough. Was he too far gone? Was it just simply too hard? Was there not enough to salvage here?
How could I decide?
Today, we’ve been together for four years. And though I’ve loved many before him and one during our courtship, his love will always be my greatest. And frankly, the most difficult.
Though I didn’t realize it then, the start of my relationship with New York, when I first started writing this blog was the easiest part.
It was full of days where every sight and every experience was the first. It was when I was new to dating, new to living on my own, new to building a career and a character. It was before the city let me down and before I had to make a choice. Or really, I had to make the choice – the one that every person makes in a long-term relationship after the honeymoon stage wears off and the truth sets in:
To stay or to go.
I never thought I’d ask myself that about New York City – the one thing that has remained a constant in my life above anything else. I thought moving would be the only difficult part of the big transition from South to North – but I was wrong. If New York actually manifested into an actual man that we could all date, we would all probably break up with him. The city is not a quaint place to live and it is not for the weak-willed – but that’s why we stay. We stay because it’s a challenge. We stay because we weren’t made for a simple kind of life, but we strive for the extraordinary.
And that’s why we fall in love with New York. It pushes us to do better. Even when we feel like we’re falling out of love with it.
We aren’t. It’s still there. You just have to look.
I’m still in love with New York – the people, the neighborhoods, the local joints I’ve become a regular at, my favorite places to run and the life that I’ve created on wishes, pennies and a very busy networking calendar. I’m still in love with everything that New York has to offer – the art, the culture, the love, the intrigue and the endless opportunities to try something (anything!) new. I’m still in love with the person that this city has made me into – strong and resilient, brave and bold, curious and a bit crazy.
But like all great loves, the relationship has it’s ups and downs. I still can’t picture myself anywhere else, but it takes work to have faith. After a series of unfortunate events and months that blend into each other because they are so similar, I made a decision to keep my commitment to New York. And to have faith that those Louis Armstrong moments I used to have all the time, will come back again.
You haven’t given up on me, New York. And I won’t give up on you either.
Not yet. Not ever.