Like any love affair that builds your hope while simultaneously drowning your dreams, New York City and I have recently hit a rough spot in our long-term relationship.
We’ve been serious for nearly four years now, though we’ve wildly flirted and dated off-and-on for more than a decade. It’s always had this magical, mystical aura about it, always so comfortable and yet, so unattainable, nearly close enough to capture, but far enough to feel more illusionary than realistic. Many of my memories of Manhattan, even while living and paying taxes here, have felt warm and distant, something that I know happened to me but still unbelievable, too. In ways that I could never describe in words that make any sense to anyone but to me, this city and the way it’s moved me, pushed me, challenged me and disappointed me has changed my opinions and my beliefs. I’ve loved and hated New York, every day, all day, each and every single fast-paced, sleepless second I’ve called it home.
Until this year. Until this difficult, stationary year, I felt different. Somehow, this city has felt so tainted, so tawdry, so not a place I want to live.
And I’ve not wanted to write it here, in these pages and pages of love letters not only to the men I’ve met (and loved and hated, as well), or to the friends that have made me grow into a better person with every Gchat and champagne-induced confession in the darkness of a crowded, loud bar, but to the Big Apple itself. Himself? Herself? Whatever it might be to you or to me – it’s been a place I’ve loved so fiercely it’s always felt like a part of me. A piece I’ve carried with me since I was a gap-toothed 7-year-old staring at the Statue of Liberty in total awe, in complete fascination that someone, someone like me, could live underneath her beauty.
But the ugly truth I haven’t wanted to admit has been so true: I’ve been bored in 2013.
My relationship with New York became stale. The same grocery store, the same deli. The same walk to Dunkin Donuts on the weekends where they know my order (and my dog), the same Starbucks by my work where I don’t have to say a word and have my unsweetened-grande-iced-coffee-in-a-venti cup waiting for me. The same address, the same hours at the dog park, the same bars and the same restaurants with the same meal I always order, and always love. The same loop around Central Park, the same Burger and Beer at Toast on Wednesdays for $5. The same commute, the same inverted pyramid, the same blog, the same, the same, the same, the same.
And with the routine, I’ve taken my love affair for granted. I’ve cursed it for boring me, for not giving me those things that I wanted to shake up the same-ole’, same-ole’. For not granting my every last single wish, though it’s given me more and then some. I’ve been angry that while my friends are getting married or moving in together or getting big, beautiful apartments or big, beautiful trips, or big, beautiful paychecks, I’m sitting pretty in the exact same place I was two years ago. Though I often count my blessings (for I have many, I know), I’ve found myself wondering when the next grand thing will arrive. When something — anything — will change. When New York would step up to the plate, answer my demands, give me something new to tackle, some new Mr. to love again, some new reasonably-priced apartment in a new part of town. Because if something didn’t give, if the city didn’t try again, if it didn’t woe or entice me, then I’d have no choice but to call it quits.
To pack my bags and move overseas. Or to a new city. To tell New York that it just wasn’t quite what I wanted, that I needed more, that it wasn’t meeting my needs, emotional and physical, magical and practical. That something just felt off and wrong, that the streets that once glittered with possibility, now seemed stained with the bitter boredom of convention. That because it wasn’t getting me laid or filling my heart with that love I so badly ached for, it would have to let me go. That it was totally New York and definitely not me.
But as the summer faded into fall, I felt a weight lift away, just as I was Googling ways to spend a year in Europe away from everything and everyone I worked so hard to find. I felt myself lingering more on the sidewalks, admiring what was around me, seeing the beauty that I forgot about all year long.
And I realized that it isn’t New York. It’s me.
It’s not New York’s job to keep me satisfied and happy. It’s not supposed to always give me everything I want or I wouldn’t see them for the treasures they are when I finally reach that goal, that job, that man, that warmth. That if I want change in my life, I can’t expect it to just take the train in to Grand Central and sweep me away into a whole new chapter that I haven’t written, that’s not available for eager, reading eyes, yet. Change happens so gradually, so painfully slow sometimes it can be hard to see just how much has changed already.
Like how 2013 brought me a cancer-scared with my dad, but it also made me call him way more than I used to. Or how I went from running three miles last year to my first half-marathon in October. Or how after too many tears and far too much wasted time, I peacefully slammed the door shut on Mr. Possibility, once and for all. Or how I didn’t travel as much as I would have liked, but I did book my first trip to Paris and Rome for April 2014. Or how I might not have moved apartments, but I spent a blissful 10 days in the East Village, realizing I could love another neighborhood just as much as I love the UWS. Or how I might not have met the man I’ll marry (or at least I don’t think so), but my friendships have never been stronger, more loving or more open.
Being in love and being in a relationship with anyone or even a city isn’t always easy. It comes with complications and ups-and-downs, times when you want nothing more than to scream at the top of your lungs out of mere frustration. Or times when you stop in the middle of the park after the end of a perfect run, and feel the crisp Autumn leaves fall around you, wedging themselves in your hair, and you feel at home again, after many, many months of distance. Relationships never turn out just how we picture them in our heads, when we describe them in bright colors and vivid plot lines, but they do in fact, turn into something.
Something better. Something hard and often bittersweet, but more than anything, something completely worth it. If you can just hold on, just believe, just know that after a big fight, a mild separation, you can let go of your anger (and fear), and crawl into bed or look out at the city keepin’ on below you and fall in love again. Over and over, always. To the Brooklyn Bridge to the top of the park, and back.
I know the best is yet to come, little love of mine, Manhattan. Even if it doesn’t always feel that way. Just don’t give up on me New York, my darling, and I won’t give up on you. Promise.