There's this interesting thing that happens when you tell people you're leaving New York. I should know -- I've done it three times now. This time, however, I'm leaving with a sense of finality. Departing in a way that would make it childish or foolish to come back unless I somehow won the lottery and didn't have to find a roommate on Craigslist. Even then, it wouldn't feel genuine or like I belong.
The thing about telling people that you're leaving New York is that you're ultimately pitied. Like you couldn't hack it or they saw it coming all along. "Why? You'll never find anywhere that lives up to New York!" They're right, I won't. Sure, I could find happiness in other places, fall in love with another city, maybe raise a family or start a business. Settle in and get my bearings.
People aren't kidding when they say New York is like a jealous lover. It'll rip your heart out then throw it in front of a speeding cab because it knows nothing can replace it. In that way, it gets away with a dangerous level of bad behavior.
In some sense, New York will always feel to me like home and I suppose that's what makes it so hard to leave.
When I first moved to New York, and even now sometimes, I stop and think: "I live in New York City. How fucking awesome is that?" Take a moment to kick around why -- almost everyone in the world never leaves their hometown radius and I get to run around an adult playground 365 days a year. A city filled with history where Sinatra sang right there and Ginsberg penned famous words; where a billion dreams have been shattered and more than a few have been made.
In all my years of living here, I've still never truly gotten over the feeling that this is the greatest city in the world.
That's not to say we didn't have our disagreements. When I picked up and moved to Seattle for a year in 2010, I was over the rats, the roaches and the rudeness. And then just as quickly as I dismissed New York, I realized no other city could hold a candle to it and I came racing back, vowing to stay forever. Turns out life has a way of happening and plans change faster than you can make them.
I'm not naive though. I know that the city's changed and that perhaps its heyday has come and gone. Even in only a few short years, it's harder to find the adventure and the people that make New York worth living. I'll tell you one thing -- you'll rarely find it in Manhattan. Instead it's on the banks of Far Rockaway or in quasi-abandoned warehouse buildings in Queens.
In part, I'm mourning for my youth. My 20s. A time of discovery and poor decisions and knowing that no matter how badly I fuck up, someone will be there to catch my fall. It's a false sense of security, for sure. But because I knew that I'd never let myself tumble too far down the rabbit hole, these people and these promises sustained me.
It's a place that I'll never find myself in again, and when I lock up my apartment on Jan. 14th, it's a part of myself that I'll say goodbye to forever.
New York gave me 24-hour convenience and the idea that I should be able to get anything, anytime, whenever I want it. It gave me friends, brothers, sisters and 8.5 million people to meet and dismiss and love and throw away. It gave me an unbelievable sense of gratitude and privilege and pride. It gave me the person I am today and who I want to be tomorrow. It made me grow up and it allowed me to stay a kid. It gave me 11a.m. dance parties and 5p.m. brunches and all night sleepovers where everyone did just about everything but sleep. A ridiculous scale of stretching out my immaturity and the street smarts to go just about anywhere. My first real job and my first real heartbreak. Open ended possibility. Never knowing what to expect or who you'll meet when you step out the door. My independence. A loss of my innocence. A test to my values. An unveiling of what I truly care about. A damn good time. An anxiety about that dude talking to himself in the corner. Expensive dinners, corner bodegas and everything delicious in between. The skills to decoding any public transit system in the world. A fascination for watching couples argue in the street.
But the thing I'll miss most about this city -- aside from the dive bars and early mornings stumbling home from unknown boroughs are the people I've been fortunate enough to call my own. Late night games of pool or a pick up game of darts over terribly made vodka tonics and soul-confirming conversations. These people have been my family. My anchor in a city full of wanderers.
And really, at the end of it all, that's why I'll miss it. Because when you look back on something, those people are the very definition of home.
Photo credit: Ben Fredericson