I made it all of six paragraph's into the foreword of Sharon Zukin's Loft Living before needing to take a break. It's chilly, about 50 degrees, overcast and wet. A light drizzle picked up into some showers earlier in the day. They tapered off, but the city is still wrapped up in the damp, pumpkin spice, snuggled-induced coma that is New York in the Fall. It's days like this where you can sit back, drink at hot coffee with a magazine in hand, and take a step back from reality.
Cities constantly change and reinvent themselves just as we do, but for one reason or another, New York in particular has cast a spell on me. The opening line of Loft Living, "For My Parents: who have never understood why I wanted to live in New York," clicked like few things do. The machine that is New York is noisily chugging along outside my window without giving two shits if I make it or not. The city isn't meant to foster your dreams; it is meant to break them. New York is a place where rent is high and egos are big. So many people come here only to be chewed up and spit right back out.
They come here with their bubbly personalities and uncanny innocence and then turn into vicious, pale ghosts of their former selves. Others want to experience everything the media has made New York seem to be, only to realize that the winter's wind will swipe your smile right off your face and the summer's heat will drain your body of any remaining optimism you have left. You fuel yourself on lofty aspirations, alcohol and Adderall just to keep going. Business is cutthroat, even more than you thought, and socializing is nearly impossible unless you manage to squeeze your way into some preformed social clique. The cigarettes you buy cost an arm and a leg. You started smoking because that's what the cool kids who dress in all black, with jaded personalities, and a lavish lifestyle want you to do. The city is a place where you came here to fit in, but realize you will always stick out.
The pain and struggle that come with living in this city are all worth it in the end. We're all climbing up the same stairs of an endlessly tall skyscraper, just trying to make it in a place that is meant to break us. A lot of people give up and move out, while the rest of us keep climbing. There is some unexplainable comfort in knowing that you are not alone, even though you may feel like the only person living in a sea excess and greed. It's the intimidation, the competition, the pace, struggle and ultimately the growing glimmer of success that make this city like no other drug out there. It isn't for everyone, and if it isn't for you, there is no point trying to explain New York. But for the rest of us who brave the streets and all the shit that comes along with it, there isn't a better place in the world.