We're living in an empire state of mind.
A few nights ago I was watching the premiere of "The Carrie Diaries" on the CW. As a longtime fan of HBO's "Sex and the City" (of which "The Carrie Diaries" serves a prequel), I was initially offended. How could they besmirch the arguably important legacy that "SATC" left behind? So many now deride the show for its writing (re: puns galore) and predictability, but for its time -- the now primordial '90s -- "SATC" was pretty groundbreaking.
But eventually I succumbed to the corny charm of "The Carrie Diaries", which was banal (Wow! 16-year-old Carrie finds her mom journals... I wonder what she's gonna do with those?!) but still endearing.
But something did shake me: Carrie, with the help of her father, gets an internship at a law firm in Manhattan. It's that look on her face, that expression of awe, which hit me like a big yellow school bus (yes, that was a "Mean Girls" reference). She's one of us, a creative type seeking some sort of self-exile in New York.
What's with our continuing fascination with the Big Apple? In fifth grade someone threw a rock at me at recess and I vividly remember saying in the library later that day, "Well, one day I'll move to New York and everyone will be nice to me." Has a desire for vibrant city life been embedded in my genetic code? When I think of actually moving to New York for college it's like my stomach has been filled with a dozen stones, but despite the perceived sensation of being weighed down, I feel like I can do anything. My life, I've come to realize, is a cliché. I'm a small town boy who wants to make it in New York as some sort of a writer. It's humiliating to even write that.
We've been so influenced by pop culture, first off. For decades New York has been sanctified as a place of endless opportunity and acceptance. It all began with "Rent". Ironically, people were drawn to the decrepit life of Alphabet City despite the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical depicting it as a life of destitution, sickness, and isolation.
And then "Sex and the City" came along. We grew up with Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha -- but looking back, SATC was an anthropological piece, a "Welcome, here's the exhibit on '90s Professional Women Blossoming as a Result of the Sexual Revolution." "SATC" portrayed such a heightened reality of New York life, a soft pastel version of adulthood -- most of us can't afford Manolo Blahniks.
And now, currently airing on HBO, is "Girls". The Golden Globe-winning Lena Dunham vehicle was certain to reference why so many young men and women move to the Big Apple. In the second episode, Marnie (Allison Williams) says, "Please, I've seen [Rent] like 12 times. That's basically why I moved to New York." And in the pilot, Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is adamant in her fascination with "Sex and the City" and what the show meant for her as a young woman.
As Hannah (Lena Dunham) quips in episode six, "It's like we're all slaves to this place that doesn't even want us, you know?" Why do people move to New York in the first place, knowing that chances are they're going to suffer? Are all creative types masochists?
Maybe it's because of the sense of possibility, a realization that anything could happen. So many move to cities each year, but why? Wouldn't life be much safer, much easier, if we stayed back home, in a place where we're known and already established?
It's time to reconcile my own thoughts about New York, my first love. As a perfectionist, someone who has currently constructed their life like a tightly-wound poem, the thought of moving to the Big Apple -- and letting fate take control -- is hair-raising, liberating, and essentially dumbfounding. Maybe it's my hope, as an aspiring writer, to be in close contact with ferocity that only a city can offer.
We're a unique breed, us wannabe New Yorkers. Is it for the story? Is it to feel something outside of ourselves? We're willing to subject ourselves to poverty, to loneliness, and to general awkwardness, just to live there.
For many, it's worth it.