Today marks 10 years living in and loving New York City.
I knew very little about New York when I arrived. Four days after I moved here I started my first job, and one of my new co-workers was very quiet and soft spoken. He told me his name when we met, but I didn’t catch it, so I asked him to repeat it. “Varrick,” he repeated, “like the street.” I nodded and smiled faintly. I had no idea there was a street called Varick Street, or where it might be. Years later I’d walk down this street nearly every day as I commuted to my second job in the city.
I didn’t know how to take the subway, so I walked everywhere. One day I walked from Herald Square to the Natural History Museum and back. I lost 20 pounds my first summer in the city.
Eventually, I got comfortable living in the city, and I learned how to get around. (I also gained back the 20 pounds – the food here is a never ending source of delight.) And I went everywhere. Book signings. Museums. Broadway shows. Summer concerts. Karaoke until 4 in the morning. Bike rides. When I traveled around the world, I met people who lived in wonderful cities that they never explored. One person explained it as “because I can go any day, I go no day.” I “hmmm-ed” in recognition, but actually — I couldn’t relate. I realized then how grateful I was that I hadn’t been taking my city for granted all these years.
So many people say about New York: “it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here.” But Nora Ephron thought that was backwards, and I agree. It’s not an easy place to visit. Hotels are ridiculously expensive. There’s so much to see and do that cramming it all into a short trip is exhausting. People think it’s that tiring to live here too. But it’s a wonderful place to live. We don’t spend our weekends battling the crowds in Times Square, we spend them strolling around the relaxing streets of Brooklyn or the Upper West Side, getting coffee, stopping in bookshops, picking up produce from the farmer’s market, or doing whatever it is we love to do. I live on a shady street in Brooklyn, birds visit my windowsill, and I pretend the stray cats on my street are mine. It is a wonderful place to live.
Does it smell like garbage in the summer? Often. Are some subway lines insufferably packed? Yes. Should you avoid Times Square whenever possible? Yes. Do car alarms occasionally destroy every ounce of zen I’ve been able to cultivate? Yes. Have I seen someone drop their pants and take a dump on a subway platform? Once.
There’s no other place that gives you more if you’re willing to put up with it. You get out of it what you put into it. I met some of my best friends here, and I became the person I am today. It helped me embrace diversity, patience, kindness, and adversity. I’m far from perfect, but New York made me into a better, and happier, version of myself. Some of that was the city itself and the lessons it has taught me, and some of it was the incredible people I’ve met here.
Someday, Graham and I will most likely leave New York. We’ve developed a passion for hiking and camping, and it’s too hard to get away for weekend camping trips when you don’t have a car (and have to fight Friday night / Sunday evening traffic). But we’ll enjoy the time we have left in this city, and I won’t take a minute of it for granted. I am lucky to have made it in this city. And I’m grateful.
Here’s a slideshow of some of my favorite photos / NYC moments.