I’ve Fallen Out Of Love With New York City
Never thought the day would come when my heart would stop fluttering for the city that never loved me back, even when I pleaded for a little tenderness, but here I am fully reconciling with the fact that New York is no longer the great love of my life.
Like every torturous love affair featuring the unrequited affection that forces the rejected to work that much harder to manifest the impossible, there comes a time when the heart regains traction and forces euphoric tendencies to be disciplined for the rescue.
I fell hard for New York City at an impressionable age and vowed to move there as soon as festivities for college graduation were complete.
The city was a very different vibe back in the late 90s and perhaps that’s why it was so easy to eagerly assimilate into the sprawling landscape of delicious chaos, with the tempo of a avid hustler, wielding high aspirations as the armor for victory.
Youthful vigor dictates that nothing is out of reach, especially if you dwell in one of the most desirable locations for dreams come true, and the accommodation of relentless pursuits that can’t be replaced with a defeated spirit, no matter how many times prime opportunities pass you by.
Young adulthood came during an era that doesn’t bear any resemblance to the cultural renaissance of the present, where Black creatives are being relevantly utilized and appropriately centered as conveyors of narratives, that are thankfully allowed for public viewing and applause.
Back in my young days, social media was still a fantasy and reaching out to editors of popular publications like Vibe, Jane, Honey, Time Out New York, etc., required the old-fashioned method of correspondence with query letters sent out and rejection letters mailed back.
You needed to know somebody to get both feet in the door, and since DMs and Google weren’t yet invented, it was exceptionally hard to navigate the cumbersome task of getting necessary attention as a starved writer, who was frustrated from the gross neglect and career stagnancy, that wouldn’t have occurred if I had been born in 1993.
I was victim of a cruel era that wasn’t tailored to honor all that I had to give, and of course the city of my choice demanded a lot more than I had anticipated, based on the underestimation of what it would truly takes to survive in a haven for socialites and trust fund babies.
My odd jobs ran the gamut from telemarketing to being an extra for primetime shows like Third Watch where I played a patient being wheeled through a pivotal scene.
I also worked for a catering business that patrolled high-profile events before settling into the over-crowded world of retail where I remained until relocation to Los Angeles.
The brief stint in the City of Angles was proof of how much I would miss the cold-hearted cousin that didn’t notice my departure.
The reception from LA was a lot warmer and surprisingly progressive.
I quickly landed a gig as a production assistant for one of the producers of The Terminator who was flushing out his first-ever feature film. And then later made my way to the avenue of talent agencies where I bumped into Tom cruise, cruising down the hand-rail of an escalator at CAA.
But the glitzy serenity of LA wasn’t enough to compensate for the hole in my heart, stemming from my inability to conquer the city that I pledged to dominate regardless of hardcore obstacles in my way.
I returned to NYC after a year of basking in the glow of the sunny forecast that I was hoping to replicate in the gloom of the concrete jungle.
The second attempt at conquering the unforgivable pace of an iconically hostile territory was just as ferocious as I remembered. But this time, I was prepared to sacrifice editorial appointments for the more sturdy role in corporate America.
This meant a full time setting in a high-stakes environment that I never imagined in my mental itinerary.
But the payoff from working at one of the most revered financial institutions in the world was the welcomed transition into the version of adulthood that provides impeccable references, for a cool studio apartment in the Upper East Side and the security badge that makes NYC less intimidating.
Ironically enough, once I began to thrive as a native New Yorker, who no longer relied on the typical existence of struggling residents, who will do crazy shit to accrue rewards for the years of prized tribulations, my suppressed longing to be a writer was released.
By now, social media was a relatively new phenomenon that was peaking, and suddenly blogging was fast becoming the preferred mode for editorial standards.
Before I could control it, my daily schedule of 9 to 5 was flexed in response to being a daily editor of an online publication that young Black women flocked to for up-to-date assessment of what everyone was talking about.
It felt great to finally crack the code to almost having it all, even if it took the uncanny diligence to expertly maximize the hours of a work day, in order to give writing assignments the nourishment that verifies the title you care about the most.
The punishing workload furnished extra cash for yearly trips to South Beach, and other palatable locales. It was also what funded the after-work trips to neighboring establishments that served $5 cocktails, and the atmosphere to righteously participate in rituals of a certified resident of the city that never sleeps.
To love New York City is to lose yourself in the romanticized embellishments, that make stipulations of admirably suffering for your art, in order to reap the rewards of dutifully riding the currents of a stormy relationship.
I can’t believe there was ever a time when I considered riding the NYC Subway a blissful experience or identified painstakingly weaving my way through over-crowded sidewalks and streets as a fun exercise.
But not so long ago, I was that person.
By 2013, after seven years of a rollercoaster ride at what evolved into a corporate enslavement of sorts, I was ready to make another move and explore a lifestyle with a much slower and humane option.
But like before, I ran right back to my terrorizer after about six months, but this time it wasn’t because I desperately missed the comforts of a familiar battle.
It was really about the assaulted temperament that wrongly labels mental exhaustion as nostalgic surrender, when it came to blaming my poor decisions on the helplessness to resist the seduction of what was clearly not a healthy or beneficial partnership.
In late 2015, I made my final departure without looking back, and my long-awaited reunion with Los Angeles wasn’t as warm and fuzzy as the years prior, when it felt like a never-ending red carpet appearance.
I was much older and the youth-driven mandate of the entertainment capital of the world didn’t adequately serve my revised vision board. And in addition to that was the nagging realization of how I was unsure about career goals from a realistic standpoint.
My sobering return to the east coast positioned me close enough for sporadic visits to the city that I held a grudge against for reasons that validated my victimhood.
Each visit brought back the flicker of hope that maybe NYC could possibly woo me back with extra love to make up for the period of combativeness that ultimately broke my heart for good.
That was until a recent trip that was kept secret to limit activities in recognition of Covid-19, and being respectfully aware of the CDC guidelines that discourage reclining back to the old ways of social interaction.
It felt nice to be back, even in the midst of a national health crisis, that tested the well-known resilience of a city that had already been through the unfathomable 9/11 terrorist attacks, a horrific event that allowed me to witness the unbeatable spirit of New Yorkers, up close and personal.
This particular visit after two years of keeping my distance was a very different kind of bonding that produced the unexpected yearning to leave before my return date.
It was the undeniable sign that my endearing lust for New York has run out of steam, which means I’ve fallen out of love with my life-long tormentor.
It was an inevitable end to a one-sided quest for earned respect and acceptance, and while I did have glimpses of what it looks like to embody the hustle mode of a true New Yorker with evidential results, I absolutely don’t want to go back to that state-of-mind.
I didn’t envy my friend’s new apartment in the heart of the city because I’ve adopted the scrutinized view of the out-of-towner, who can’t calculate the returns of dishing out all that money for a tight space, secured in a tall building surrounded by a host of imposing structures that coldly align the famed skyline.
Morning runs were interrupted by unyielding pedestrians and four-footed companions, with the compulsory dodging of droppings that reminded me of how well I had perfected that dance when it was a part of my routine through the city I never judged.
I did edit my Amtrak booking in order to leave four days earlier than I planned, and although I gave a reasonable excuse for the switch, there was an unspoken understanding of what was really happening.
There’s a newfound freedom and burst of relief that comes from no longer pining for what never existed, due to how humans creatively draft a universe that was built to solve problems that don’t just disappear when you buy that one-way ticket.
New York City was awesome in the beginning when I was young and starry-eyed with the visuals of what was certainly waiting to be claimed.
But maturity removes the rose-colored glasses and exposes the grittiness of relations and the thankless sacrifices that lose meaning when you wisely weigh the consequences.
I’m not sure where I belong, but I know where I don’t want to be.
Nobody and nothing can show you more love than you can amass for yourself, and I guess that means you are who are, regardless of where you end up.
I gladly took my heart with me when I boarded the train out of NYC.
And I love that!