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New York, I’ve been thinking about us…

It was true that New York lent you a certain toughness that made you think you could handle difficulty in all sort of forms.
–Janet Steen

This is a quote from the book Goodbye to All That – Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. It has been a while since I got this book — a follower left a recommendation about it in one of my blog posts, and her description was enough to make me buy it. It kind of intrigued me. The book brings together 28 essays from writers with their love and hate stories about the city. These people are NYC expats. Some of them still miss the city, some of them don’t regret their decisions. Reading each one of those essays made me think about my own relationship with New York.

I don’t know exactly why, but I’ve always been an ambitious person. I’m from a tiny town in Southern Brazil, and I always had in my mind that I would live in a big city. I had never planned to live in New York City – but I had planned to live intensely. And for me, living intensely was equal to living in some huge city. First, I thought it would be the capital of my state – which is not that big, but, you know, for someone coming from a town with 7k people, any place can be huge. Then, I took my first international trip, and my boyfriend and I started to desire an experience abroad. We always thought we would live in Europe – but destiny brought us to NYC. 

I remember when I visited the city for the first time. Many Brazilians dream about traveling to the United States – most of them want to go to Disney in Orlando. Another group grows with that connection to NYC – and this is because of how American culture is part of our lives through Hollywood movies. I know dozens of people that fell in love with the city because of Home Alone or Sex and the City. Not my case. I’d never had this crazy desire to travel to the U.S. I’d never dreamed about visiting New York City. I knew that it was a cool place, but I guess I had never paid enough attention. My dream was to visit Paris and London, and I did that, and I was happy. I don’t know if I would have planned a trip to the Big Apple if it hadn’t been for my boyfriend, who had a work trip to the city and invited me to join him. Free accommodation, the place seemed cool, why not? I didn’t know, but that trip would change my life forever.

For me, New York City wasn’t a platonic love. I didn’t love the city before getting here, like the way it happens to some people. But it was, indeed, love at first sight. I had never fallen in love with someone like that – but I did with this city. It was intense. I told my boyfriend, “You should get a job here.” Not in my craziest dreams, would I have imagined that it would be so fast. Long story short, five months after that trip, we moved to NYC for good. My now husband got a job here, and we left our country, our lives, our families, our friends, and everything that was familiar to start a new life. 

Since the beginning of my relationship with the city – now as a resident, and not a tourist – I have been a dedicated lover. I found one million reasons to love this place, and I was always telling people why this city was so amazing to me. I think that my younger version had finally found what she was always pursuing, but she didn’t know what that was. It was this: so many options, so many opportunities, so many things, so many discoveries, so many places, so many people. No, I didn’t have a proper honeymoon with New York – in fact, this city has punched me in the face since the beginning. You might say that it was an abusive relationship, but I don’t think so. I believe we can grow out of our comfort zone. New York has inspired me to be a better version of myself, to pursue my wildest dreams. I’d always had this analogy in my head: the city was my fuel to keep going – even when sometimes everything I wanted to do was falling apart.

But, after 7 years living here – and after going through a pandemic in this place – I’ve realized some not-grateful things about the city. Yes, they say that “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” That can be true. But it has a price. Today, I see that the same city that pushes you to give your best is the same city that demands from you. It is not easy. It is hard. We breathe competition. We feel the pressure. We smell fear – sometimes. To live in New York, you have to understand how to manage the inspiration and the competition; the failures and the victories; the desire and the fear. Well, it seems that life is like that, right? True. I can’t deny that. But in New York, the stakes are higher. Much higher.

At the same time that I’m writing this, I realize that when I talk about the city, I talk about myself. Yes, I’m discovering good and bad things about this place, and I’m also learning things about my own life. I’m getting uncomfortable. I’m confused. I don’t know the answer to a lot of questions. And I’ve figured out that, as happens with the city, I can have many versions of myself, and I’m trying to find out which version I like more. I think I’m growing up – and yes, growing up is fantastic, but oh gosh, it hurts. 

You must be thinking that this is my farewell letter to New York City. No. It is not. Not for now. Not for today. Not yet. I still love you, New York. I will probably love you forever. To be honest, I can’t see myself out of here. I have just acknowledged some facts. Our relationship is now more mature. It is like any other love story: everything starts intensely passionate – and we are almost blind. Now, I can see your flaws. You are not perfect – not at all. But I choose to be here, for better or for worse.

Yeah, I know: you never say never, right? Maybe one day this can be a farewell… 

 

1 Comment

  • Pâmela Ketlin Machado de Oliveira e Silva
    February 15, 2021 at 9:36 pm

    I just cried my heart out reading this text, Laura. I’m not that young anymore, but I always tell myself: one day -even if it’s the last thing I’ll do – I’ll live in NY. I’ve always been in love for this city and I had the chance to be there just once, but one day I’ll come back and maybe I’ll have the chance to know you.

    Reply

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