Week one of quarantine is in the books. As much as it hardly feels like we’re in London right now, it also feels like it’s been a lot longer since we bid adieu to New York.
From the first moment I saw the New York City skyline I knew I was home. I was a sophomore in college and flying in for just the day for an internship interview. I didn’t get the (unpaid) job, but one thing was confirmed: The city I’d been dreaming about since middle school was exactly where I wanted to be.
I always felt I was marching to the beat of a very different drummer before I lived In New York. The city where I grew up was fine, but I always felt out of place. But once I arrived in Brooklyn in the summer of 2010 to finally call one of the five boroughs home, it all clicked. Surrounded by the rhythm of this magical place, I recognized the beat I’d been following all along.
When I decided to leave the city just one year later, I was devastated. I wasn’t ready to see the lesson to be learned after 12 months of unbelievably hard work and struggle that ended right back where I’d started. But it was a lesson in patience. In both myself and the twisted fairy tale that is each of our stories.
Returning seven years, a marriage and one international move later, I found that familiar rhythm once again. The city had changed in many ways but I was the one more greatly altered in the years since we last parted. The person who came back knew that the last time I’d called New York home, I wasn’t ready.
Our first year back brought tremendous highs. We found a home we loved and saw our hard work paying off in our careers. We traveled and welcomed family, reconnected with friends and made new ones. We made plans and fell into routines. It was the truest example of a “full circle” moment I’d ever experienced.
And then, the floor fell out.
Our second year in New York encompassed every emotion I could ever imagine experiencing. There was fear and sadness as the city emptied, in some ways temporarily and in others, permanently. In such a short amount of time, we were without almost 25,000 of our neighbors. Locked indoors, the rhythm of the city got harder to hear, drowned out by sirens, helicopters and the constant hum of the news as the numbers climbed. Then there was anger. Anger at the long lines for food, the deniers and the hoarders who forgot we were all in this together.
But then came the moments of joy. The clapping and the music that played every evening at 7 p.m. The sunshine and blossoming flowers. The fresh air that brought us outside. The unity through activism. The tables and chairs that filled the streets so we could see one another. The changes that brought the numbers down, showing us this new normal was working.
We stayed long enough to see life coming back into the city. We never doubted it would be OK — New York never quits. New York is never “done.” And when it was time to finally head to the airport, there were plenty of tears, but this time I already knew what the lesson was.
Both times I’ve lived in New York, I’ve gotten exactly what I needed. The first gave me a kick in the ass, showing me there was more to standing on my own two feet than I thought. The second taught me to listen to my gut and that life is too short not to go after that one dream you’ve been putting off. It gave me a nudge towards something new and exciting I still needed to experience.
To my beloved New York, thank you for keeping us safe. Surrounded by the countless souls who love and believe in you as much as I do, I learned what community really meant. Your energy is palpable and powers us all. You protect your huddled masses.
We’ll see you again soon.