People who move to New York City often tell the story about when they felt they became a "real" New Yorker. I myself have lived in New York City on my very own for 5 years now. It wasn't such a huge shift though as I grew up in the suburbs just outside the city limits.
Thusly I've always felt like I had some built in credibility When I still lived in the suburbs and I would tell new acquaintances that I lived in New York they'd almost always respond the same way.
And I'd counter with:
No, just outside.
I was close enough to understand, to get it, to be able to speak with some (read: barely any) knowledge of the city but with a much higher exposure to trees and grass.
I've been lucky enough to travel to some pretty wonderful places around the world and when people find out from New York they ask me what it's like. They tell me they want to visit it someday, like it's the most exotic place on earth. Last year I had a waiter in Downtown Los Angeles and a baker in Portofino Italy who spoke no english both tell me how badly they wanted to visit New York.
It's something I take for granted. Not on a regular basis, but from time to time.
From the very first moment I stepped foot outside the train on my way to my first day of work as an adult I have tried to love my city, hard. Not that it was difficult to do so, but I didn't want a casual love with this city.
It wasn't difficult to do, there is so much to love. But when there is so much to love it's easy to paint broad strokes with statements.
Oh I love it all. It's all amazing.
I didn't want to be one of those people who eventually moved away from the city and raved about all the things I missed that i had never really experienced firsthand. My greatest fear from an early age has been a fear of missing out. It can be scary in thought and downright paralyzing when you are in the middle of a million things happening and don't know which one to do.
I wanted to love my city hard, the way one hugs their close friends tighter. I wanted to be a vocal, contributing, lover of my city.
I tried to love my city fervently in all seasons. When it was perfectly easy in the Spring and Fall, and more challenging in the Winter and Summer extremes. I tried hard to love my vibrantly when it made it difficult to be loved. In the rain. Waiting forever for transportation. And when it took things away from me, tangible things, followed by innocence.
No matter all the amazing things I had the opportunity to do, all the things I experienced. I wanted more.
A fear of missing out and an insatiable thirst for more create a frenetic, palpatacious energy within a body, something so fluttery and significant that it becomes an energy source all it's own. It doesn't guide decisions, it makes them for you.
So working my 9 to 5 job with a great company with good people in an amazing neighborhood all looked good on paper. But none of it really resonated.
I didn't really work "in" that neighborhood. I worked in a building in that neighborhood. I looked out at it during my work day. I walked through it at the beginning, at the end, and in between for lunch.
I sat outside while the sun shone in all four seasons, trying to squeeze more juice from this city during my lunch break, afraid that there would be none left to have the next day. I wrapped my arms so tightly around the city. I verbalized it. Aloud. To myself. To anybody. To nobody. To her.
I didn't know what else to do. How else could I get more out of the experience? How could I become one of those people who seemed so blissfully connected working in coffee shops at 2 in the afternoon?
If I was being honest I didn't live in this city, I didn't work in this city. I lived on it's fringe and worked in between it. I used the subways like teleportation. Showing up from place to place. Skipping over all the in-betweens. Proud claims that I had never been to this place or that started to sour in my mouth. They felt stale and depressing and no longer of interest. I wanted a better experience. I wanted a more connected experience.
And like every lesson of significance I've learned in the last 4 months, I got the feelings I wanted when I quit my job.
It wasn't the job that was holding me back, or the work, or the neighborhood or any other ridiculous reason. It was just me.
I wanted and want a more connected experience. I want the city to wash over every part of me not just my face and hands. I want to feel a part of the fiber, like every movement I make weaves my little individual thread, deeper into the texture of this incredible place.
And since leaving my desk behind, working from coffee shops, from meeting points, from places I've never spent any significant amount of time in, I have suddenly found myself feeling like a more connected, integral part of what happens here.
Every step I take on the pavement, sometimes short and slow when I'm making love to the universe, and long and fast when I'm late getting from uptown to down, every single step feels for significant, feels more important. It feels more honest. It feels more true to who I am.
When I was in college I fantasized about working in Manhattan in a big fancy building with a big security desk that I could cruise by with my slick ID badge.
The fantasy faded as soon as it became a reality. Thus began the pendulum swinging action of wanting more and fearing missing out. Those two things have guided me up and around a mountain of insecurities, inspiration, and experiences I couldn't have planned if I tried.
As I bounce around this city now in my day to day, from coffee shop to coffee shop, from office to office, leaving the echo of my footsteps on streets I have never visited and might never see again, I feel both a gratitude and sense of purpose that light me from the inside.
I believe I belong here as much as anybody. I don't know that I've had my "I'm a New Yorker" moment, just the same way I don't know that I've had my "I'm an adult" or "I'm a man" moments.
Though those moments, as significant and monumental as they seem in preface, are almost never as amazing as they are amortized throughout the course of one's life, as they have been for me.
As I hope they always are.