In December 2007 my parents arrived in New York City a few days before me to co-sign my new lease. Following my last college exams I hopped on a plane to join them, it was December 14, 2007. New York and I had a long courtship -- I always say it that way -- I spent summers and winters between 2003-2007 making trips to New York City. I interned in the city the summer of 2007 and after that there was no doubt about my decision. One night after having dessert with new friends at Good Enough to Eat, I rode home in a cab with the window down, perfect weather, passing strangers in the street and dark buildings with lights on. How could anyone want anything other than this?
I knew, however, that I was too soft for New York City. I spoke at a near whisper, if I was overcharged at the grocery store I'd just accept it and leave. I never was one for complaining, and that was the appeal of New York. I wanted to live somewhere known for beating its inhabitants to a pulp and therefore carving them into sufficient, resilient, assholes. I thought of it as basic training. I would arrive a quiet, annoying, never-been-kissed, doormat-waif, and become just like "Shaft" in the opening credits, a bad mother-fucker who crosses against the light and just doesn't give a shit.
Yes, that vision exactly.
So, I moved in the winter of 2007. My parents had picked for me a luxury, high-rise one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side that they paid $2,600 a month for. Nervous and protective, they greased my doorman to "watch out for me." Whenever I waited in the lobby for a cab to take me to a 9 pm dinner, he would grill me. "Where ya headed? Who ya seeing? When do you think you'll be home?" I was lucky, but also, completely unrealistic. I thought everyone lived in New York that way.
That first month I spent all my time in Starbucks writing, at Bloomingdale's shopping, or at the ballet. I was working on a book project that would give me free tickets, so I was there two nights a week. I finally got a full-time job that February, and with it, some new friends. I suffered through culture shock the remainder of that first year. For three days one winter I cried endlessly trying to figure out how to conform without really changing my core values. I'd come from a really conservative community with ideals that were not upheld in New York. I didn't fit in. In my third year my little sister moved up and we got a place at 89th and First Avenue together. The fourth and fifth years, we moved apart, and I moved to 68th and First Avenue and lived in a rent-stabilized hole in the wall without a bathroom sink. Two years later, I landed in my current place uptown.
I've had so many good moments in New York these past 10 years. So many awe-filled walks in the summertime, pleasant conversations with tourists, good days. I laugh when I think of all the stupid things I've done in my naïvety: like overpaying for brunch, engaging in conversation with people when I'd rather not, that one Thanksgiving at a friends-of-a-friends when the host rudely asked everyone who brought sides to pitch in $20 for the turkey before they left, that one time I told myself I'd go on a little walk in Central Park and got lost for hours, when I decided stupidly to shutter my first blog (which got 1,600 visitors per day!) because of "writers block." All the men I dated! (In most cases, I was the problem, not them). I still cringe with embarrassment when I remember ordering my first cocktail at a Fashion Week after-party:
Me: What's the free cocktail that everyone is getting?
Bartender: Pink. (A new liquor drink that no one drinks anymore.)
Me: I'll have a Pink please.
Bartender: With what? Like, soda or tonic or something?
Me: You can get it with things?
This is the part where I'm supposed to write: "And then I grew up." But is that true? I suppose in a way I've started saving for retirement, I get a decent amount of telemarketing phone calls, I haven't scheduled preventative botox, but I still call the hordes of kids knock-down-drunk in East Village "the young folk."
Looking back, I never had any idea what I would be in 10 years time. I knew I'd eventually be living in a much cheaper neighborhood (I am). I hoped I'd be working at a magazine (I do). I'd hoped that I'd still be in love with the city, and I am. If there's a honeymoon phase, I'm still in it -- the idiot who finds Times Square to be magical. Even though I have learned how to make a good complaint and challenge someone for being rude, I'm still a few years away from being "Shaft." But I'm looking forward to it.