I was 8 years old the first time I came to Manhattan. My dad said that when we stepped off the subway into the swarming streets of Times Square, my eyes lit up as I took in the billboards, the food carts and the towering buildings. I think that's when I fell in love with the city for the first time.
Growing up, I kept coming back to New York periodically, mostly to visit family. It never lost its charm. I kept saying I would move there one day, but that day kept getting pushed back for other cities: DC, Boston, LA, back to DC, back to LA.
Then I got a job offer in New York while I was there on vacation. At 25, when I told my parents I was taking the job and moving here, they were only surprised by how long it took me to do so.
I've been in the city a little over two years now, and recently, for the first time since moving here, I've given serious thought to leaving. The allure of packing up is a result of a recent trip home to Southern California, where things seemed much simpler.
I didn't think about my latest heartbreak as much. I had an excess of money. I felt well-rested. I had a lot of much needed time to myself.
I also had time to think about all the things I've been through in New York, and I wondered if I'm better or worse off for them. During my time in the city, I've been kicked out of my apartment by slumlords. I've had my heart broken (badly, twice). I've cried in public because there was nowhere else to cry.
I've said goodbye to some of my closest friends who have moved to warmer, faraway places. I've rung up a nice little tab on my AmEx. I've missed holidays and birthdays with my family. I've felt desolately alone despite being surrounded by millions of people (or perhaps because of it). I've been spit on by a homeless person.
When I reflect on these hardships, California sounds good. It's an easy way out. Actually, that's exactly what California is: easy.
My parents are there, who I worry about leaving all the time as an only child. My best friends from childhood are there. A couple of guys who would actually date me exist there.
There are $3 cocktails and constant sunshine. There are late-night drives down the Pacific Coast Highway, with the music up and the windows down. There are bars where you can actually get a seat.
Groceries are easily bought and transported by a car. People say things like, “Take it easy, bro.” Everything is easy, easy, easy.
When I told my friend who recently moved from New York to Florida that I was considering throwing in the towel and letting every amazing, yet miserable person on this island have it to him- or herself, she said something that made me reconsider.
She told me I couldn't leave because I was made for New York. "I've never met someone more cut out for it," she said.
True or not, it was exactly what I needed to hear. Aside from feeling a certain pride in being referred to as someone made for one of the toughest places in the country, I also realized there are a lot of things that have gone right for me in New York, too.
In the time I've been here, I've gotten two promotions and then landed my dream job. I've gone on great dates with amazing guys. I've met friends that have become my family.
I've moved to Brooklyn and have a place that I'm proud of. I've confidently given tourists directions. I've found a bookshop that feels like home. I've built up an all-black wardrobe.
I've seen the sunrise glittering over the Empire State Building on a guy's roof after leaving a club at 6 in the morning. I've laughed with a homeless man who spit on me because he was really nice about it, and because when it comes down to it, we're both the same: We're both New Yorkers.
I also realize I didn't come to New York because I wanted it to be easy. I came to New York to challenge myself. I came to New York to get my heart broken and to move the f*ck on from it, stronger than before.
I came to New York to look at the sunrise over some of the most iconic buildings in the world with a guy whom I had a fun night with. I came to New York because in this city, you never know what is waiting for you around the next corner.
But ultimately, I stay for myself. I stay because I'm bored after five minutes anywhere else.
I stay because I need a certain element of struggle in my day-to-day life. I stay because I still look up in amazement every day when I get off the subway in Times Square on my way to work and think, "F*ck. New York, I love you.”