Only The Strong Survive: Why I Have A Never-Ending Love For NYC

by Barrett Pall

I missed you so much. I talked about you every day. I dreamt of you and yearned for you. I would stalk you online and hear stories from my friends about how great you were doing. I romanticized you and talked you up. Nothing could compare to you.

I truly thought we were meant to be together, and it seemed like we would find our way back to each other. Ultimately, we did, and I fell hard for you again. I found myself completely enamored with you. Obsessed.

Yes, it was I who left you. I left you for your sunny, hippie-dippy, artsy-fartsy, younger sister. She was blonde, tan and had a healthy lifestyle. She was so alluring.

You and I met before I was even 10, and it was love at first sight. I loved you nearly my whole life.

Sure, I had known about your sexy sister for some time, but I wasn't formally introduced to her until I was 18 and getting ready to start my adult life.

She was tempting, seductive and gorgeous. She showed me a great time with her beaches, hikes and outdoor malls. Everything we did was outside, and we both know how much I love the outdoors.

Seductive or not, she just couldn't pull me in enough, and you ended up being my first love. So, we finally got together in a serious way when I was 18.

I moved in with you and went through college with you. I struggled, worked three jobs at some points and rarely went home or saw my friends. We were swept up in each other. We had nights out with rock stars, went to private parties with movie stars and created memories that would last a lifetime.

We were that couple — the one that did everything together. If my friends or family wanted to see me, they had to come to us. Our love was young, pure and uninhibited.

Sure, we did have that break when I was 19. It was just for six months when I went to France, but it was understood that I would only go to learn, experience and travel. We both knew it was just a fling. I promised you I wouldn't fall in love there. I remained true to us and came back.

But, four years together was a lot. Break or no break, I hadn't known anything else. I was 22 and knew I had to experience something else if we would ever properly settle down. Leaving you was the hardest decision of my life.

I remember going back and forth in my head, in my journal and talking to friends.

You were the greatest thing in the world to me. I still don't know where I found the courage to leave you, but I did.

I did something my friends gossiped about: I left you for your seductive sibling. I went west and started a new life with her. It was rough in the beginning; I did things I thought I would never do. I met people because of her who I wish I never met.

I talked about you the whole time; how great you were, how fun you were, how romantic you were. She would get annoyed and argue you were cold and needy, and how you drained me of all my money. She was right, and I couldn't deny my life and lifestyle had improved since leaving you.

But, that couldn't justify not loving you.

Yes, you could be cold and, sometimes, downright freezing. However, you always made up for it with such perfectly warm and delicious moments.

You were all I could think about.

I couldn't stay away forever, so I came to visit you a few times and it always felt right. You knew what I liked and how I liked it. You gathered together my friends, who became my family, to remind me even more of what I had left behind. You made each visit perfect.

But, even given how great our visits together were, I knew I had to go back to the life I had created. It wasn't perfect, but roots were forming, and for all the bad I was finding, there was a lot of good, too.

I made real friends, found people who showed me how great your sister could be, brought out the best in her and made me think, maybe, I wasn't just settling for her, but falling in love with her in our own special way.

Then, everything came to a head.

Three years of trying to make it work just wasn't enough. Your sister and I knew this was it, and it just couldn't go on like this.

I found myself at a crossroads. Everything I had built up with her felt like it no longer had to be taken into account. I was a free agent, and I decided I had to come home to you. After three years of talking you up, it was time.

And so, I did.

I quit my job, shaved my head and literally came back to you with as little baggage as possible. I came back to you happy and cheery, and you greeted me with warmth and energy. You were so alive and ready.

Everything just felt so right.

Just like old times, we had fun — maybe too much fun. We started to create more memories, and it felt like we picked up almost where we left off.

But, slowly, it become clear things had changed. I came back to you different, and you weren't the way I remembered you.

You got cold quickly; you felt even more demanding than I remembered, and while I came back with more money than I had when we first met, I still felt like it wasn't enough to be with you.

We butted heads, got angry with one another and even considered ending it once again. We knew we couldn't go back to the way we were when I was 18, 19, 20, 21 or even 22.

I realized if I was going to make this work, I would have to change — so I did. I gave in to your bitter coldness. I gave in to your expensive lifestyle. I gave in to the fact that if I wanted to be with you, I would have to grow up.

And, here we are, a little shy of our two-year anniversary, better than ever.

New York, I fall under every cliché when it comes to you. I truly love you; I heart NY. You're so deeply ingrained in my soul and heart, and while your sister, LA, the City of Angels, may be looked at as easy, she's just not the one who holds my heart.

Yes, coming back to you was a wake-up call and challenging, but that's just the thing: It was everything I needed to get my life together.

People often complain you are not worth the struggle, or you are too much of everything: cold, expensive, harsh, fast-paced. But, the thing is, that's what I love about you.

You forced me to be a better version of myself; you forced me to get over the little things and look at the bigger picture. You forced me to grow up in a way LA never would have made me. You forced me to want more, dream bigger and hustle every day for it.

Yes, your rent is high, and yes, your cold weather sucks, but all these things that make New York almost unbearable at times also add to the magic.

New York truly separates the weak from the strong. If you don't work here, you can't afford to live here. The change in seasons from hot to cold and cold to hot reminds us that time is, in fact, progressing, and we have to, too.

While the cold may feel never-ending, eventually it does end, and we embrace the sun in ways Angelenos eventually become too jaded to.

I know not everyone will agree with our love, and I am okay with that. To be completely honest, I just had a week-long fling with your sister, LA, and she was better than I remembered her.

I don't know how long this round of love will last, but I do know you have changed my life many times and only for the better, so for that, my love for you will be infinite and endless.

Since coming back to you, I can honestly say I wake up every morning excited for what opportunities will present themselves, who we will meet and what we may stumble upon.

New York, I've said it once and I'll say it again: I LOVE YOU!

Citations: Artisan & King (Barrett Pall)