A born and bred suburban girl with a Manhattanite for a father, I heard stories of a city that were difficult to imagine while living in a five bedroom home with a view of an acre of grass and a vegetable garden. That first trip through the Lincoln tunnel to visit my grandparents, I no longer had to imagine.
I felt it. You know, it! That energy -- I'm still unable to put into words. The city is alive. It's the butterflies you get in your stomach when you see the skyline in the distance and know you are close to home. Home. My home… and my most volatile-fairytale-of-a-romance for the last eleven years.
After college, I had little direction, but knew I had to move to New York City. It held the key to my bright future as an independent career woman with a knack for writing and a sea of handsome, successful men awaiting my arrival.
A simple dream, I thought. We all come to NYC with hopes, dreams and the attitude that we will handle anything the city throws at us. No one warns you just how difficult the challenge is. Between real-estate woes, lack of space, small paychecks, high taxes, the handful of quality men to be shared by a bevy of quality women and the extreme task of keeping up with the Jones' in this fashion-forward city. Maintaining the status-quo lifestyle is virtually impossible.
I knew it would take work, but I was deluded enough to think I would not be knocked out, beat up or looking like a prize fighter from the inside out, as the city had its way with me like an abusive boyfriend. Have I left him? No. And I don't plan on it.
I had the Journalism degree. I was creative. I could write. No problem. After jobs at two NYC newspapers, I still could barely pay rent. Something had to give. Sure, I had choices…I could move outside of Manhattan and commute or I could throw away the dream of writing and do whatever had to be done to stay.
I was given a similar choice a year prior when my roommate and I were studying abroad in London (another expensive city). We were broke students who could afford either food or the nightlife. The choice was obvious…we would live on bread and ketchup. At this current fork in the road, again the choice was clear. Dreams will wait. I sold my soul to the financial industry.
My first apartment was the size of a closet (A NYC closet). Not to worry, with the career jump and pay bump, I would upgrade in no time. Living paycheck to paycheck and rent draining the bulk, thus the cycle began. Over time my paycheck would increase, as would the size of my apartment, and of course, my monthly rent. It's like running up a down escalator barely staying above the ground floor. Savings, what's that?
Now I live in a "spacious" 650sq. ft apartment with my very own walk in closet. Jealous? I thought I'd made it. Until I visited friends in other cities and envied their three bedroom homes with high ceilings, luxurious bathrooms, five, yes five walk in closets and a monthly rent half of mine.
Am I insane -- storing my winter clothes underneath my bed during the summer, keeping old books in the unused oven and being on a first name basis with the owner of the local donation shop? I have helped keep our homeless very fashionable, sometimes even season-current. Dating
Nothing can prepare you for dating in NYC. I came here thinking most men are gentlemen. As old-school as I am, I like a man that will open a door for me and treat me to dinner -- I never required much.
(Potential) Boyfriend #1- As a 22-year-old, I met a man eight years older. We began casually dating, taking it slow. He was a gentleman according to my requirements. A few weeks in, I find out he was married with a baby on the way. A minor detail, the gent forgot to mention.
(Potential) Boyfriend #2- Handsome, successful and gentlemanly. On a very strict diet, hated watching sports and would rather "brunch" (used as a verb) and shop, therefore dressing better than me. Not going to work.
Boyfriend #3- I thought "jackpot"! Handsome, successful, charming, a guy's-guy AND... a pathological liar. Wearing a red shirt, he'd desperately try to convince me it was blue. Took me three years to shake that one. When he told me the bridge of my nose was too wide, I threw in the towel. Maybe he was lying?
Boyfriend #4- This was it, everything I'd been waiting for. We both knew it. He swept me off my feet, courted me as a lady should be courted -- a fairytale. All doubts that my partner wouldn't have it all, disappeared. He was sensitive, romantic, affectionate and yes, handsome, successful and a gentleman.
This was the man for me... until two years later. He was ready to move on... with a 30-year-old virgin (I can't make this stuff up). I suppose I should have been doing my kegels instead of his laundry.
Eventually everyone leaves. Whether my girl friends get married, have babies or just simply are through with NYC, one by one my social circle dwindles. There was safety in numbers. Loneliness creeps in.
It becomes necessary to venture out of my comfort zone, meet new people, try new things. You start making friends for different reasons. The going-out-friends. The have-dinner-but-have-to get-home-to-my-kids friends. The let's-go-for-a-run friends. Yet all fall short of providing the comfort of the originals.
Is contentment a bad word?
Truth is, the fast pace and abundant opportunity of the city creates the mindset that there is always something better around the corner. Whether it's a better job, a better apartment, a prettier girl, or a more successful guy, we have created an environment for ourselves where we crave change and have equated contentment with missing out. I long to be content and still for a moment. Or do I?
Perhaps I am a masochist. I will always go back and take another punch from the greatest city in the world.
When dreams are lost, jobs fail, rent is high, boyfriends lie, and friends leave, I still have one constant. The one that never lets me go or leaves me alone. I still have New York.
If all else fails, why would I give up the one love that has always been there for me through thick and thin? The city is still as alive as it was when I was a little girl. Alive with hope. That hope is what keeps me here. We will be just fine -- Me and New York.
Ol' blue eyes said it best, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." Yes, It is up to you, New York. It always has been.
Rachel Jablow | Elite.