It was a light October snow but it was snow nonetheless, and my first snow at that. Although I was only three, and that memory is 20 years old, I still remember my first night in New York City. Granted, it was a different New York back then. The early 1990s in Harlem, were a force to be reckoned with, but it was still a beautiful yet terrifying place for a toddler from the Caribbean.
I remember looking out the window on my way home from the airport and thinking there was graffiti everywhere and the buildings were too tall, the streets too crowded, and the weather too cold. Even though I was young, I remember the excitement of being somewhere new and I always loved new beginnings.
If you're a New Yorker than you'll understand the gratitude I felt towards the city. I can't help but feel I owe everything I am to New York: The drive, the hustle and the hunger for bigger and better things. I've always been too ambitious for my own good, and city life didn't make it any better.
You learn to keep up with the fast pace of New York. If you're lucky enough you'll even go faster, always one step ahead no matter what comes your way. That's what New York did to me. The bright lights will turn you into a monster, if you let it. This is something I was always well aware of so I had to keep myself in check.
Too many parties to go to, too many corners to cut, too many choices, too many temptations–it was hard not to get caught up. But that's where the magic lies: In yourself, your strength, your will and your values. You are tested everyday in this city and you better come prepared because it never gets any easier.
New York toughened me up. It gave me edge and wisdom. The things I took from New York no other place can give me. I am forever indebted to my city and I will always be a proud New Yorker. People go to New York to get lost, to break rules and boundaries, to rebel, to find something or someone or anything.
I came to New York to grow, to live, to love and become someone. I became so many things in New York, the perfect setting for so many firsts and lasts. New York has seen me at my best and at my worst. It holds all my secrets, all my awards and photo albums. Every corner holds a memory, a piece of who I am, who I was, what I did, what I learned.
My mistakes and most embarrassing failures are plastered all over this city. With New York I am leaving the last 20 years, the most pivotal years of my life. I am leaving my heart and the people who have it. It's hard, to leave things and let go, but it's also liberating. That's the thing about this city: You come with nothing, and it gives you so much that when you leave it all, you take with you more than you ever hoped for to begin with.
Sometimes I don't know where I'm going or what ill become, but there's comfort in knowing New York knows me. Living in New York has made me realize that I can survive anywhere. If I ever feel lost I can always come home to regain my identity. I will always be myself here.
I will always have my truths and my memories to visit: the block where I grew up near City College, Harlem Hospital visits and Central Park North by Malcolm X where I've had so many wonderful summer days that turn into romantic winter nights. I will always remember my first cute little apartment, which was just 4 blocks away from my where my mom lived because I couldn't go too far; oh the irony. I will always have Wall Street, where I got my first job out of college. I will always have Baruch College and Bayard Rustin High School, my two alma maters.
I can go anywhere in the world but only New York will have my first job ever: 'Pylones' a tiny gift shop in Grand Central Terminal. Only New York will have my first dates and the LES where I spent so much of my teenage years with my first love. And only New York will have my first love because hopefully he's out of sight and out of mind once I leave here.
Maybe that's why I chose to leave New York after all, I've turned too many stones here, and I've lived too many wonderful moments. I'm too comfortable. I miss that feeling I had at only 3 years old coming to a new city to build a new life. New York will always have my heart. It is the greatest city on earth. I could've been anything I wanted and I'm blessed to have been a product of this city, my city, and my home.
I write this from 30,000 feet up in the sky on a plane to Los Angeles. I am three hours in and it hasn't hit me that this is not another birthday getaway and that I won't be coming back home in a few days. I have no idea what awaits me, what will become of me. I have no clue if I will love it or hate it. Not knowing the answer is terrifying but exciting at the same time because anything can happen.
This is such an exhilarating feeling that I wish all of you could experience it. That adrenaline rush you get when you let yourself fall without knowing who will catch you is one of the best feelings in the world. The beginning of a new life, knowing nothing will ever be the same. I wish for you to pack your bags & go somewhere new.
I wish for you to quit the job you hate & start your own business. I wish for you to never set limits for yourself. Never underestimate your potential. If you want to do something just do it, even if it's just for the thrill, even if you fail, even if you're not ready. Exploit your talents & strengths. Never let anyone tell you how to live.
Never let anyone slow you down. Live your dreams, break new grounds, do it all just to see where it gets you. If not, you'll always be a spectator, a part of an audience, a witness, a fan, a hater of someone who is doing everything you've ever wanted. Don't just read my story, tell your own.
I am about four chardonnays in and two hours until I touch down in my new hometown. Don't judge me, it's my birthday and I've just moved across the country.
Top photo courtesy of Tumblr