This city has siren-called me for years. First, it awoke in me a primal desire to just be here. I ached for it with a youthful passion, so much that my bones reverberated with the desire to exist in this space. For years, I longed. While living in New York, my soul sang the sweetest tune it’s known; I gloried in my city. I thrived. I blossomed and bloomed and whatever other cheesy metaphor you have for doing well in a place.
For a year, at least.
For a year, I truly lived in New York. I went to school and my part-time job and I did my laundry at the laundromat and I went out to dinners with friends; I stood in line (three times) for Black Tap burgers, I went on a lobster cruise in the harbor, I went to church and parties and just really inhabited the city.
Things went downhill during the second year, to the point where I woke up one day and realized I was working hard just to continue working. I was devoting countless hours to my barista job, coming home and spending more hours writing and submitting articles, just to scrape by. At the end of the month, I barely made rent, and then I started all over again.
I wasn’t living in New York. I was just taking up space, working just to wake up and do it again, striving just to keep on striving.
The hardest decision in the world was the one to leave. How could I give up this place that has meant so much to me? New York is more than a city for me, more than a home. It’s a friend.
During some of my darkest hours, when the depression has swung and struck and hammered and battered at my soul, it’s been New York that saved me. I would leave my apartment, ride the subway and get off at a park or Fifth Avenue or the waterfront and just breathe it in — the pure life of the city.
It rejuvenated me, reminded me I wanted to be.
Even before moving here, New York was saving me. I was hospitalized as a sophomore in college for being exceedingly suicidal, and what was it that got me out of the pit? The knowledge that if I died, I wouldn’t make it to New York on a class trip the next month.
I have loved this city with a burning love for a long time. And as much as people say New York is hard, that it chews you up and spits you out, I have felt like it loved me back.
Oh, it loved me with a tough love. It didn’t coddle me, and when I found myself in tough straits, it didn’t give me a job. In fact, it kicked me out.
But it loved me regardless.
There was the day I walked down the street sobbing, on the phone with my father trying to figure out how I would survive the hours, and a strange man stopped and said, “Hey, are you OK?”
That was New York offering love.
Or the way the Chrysler Building lights up just for me, all swirly and golden and piercing straight to my heart with its beauty.
The contrast between sky-reaching buildings and the corner stores — the buildings that don’t know me from Adam, the bodega owners who smile and know my order and call me “sweetie.”
They are the life of the city. It’s the little things. It’s funny, that such an impossibly big city is given life through the little things, but so it is.
I adore this city.
But I have to leave it. I have to, and I want to.
The life I’ve lived this past year is no life at all. I’m grateful I have the option to go somewhere else, to reset. It’s a combination of deteriorating mental health and the fierce competition in the media industry that led to me working a barista job and barely scraping by.
And so I know — if I can start over somewhere else, somewhere a little easier, I can come back stronger. I know this because I have to; I know this because it’s the only reason I can leave — this knowledge that I’ll come back.
To New York: you are my love, my friend, my home. It’s been hard, but we’ve made it work. Until we couldn’t.
Oh, man. I’m sitting here sobbing like the world has ended. I’m driving away tomorrow, driving to a new life. And I know I’m going to pull over so many times and cry again. My heart is breaking. I don’t want to leave the city, the friends, the life I made.
But really, I left it a year ago, when I first took a six-day-a-week pizza-slinging job. It’s just taken me this long to realize it.
Sometimes you need to take a step or two back in order to come back stronger. I’m not ashamed of the fact that I’m doing this. I’m just sad that I have to.