What Reality Is: Coming Back to the City

I’ve been back in New York for one week. A week can be a long or a short time, depending on how much occurs in that time frame. To me, it’s flown by compared to the three weeks I had before this. And it has also rather felt like a vacation than returning back to “home” or whatever you want to call a place you have lived in for the past three years.

A week is certainly long enough to go through a variety of stages: The honeymoon phase, during which everyone and everything around you seems absurdly sweet but you respect the differences and have enough distance to clearly see how unimportant it can all be in the grand scheme of things. The angry phase, during which arrogant salespeople might piss you off or the people on the streets who hatefully glare after you because you feel absolutely great and they absolutely do not. And then the acceptance phase, during which New York sorta turns into what it was before your departure: One of the biggest opportunities in the world, not without the necessary pitfalls that reveal themselves to you.

So that’s basically how long (or short) a week can be. Since I am currently not working full-time, I’ve had more time than ever to become acquainted with countless sides of the Big Apple once again. Just like in the summer of 2010, I’ve found that there are tons and tons of stuff to do that are simply for free.
Walking the Manhattan Bridge and crossing the Hudson River, for example. Or taking in the shouting vendors in Chinatown on a Friday morning. Not to forget discovering Brooklyn all over again. Greenpoint can be so peaceful on an average noon compared to the thriving masses of a Midtown weekday. Almost forgotten were the notorious side sweepers and how people have to park in second row on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in my neighborhood.

Somewhere in between Brooklyn and Manhattan
Somewhere in between Brooklyn and Manhattan

It’s the small things that make a city out (and perhaps life in general). Running down the freshly renovated boardwalk of Coney Island at the end of April – with no one really standing in your way and no one bothering you like they would two months later during yet another crazy hot summer. I might even get the chance to check out the wild Bronx Zoo on a free Wednesday, come time, future and opportunity.

The people who live here, they just fascinate me. All the hard struggles they’ve had to go through and still burden themselves with every day. The resiliency of a single person to all of the stressors of daily life – I’ve come to see this all over again in the city of cities. Why become a cab driver in a foreign country when you have a Ph.D. in your homeland? Why wait tables here when you’ve earned your Master’s degree in Switzerland and want to make it in film? Is life in New York really worth it – giving up the “good” life you had before to move to a city that won’t appreciate you or rather your skill set the way it should?

After three weeks of being away, I’ve come to realize a couple of things. I’ve realized that, in this humongously wide world, one person can have more than one home. The home where you grew up at, where your family still resides, where your friends still might be, and where food tastes the way you are used to. And then the home you’ve chosen to be, the home where life happens, where excitement is evoked and where another friend circle has been built.

What is reality? Could it be you realizing that you have better friends abroad than where you are right now? Ouch! Cold, shallow America, with its people who like to talk to you but never call you back! Or perhaps realizing that the rent is 3 times as much as anywhere else and that, after three years, you still don’t get what you pay for? Maybe.
Realizing that with the lingering hope of a better home somewhere else, each and every place visited becomes boring after a short time.

Like my Australian roommate pointed out: Life is pretty unexciting anywhere outside of the States. I’m taking it a step further: Life is unexciting anywhere outside if New York! The curse of the city is not its rudeness, or inequality, or Karma. The curse of the city is that you cannot live a satisfying life outside of it. The feeling of becoming bored constantly. It can kill you. Or annoy you. Or make you realize that you are addicted to the rush, dirt, hustle and bustle, and the wonderful miracles that happen each and every day. So for all of the sad thoughts I’ve sometimes had on life in an 8-million-citizen madhouse, I’ve also come to think about all of the great things that have happened. Being the main shooter at a UFC event on the Thursday I came back, for example. Or being able to see the skyline almost every day, if I wanted to. Not to forget the interaction with real New Yorkers and their hard-bred opinions. The opportunities in a city so big – they are simply endless.

This is reality. This is currently life.

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2 thoughts on “What Reality Is: Coming Back to the City

  1. I don’t think life is unexciting outside of the States, but then I’d never gotten to travel outside of the States before living here. I do tend to get bored living in any one place too long so it’s nice to have the opportunity to travel.

    • PS I do agree on a person having more than one home. I still call Ohio “home” as far as it’s where I grew up and where most of my family still lives, but Florida got to be my chosen home since it was where I had moved and had intended to stay, and now Germany is home for the time being.

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