Yesterday I celebrated my 4-year-anniversary in New York. The day my shaky Delta plane landed at the deserted Newark airport. On March 15th, 2010– when I was catapulted from my German student life into a hectic New York City – via cab to Manhattan and then Queens, where I was to spend my first 5 days here.
Do four years ever pass by in a whim? I doubt it. The past four years have been a constant of ups and downs. Every year has been different, often spiked by unusual challenges to take on and new things to learn. People have stepped in and out of my life – sometimes faster than I could blink. Every year here has been anything other than boring and that’s what I have always loved about living in New York.
I have also recently thought about how I experience my time here and have concluded that I am due for an upgrade. Lately I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected to my dreams and passions (one of them being writing, of course) and haven’t seemed to be able to pull myself out of this state of mind. My photography work has been a bit slow come 2014 and there are certainly areas I want to intensify and improve over the course of the next few months.
I’ve also haven’t really lived in the moment lately. Ever since coming here I’ve been pretty good about living in the present and taking one step at a time. This past year has been quite chaotic, thanks to unemployment and a change of jobs (perhaps even careers). It’s been hard for me to appreciate the current moment at times and I find that attitude has taken away from the city New York has always been to me. Of course I will always have the love-hate relationship to the Big Apple, no changes here. But my heart has been split into two at times by re-considering if my dream lies elsewhere, in a different city or even a different country. Change is inevitable and I will have to refocus all of my energy on making the best out of my stay here – as I have always tried to do.
With all of these emotions and perhaps tense feelings to back me up, I have to admit that my 4-year-anniversary was not really as imagined. Not in a bad way, but I had certainly planned for else. My plan was to do something typical New Yorkish, such as walking one of the bridges, grabbing a banana pudding at the Magnolia Bakery or taking the Staten Island ferry past the Statue of Liberty.
Well, I ended up going for a Zumba class in the morning, then taking care of my sick boyfriend, and finally going for dinner to a friend’s house in Crown Heights, which ended in a “Great Gasby” videothon and lots of exhaustion from my side. All while receiving late messages from friends who wanted to hang out all of a sudden. A typical, chaotic New York night therefore. Being here for four years just shows that some things will never change.
But I am still up to be surprised once in a while. So I ignored that March 15th hadn’t gone as planned. What I did instead was put on a thick winter coat and mittens today and walk the Williamsburg Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan (as I had intended to do yesterday). Then a quick stroll through the Lower East Side, parts of Chinatown, and SoHo, where I grabbed a bite of burrito and elote at the Café Habana. All these parts of Manhattan have and always will have meaning to me so it was great to experience them all at once on my (not) actual anniversary. Unfortunately the weather was not great – rather cold – as it had been this entire year, to be honest. Another reason as to why it didn’t feel like the typical March 15th day – it had been warmer in the previous years. But this time winter did not go away yet. I am still hoping!
So yesterday I took the G-train off to Williamsburg, all along trying to get the feeling back I once had so long ago, when I first got here. The one of victory, and joy and happiness overcoming me altogether. The feeling of being in this wide, endless city with unlimited possibilities and an insane life ahead. I sat there and sat there and it just wouldn’t hit me how lucky I was, how lucky I still am to be in this city, after 4 years. When others have long given up or moved on to a different life. Or simply moved back home to Europe because making it here can be really hard – even when you don’t have the hurdle of obtaining a foreign visa and whatnot. Then I sat inside a bus, ready to drop from exhaustion. The feeling of being someone in a special place still did not come back to me. Instead, I listened to an old homeless Dominican guy, who yelled loudly throughout the entire bus, and observed how two Puerto Rican women just rolled their eyes and continued talking about who-knew-what. All along while listening to these two white kids who sat behind me and where debating whether or not it would be safe to get off a stop earlier…. And then I started feeling that this had been my life for so long – all these different cultures, the clashes, the mingle, the culture shocks even. For the past 4 years, I had dealt with it all and now it had become normality. Sadly or not, I cannot tell. I just wish sometimes that I would be able to look outside the box again and see how special it can all feel. In a city so big, in a city so lonely, but still never alone.
And that was pretty much how I ended up celebrating my anniversary of being in New York since 2010. People occasionally point out that I am the only person they know who celebrates it. I find it confusing how others have the need to try to drag my emotions on New York through mud, just because they don’t see their arrival to this city as something special or life-changing. The Big Apple has turned my world upside down, and it continues to do so. Whether or not I will be here next year – I will always cherish the day I decided to pack my bags and do something out of the ordinary. And I hope others will find a reason to do so, too!