March 15th 2010 was a hopeful day, when I left my parent’s house in Germany and drove to the airport. “Out of all cities in America, why New York?” my father had asked me a few weeks prior. “I’d be way more comfortable with you going to Chicago or Los Angeles, where I know people you can stay with!”
Of course it was never about being comfortable. Not here, not anywhere. It was all about an adventure and pushing me past my self-imposed boundaries. After spending too much time in a routine-like environment such as Germany, I simply had to get out. I knew it wouldn’t just be a trip lasting a few weeks. I wanted to spend at least six months abroad.
But then six months rolled by and I still liked it. I finally got my first full-time (office job). In 2011 I celebrated my first, hard-earned anniversary in a city that was never meant to be my home but a symbol for my passion and dreams.
Five years ago I stepped off the plane in Newark. I took a cab with another New Yorker into Manhattan. He had opened up his own company 10 years ago and never looked back. It had to do with billboards. The nights he spent in agony before stepping ahead and opening it up – I will never forget his story. This nice fellow and I had a great talk. At the end of the cab ride he paid for my fare, too. It was a warm welcome to the City. Then, on my way to my hotel in Queens, the cab driver pointed out many things about New York to me. Things I have come to understand over the course of time. The air was warm and fresh. First week of spring and I happened to be here. We went on having one of the hottest summers and one of the coldest, snowiest winter in decades. But still – my first year in New York remains the liveliest in my memories.
Why DID I choose New York? Because this is the only city I felt I could grow. To simply be. Be myself. And have an adventure without the usual stereotypes surrounding small-minded people of other cities.
I like to believe that had I not loved it here, I would have simply moved on. Out west. To L.A. Or San Francisco or Seattle. But the truth is, deep down there I really wanted to like it. And the Big Apple was welcoming. More welcoming than I could have ever imagined. I had an apartment within two days of landing. One of my old college friends from Germany had moved to Weehawken in New Jersey just a week earlier, so we spent a lot of time together in the first 1 ½ years. I got to see the interior of the New York Times only one month after arriving. Three years later I ended up working there for a few weeks.
So many tears, so many smiles. I can tell you of numerous bad times but what remains in my head are the overwhelming amount of good times. The times I’ve learned some valuable lessons and the times I will cherish infinitely.
I never planned on staying for five years. Who really does? I thought I’d move on after a year or two. But the thing about New York is that you can be here even for ten years and feel like you just got here two months ago. There is so much left unexplored. So many things I have yet to accomplish. Time has flown by and sometimes that has been frustrating. But at other times it has been healing. And healing is all it takes.
There have been days when I thought New York can’t go very deep and is shallow. And then I encounter people who turn my world upside down or who show me how to be closer to my own needs and soul.
Yes, finding friends here has been among the hardest than anywhere else I’ve lived. People here tend to be very… special. Not overly interested in each other’s lives as they are in other parts of the country. But still, everyone has the urge to stick together and do some great things together, even if it’s as simple as visiting some art or going to a party.
New York is a city of extremes. It always has and hopefully always will be. That’s probably one of the main reasons people are attracted to it, even though they don’t realize it at first. The entire ups and downs are worth outliving because you can go to any other place after this and feel like you “got this”.
It’s also a fast-paced city of change. Neighborhoods, people, attitudes… Sometimes I don’t recognize myself in the 22-year-old girl anymore, who came here for very different dreams. But this city has awakened new passions, new dreams. Those of which I am very thankful for.
Today I feel pure happiness radiating through me. Five years! What an accomplishment! The joy of still being here and standing my
wo-man. After such a long time in a city so challenging. Have I become addicted to it?
I feel this city resonating deep, deep within me at times. I feel it has been worth it, even if only for the experience of doing something on my very own. The people I’ve met, the desires awakened – it would have never happened anywhere else. New York is a very special place to be in if you like it here.
So today I will go celebrate. And explore some old and new grounds.
Happy Five Year Anniversary to myself!
There is so much left to explore.