It’s important to remind oneself of certain milestones. To stop and be still for a moment, cherishing everything that has been accomplished up until this moment.
Today marks the day I entered New York six years ago. On March 15th of 2010, I decided to put my previous life and expectations on hold and to enter a new dream. In hindsight it’s obvious that what I was seeking was a new adventure. A new life with a new story, somewhere far away from home, where I could redefine myself and everything I had known up until that point. But at the time it was not so clear to me. Of course I had hoped to work for a couple of years and to see how it is to be a grown adult. But I was also set on returning back to Germany and finishing up a graduate degree and to finally make a career. Taking off 6 months to a year seemed quite appealing after the stressful, non-stop studies I had just completed. Plus I had given up my student life in Heidelberg and was ready to see a bigger city than what I had known before. Yes, in hindsight it is now very understandable why I chose New York and how I came to be here for much longer than expected.
So after booking a flight a month in advance and waiting for this new life to start, I was here. In New York. I couldn’t have wished for a better welcome. I had a New Yorker pay for my taxi from Newark to the city. He wished me well when exiting in Manhattan, hoping that my dreams would come true to the same extent his did (he ended up becoming a successful billboard agent with his own company). After two short days I had nailed my first apartment share in Brooklyn, together with one of the most intense and educating roommate situations I would have up until today.
Overall, looking back on everything now, the first year was a constant up and down. It seemed to consist of only those two extremes and not much middle ground for the in-between feelings, it appears. I was either amazingly happy on the high that New York gives to its newcomers. Or I was desperately sad, especially when considering my finances, my lack of friends, and the overwhelming distance from my home country. I remember the bright summer days, when skipping down Brooklyn streets, being invited to BBQs, and running around Prospect Park. I also remember the coldest winter I’ve ever experienced, the amount of snow that was dumped onto us, and crying of homesickness in the subway on my way home from work. For a while I thought I’d never be able to stabilize in a city this extreme. I couldn’t fathom how people were able to live here for a while and have a balanced life, unless they grew up here or had some sort of core support. Then one year passed, and I didn’t want to leave. There was still so much left to explore and so many things to see. I felt young and curious and this city was ready to give me what I had needed all along. My hunger for exploring new things has perhaps never stopped since. Neither has my love for New York. Because once you fall in love with this melting pot, it’s hard to fall out again.
I am forever grateful that this city did not destroy me right away. Not after a couple of months or a couple of years. I am thankful for this city to keep me for more than half a decade. But after all – we are the makers of our own destiny and the fulfillers of our own happiness. I just didn’t see it until now. The memories this city has given to me will hardly be topped by any other city or even country. I guess you do grow up in your 20ies after all and what better spot to be in than the Big Apple. That multi-faceted experience will remain with me forever, no matter what is to come.
But over the years my impression of it has changed drastically. What I will always remember is the people. The beautiful ones. The nasty ones. The poor ones. The rich ones. The lost ones. The people who only came for a couple of months and whom I’m still in touch with. Or the people who were here for longer than me and who decided to start a new life somewhere else.
I never thought it would be possible to feel so strongly so many different things at once when thinking about this one place called New York.
It’s weird how every year feels different here. Looking back onto the other 5 milestones I’ve celebrated, I have to say that number 6 feels extra special. Not only because my future is wide open (as usual). But also because I’ve gotten to re-connect with amazing people and made new friends over the past 12 months. No matter what year it is, I always have a new story to tell or a new adventure to nibble on. Be it job-related, or travel-related, or simply relationship-related. Sometimes I wonder what type of person I would have become if I had never moved here. Or if I had moved back after 6 months or the first year. Would I have still grown to be me now? Or would I have done an entirely different path, with more stability but also more unhappiness? Would I have ever been able to appreciate what I had, had it not been for the intense struggle I’ve undergone throughout the past six years? Yes, sometimes I wonder indeed what else there is in store and how it affects me as a learning soul.
Whatever is still out there, one thing is for sure – New York will never be boring. It will never stand still.