5 Things I Will Miss About New York
Updated: Jun 29, 2018
Moving is like a breakup. Sometimes it’s amicable, sometimes it’s toxic and you’re ready to get the hell out of dodge, but more often…it’s complicated.
I moved to NYC in my early 30’s for grad school—to get my MFA in Directing at the New School for Drama—and I was excited and had no idea what I was getting into. I had been to visit multiple times, staying with friends or in cheap-ish hotels (this was mostly pre AirBnB), and I felt comfortable here. I actually added the New School on to the list of places I was applying somewhat at the last minute, because I felt that it was important to be in the city. Every time I visited, I saw something amazing that I felt I couldn’t have seen anywhere else—from the New York Neo-Futurists to Fela on Broadway to a one-woman show about a trip to Poland that was performed in a basement space so rotted I could see down into a sub-basement as I walked across the floor to my seat. I knew I had to be here.
And while it has been an amazing place to live, it’s also been a hard one. That might be an obvious statement. Most people know New York is expensive, logistically difficult (just try getting a package delivered, for instance…) and crowded, but for me, it has also been difficult for my mental health. I am an empath and a highly sensitive person and dealing with the energy of so many people around me, behind me, pressed up against me on the train, etc, has given me a kind of high-functioning agoraphobia I can’t explain. I miss nature, I miss green, and I miss my family, and I miss having the mental energy to create, so I’m leaving.
But that’s not what this post is about. My break-up with New York is complicated, and although we’re parting ways, I hope we can still be friends once we’ve gotten some distance. I want her to know all the amazing things about her that I never ever could have anticipated or experienced truly if I hadn’t lived here.
So now, 5 (of the many) things I love (and will miss) about New York:
1) Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a Roll (Ideally with salt, pepper and avocado, if it’s available.)
You think I’m starting out with the mundane, but for real, these sandwiches are everywhere, and helped me survive grad school. For under 5 dollars, a meal you can eat while walking to the train that can keep you full for much of the day. There are certainly better and worse BEC’s at different trucks and bodegas throughout the city, including some super bougie and overpriced options popping up here and there, but even the worst BEC is going to be decent, reliable, and comforting way to start your day.
2) Street Art
I know, there’s street art everywhere. I feel like ever since Exit from the Gift Shop came out, every hipster on earth (myself included) developed an interest in it.
But in New York, it’s everywhere and the art of, for instance, someone designing for the MTV Movie Awards is next to that of an NYU freshman just getting into stencil art.
It’s democratic, it’s beautiful, it’s crass, it’s beautiful, it’s ugly, and it’s everywhere.
4) The Crowd
I know, I know, I said that the crowds are part of what are driving me away. And they are. Being around so many people constantly is bad for my nervous system. But it’s also been good for my humanity.
On that crowded-ass, awkward ride to work in the morning, the Columbia Med student is pressed up against a Mariachi band member is pressed up against a middle-schooler is pressed up against a yuppie mom with a baby strapped to her (who, hopefully, someone’s let have a seat).
New York is a bastion of income inequality and gentrification and housing crises and slumlords and everything else, but it is also a city that puts the rich and the poor into a train together, or onto a crowded staircase together, and forces them to co-exist in some sense of community and order.
I know, I know. It’s a cliché, I should move on. But seriously. I had just never known what I was missing. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, with whitefish or scallion cream cheese and lox… ugh. Nowhere else can you find a better bagel. Fight me on it.
5) Aggressive Kindness
I probably should have started with this one, as it’s my absolute favorite thing about the city, and one of its most unique qualities.
Living here is hard. Much of the time, when commuting or running errands, I have earphones in in order to block out noise and stimulus that gives me intense anxiety. When commuting, it’s pretty standard practice to basically dissociate and pretend you’re not, for instance, shoved up against a Wall Street bro with too much cologne.
That said, when you really need help—whether it’s for something little or big—New Yorkers will not take no for an answer. In fact, they generally won’t give an opportunity for no or any other answer, they’ll just help.
My first year in New York, I was on the sidewalk, outside my local bodega, crying to my mom about my nightmare Craigslist roommate situation and how hard the city was. A group of tough-looking, physically imposing dudes were coming toward me on their way into the bodega, and I instinctively moved to make room for them to get in. But they weren’t on their way in there—they had gone out of their way to ask if I, a random weepy gentrifier in their neighborhood, was ok. Their kindness and consideration just made me cry harder.
I love Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, but for comparison, I once tripped while out for a run at night in Capitol Hill, and fell, ripped my running pants and was bleeding on the sidewalk. Not one, but 3 Seattleites walked past (and in one case over) me without asking me if I was ok. I was, but, you know…seriously. Human on the sidewalk for god's sake.
Today, about 72 hours before I leave the city, I was on the A, making my way to the L to Brooklyn for a haircut, and I saw an older, Swedish couple with a map looking confused when we sped past the sign for 23rd. When we got to 14th, a gruff man in his 50’s who had been trying to give them directions, barked at me as I took my earphones out: “help them.” I asked him where they needed to go, and he said they just needed to get uptown.
The couple followed me out of the train car and I gestured for them to follow me up the stairs. I directed them across the station to the uptown direction and they looked grateful.
It seems like a small thing, but navigating the subway system can be complicated (even if you live here—as the MTA seems to like to keep you on your toes), and I have never seen someone who looks lost in this city have to wait more than a minute or so before one or more heavily-accented New Yorkers insist on helping them find their way.
6) History (I lied. This post has 6. 6 Things I'll Miss About New York)
Being from the west coast, if a building is 100 years old, it’s probably been converted to a museum. Here, it's likely it's gone through multiple renovations and people are still living in it.
Here, not only do the buildings have history, but it’s a history inextricably linked to some of the most important social justice movements of all time.
Occupy Wall Street.
The Harlem Renaissance.
On a daily basis, I’m surrounded by reminders that people can and will make the world a better place, amidst incredible adversity, when they work together for the greater good.
And that’s a hope I think we all need right about now.