I love New York. Some of my earliest memories are set in the Greek and Roman section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, running past noseless busts on my way to the food court. New York is full of opportunities, but they will never be handed to you. New York requires that you take what you want, not wait for it to be freely given. I have now lived in this city for fourteen years and some of my friends who have been with me for much of that time are starting to leave. Each person who says that it’s too hard, too expensive, too exhausting to live in NYC, makes it that much harder to argue that it’s all worthwhile. Like most things I think it’s all about the spin. This is the same story written twice, but with different spin.
I woke up late, sweaty and exhausted. My window air conditioning unit kept my bedroom at a barely tolerable temperature. Wrestling with elastic I managed to clothe myself sufficiently for spin class. I packed a change of clothes and other essentials and rushed out the door. The heat hit me in a wave of sticky air; it felt like I was swimming in muck. I practically ran to the subway station and then waited with growing frustration as the ETA changed from 5 minutes to 6 minutes to 8 minutes to 7 minutes, at which point I stopped watching the screen and tried to become absorbed in my book. The train finally arrived. “This is 4 train running on the 3 line to Atlantic Terminal, then we will be on the 4 line, we will be on the 6 line in Manhattan.” There was muttering among the passengers but no one looked particularly concerned; we all lived in Brooklyn and the weekend changes were generally taken in stride. The train car was at least 20 degrees colder than the station. I had failed to bring a sweater, a rookie mistake, and sat shivering miserably, continuing my attempt to become absorbed in my book. A few stations later a mother boarded with a screaming baby. The screaming seemed to fill the entire space. The world became full of screaming. There was nothing but screaming. The train stopped between stations in the tunnel. “We are delayed because of train traffic ahead of us.” A few passengers risked glancing at the baby. The mother seemed much less concerned than we were and was in fact playing Candy Crush on her phone. “We will be moving shortly.” The train lurched into motion. The baby, momentarily startled, stopped crying. Everyone held their breath. We reached the following station and the mother and child disembarked. Our breaths were released. I got off at Union Square only seven minutes before my class, which was eight blocks away. The Green Market was open and hundreds of people, strolling and browsing vegetables, blocked my path. I ran frantically, weaving between strollers and push carts. I reached the studio just in time. I clipped into my bike and prepared myself for the ride.
My alarm roused me from an unpleasant dream involving traffic jams. The room was cool and dark. I walked into my living room, blinking in the bright sunlight that came through my east facing windows. Once I was dressed for spin class and packed for the day I hurried outside. My block was bright and colorful, with huge sycamores casting shade on the kids playing on the sidewalk. My nearest subway station was only a few blocks away and my line already had the digital displays showing the train’s ETA. The train moved slowly but I ignored the announcements and focused on my book. It was chilly in the train car, a welcome change from the heat and humidity of the station. After a few stations a mother and her screaming baby boarded the train. I exchanged glances with an older woman across from me. I could tell that we both felt annoyed but also amused by the absurd picture of the mother playing Candy Crush while her baby cried. The train stopped between stations. “We will be moving shortly.” The train jolted forward and the baby, momentarily startled, stopped crying. The woman and I both broke into laughter, which we attempted to stifle when the mother looked our way. She got off at the next station. I left the train at Union Square and raced up into the Green Market. The smell of strawberries was almost impossible to ignore but I had seven minutes to run eight blocks. I tried to take in the array of colors and smells as I wove through the crowd. Despite a few near collisions I made it to class, clipped in, and was ready to ride.
Every moment of life in NYC has to be spun, but I tend to think that’s true of any place. It is always possible to find the place you live exhausting and overpriced and lacking in something fundamental. Or your environment can be full of connection and beauty. I choose to be a New Yorker.