Tuesday, April 24, 2012

on why i'm here.

via here.
a coworker from a different office was recently in town, and as we wandered home one night she asked me,
"are you glad you live in new york? is this what you always wanted?"
it's not a strange question, really. and by that i mean, it's not a strange question to ask someone who lives in new york. many, many people come to new york because they innately feel as if they must. it's not the first time i've been asked it, it certainly won't be the last. but this question is unique to new york. when i lived in philadelphia and then nashville, no one ever asked me that. no one ever asked me if i was realizing my dreams by just living in that city.
and the answer? well for me, it is no. this is not what i've always wanted. i never dreamed about living in new york. i never wanted it. i never needed it.
that's not to say i don't like it, or appreciate it, or think it's wonderful. but the love affair i began with new york as a little girl, when i would come here for the holidays and to visit family throughout the year, was really just the spark for my love affair with cities. without a doubt, my early visits to nyc planted that seed. from a young age, i didn't dream about living in nyc, i dreamt about living in a city. when i began to look at colleges, all i really cared about was going to school in a city. any city. when all was said and done, the best place for me to study was in philadelphia. quite rightly, philadelphia holds that place in my heart for being the first place where my childhood dream of living in a city was realized. i still have a vivid memory of waking up in my dorm early on, hopping out of bed and walking to the gym down the street. there i was on 34th street thinking,
"you live here! this is your home!"
it's really those moments that have made me love the cities i have lived in, along with cultivating a unique relationship with each one.
for me, and for new york, those moments are particularly centered on my family history in the city. my first job in the city was across the street from ground zero, where the world trade center once stood, and where my grandfather worked for most of his career. last summer, i was able to join my dad in going into brooklyn to visit the house my grandma grew up in. and i recently found the address of one of my great-grandfather's first places of work. he went on to become a dressmaker on the lower east side, and one of his first jobs in the city was for a company called "dancetime frocks". the address for the company is in brooklyn and i got it from a registration card he filled out to keep his immigrant status updated. i'm hoping this summer to visit that place, too.
so no, living in nyc was not a dream a mine, and there is no fulfillment in simply just being here. philadelphia made that happen a long time ago. but the unique knowledge of knowing that many others in my family have walked these streets and worked hard in this city is something altogether different than any other place i have lived. it's something i really cherish, and didn't realize i would, until i got to call nyc home.

9 comments:

  1. I think there's something to be said about living or growing up in a place where your family worked so many hard years in. Maybe even grew up in. New York happens to be that place. My family grew up here, worked here and still lives here (some of them, anyway). There's so much history and I so appreciate that. Maybe it's the reason I'm so attached to NY. And am very quick to defend it.

    I liked your honesty here...

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  2. I looooove this...so beautifully said. I can relate. I grew up in the 'burbs and suddenly realized how much I loved city life when I spent 6 weeks in Berlin during college. I guess I'm still striving to live the city life dream, as I seem to only ever be able to afford places on the rim. This is inspirational though!

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    1. haha, the "places on the rim" line gave me a good laugh, because I'm in the same position. I did live right smack in the Back Bay for 2 years of my life, but I've never been more poor. I also, never had so much fun. SIGH.

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  3. I love this! You are so right - a lot of times we don't really choose where we live, we just get there somehow. I have also developed a love for cities, and honestly sometimes I wish Raleigh was a little bigger (it's way small in comparison to NYC, Philly, Boston, etc.). But whether or not I chose it, I've also come to call it home.

    That is too awesome about all your family history in the city! I always wish I knew more about my ancestors. Not sure when they came to America, but I think it was a lot longer ago than your family. I'll have to investigate that.

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  4. I get asked the same thing about London. Lots of people ask me why I came here and, you know, I still can't answer that question. For me, it was just a city where I could perhaps start a career, earn some money and see the world. I didn't have any expectations (still don't) but somewhere along the line it became home. I still have moments on my way home in the evening when my bus passes Buckingham Palace or the Dorchester Hotel, when I have to pinch myself and say, wow, you live here!

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    1. i loved reading your take on living in london and how you, also, pinch yourself - thanks for sharing meghan!

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  5. I love that you know your family history - even where they worked and what they did in the city! I can imagine that it's a pretty awesome feeling knowing you're working hard in the same city that other members of your family did. I'm not surprised that you get asked if you always wanted to live in New York City. I've wondered the same thing so I'm glad you posted this! Since I was a little girl I always dreamed of living in a big city when I grew up, but I've come to terms with the fact that that's not going to happen! I'm thankful for where we do live for this stage of our lives though.

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    1. that just means you should come here and visit ;) and from the pictures you posted of last weekend (and the time you get to go to your pool), you've got a pretty sweet deal down there.

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  6. Oh, Colleen, I love this post.

    I feel like I say that about so many of your posts, but it's just the gosh honest TRUTH!!

    I know one thing: I sure am glad you live there, so I can visit you! And I'm glad you appreciate it too. Also, how cool that your family has so much history there. Love that-- it gave me goosebumps.

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