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.