I’m going to start this post with a little disclaimer: I’m still not recovered from New York City. It’s honestly going to take me a while to fully comprehend that I was there, that I got to experience all of it, and that something about life is just different since returning. I’m writing this blog to try to inch just a little bit closer to understanding how much it impacted me. I was going to type up a big day-by-day report of everything we did, but in all honesty, that would bore me to write and bore you even more to read. I also want to keep some of those experiences between my mom and I because, at the end of the day, this was the trip of a lifetime that I had the privilege of sharing with her, and I think I owe it to us to keep some of those memories between her and I. Please, just bear with me, something good has to come out of all of these words I’m typing, right? Okay, here goes . . .
I cried when I first saw New York City from the airplane window. Granted, I didn’t see the skyline because I was on the wrong side of the plane, but even the suburbs made me cry. The love I had for a place I had never even been was so strong in that moment, but it never could have prepared me for how much deeper I would fall in love over the five days I was there.
My fascination with New York began in high school, and I do have to admit that it only grew stronger when Taylor Swift moved there and started talking it up all the time (what else is new, right?) When my mom and I decided to travel there for spring break this year, I realized that I had spent three years loving the city from a distance. I listened to stories of others that had been there before, I researched all of the adventures I was so ready to embark on, and I just imagined that it would be this perfect place, full of endless possibilities. I never actually knew what the atmosphere was like. I never actually knew how strongly people felt about either their hatred or love for the city. I never actually understood what drew me to that place.
There is something I actually do know, though. New York changed me.
We’ll slow down here, it didn’t change me, but I found a part of me that I didn’t know existed until I was there. It brought out a part of me that cried and cried when I was boarding the plane home because I truly felt like I was leaving a piece of my heart there.
I dreamt of that place for so long, and actually being there was surreal. Everything was new, and wondrous, and buzzing with energy. I felt so alive there. I was so ready to brave the cold, the dirty snow piles, and the 17,000 steps every single day because that city just made me feel invincible (at least until I tweaked my Achilles tendon on the last day, but we can just ignore that). Everyone talks about the magic of New York City, and I’m here to affirm that there is just something about the place that can’t be felt anywhere else.
I felt that magic every time I walked out into the bustle. I felt it when the melting snow dripped in my hair from the skyscrapers above, in the steam that poured out of manhole covers on every corner, and in the faces of the people crossing in front of taxis and busses, always looking like they had somewhere to be. I felt it the first moment that I saw the lights in Times Square, wondering if the sight of those screens was ever someone’s first impression of America. I felt it when I touched the edge of the vast South Tower memorial pool, thinking about what was still there sixteen years ago and how we all feel a certain emptiness because of it. I felt it when I ran my hands across a collection of century-old books at the library, when I first swiped the Metrocard to enter the 50th Street subway station, and when my mom and I fell asleep to the muffled sound of car horns and police sirens from 24 floors in the sky. That magic is there, and I can only say so much to help you understand it. That magic makes you feel like you belong in a place that no one truly does.
I thought I’d feel like the small fish in a big pond, but I didn’t. My mom and I were obviously tourists, the camera around my neck and the map in her hand always gave us away, but I never felt a sense that we didn’t belong. No one stopped and gave us pity laughs; instead they led us to subway stations, helped us get around Central Park, and told us about restaurants and shops that the tourists always overlook. Every time we walked down the street we heard about seven different languages, accents, and snippets of stories from people who were just another tiny dot on the map of such a big place. At one point I started to wonder if there were any people who actually lived in America. There were so many people, and so many nationalities everywhere. You don’t realize the world is so big until you’re thrown into a place like that. I felt so insignificant in the most significant way.
I wish that I could do this wonderful, wonderful city justice with my words, but so many others have tried before me, and I truly don’t think it’s possible. The moments, feelings, and thoughts I experienced in New York are ones that I will try to comprehend until I can go back and experience them again. I’ve never had a place evoke such strong emotions in me, and I can’t help but think how important that makes it to me.
Remember earlier when I said I felt like I left a piece of my heart there? Do you understand what I mean by that? It’s like there are emotions I can only experience in New York City. There’s a Lauren that exists up there that finds wonder in dirty snow, dingy subway stations, and a reliance on coffee to get her through the day. The love I feel for New York is one that makes me euphoric while I’m in the midst, and makes me long for it when I can only experience it from a distance. I’ve realized that, since I’ve been home, I felt that way for the three years I was waiting to be there, and in finally being there, I found what I was missing without knowing I was missing it.
To be brief, coming home has been difficult.
I’ve missed it every single day that I’ve been back. That means that I’ve moped for almost a week, but today I don’t feel sadness in that longing. Today I feel hope that I can hold on to the magic I experienced and bring it back into my life away from the city. I feel hope that I didn’t just find wonder in New York, but that I can keep that mindset in my everyday life. As much as I’ll miss it while I’m gone, New York is now forever a part of me. I can make it harder for myself by never using that wonder unless I’m back in it, or I can find a piece of New York Magic every single day, no matter where I am.
Go find your New York City. Go find the place that you long for. You’ll know it when you do.
There’s truly nothing like it.