Dear New York City,
I am absolutely amazed by you. In recent weeks I have had these incredible moments of walking through your streets alone. One night I strolled down Central Park West from 85th to 65th. On one side of the street I walked awestruck by the grandeur and character of the old buildings, while leafy green trees tirelessly loomed over the park walls on the opposite side. Another night, I sat and watched the fountains at Lincoln Center spout water as choreography. There was a Sunday afternoon when I walked through the Highline park and then alongside the Hudson in Chelsea, looking over to Jersey. I followed the path as far uptown as I could before coming over to eighth avenue, following it up to Columbus Circle. I sat on the edge of Central Park and watched the people. Couples making out. Children running and scaring the pigeons away. Vendors hustling tourists. A homeless man huddled in a corner against the statue.
You are a city of extremes. Tiny living spaces accompanied by outrageous rents. The wealthy and the poor sit side by side on the train. The streets are dirty and gritty plagued by potholes and uneven construction, and yet people continue to call you home; flock to you as if you are the center of the universe.
I once heard someone say that New York City is full of "overachieving out-of-towners." It's true. It's what I am; but only recently have I felt that I can call myself a New Yorker, even as the overachieving out-of-towners make up a large percentage of the population. I've been in and around this town for a solid seven years now. I know Harlem as well as I know my neighborhood in Baltimore. Somehow, I feel a part of you. Or maybe you are a part of me?
I credit you with helping me grow into the woman I am. It is on your city streets that I came of age, learned what it meant to take care of myself, to be independent. That was then, in the undergraduate bubble. Someone was there to catch me when I fell. But now, I feel like I am coming of age for a second time, without the bubble. In its place is an extensive and ever-growing network of people and places specific to you that lift me up, even when I feel life is too hard.
And I'm falling in love all over again, even when I talk to others who feel defeated, let down, beat down. I'm still so bright-eyed and bushy tailed. I still think you're the best place to be right now, for what I am doing in my life. I think continuing to be a part of you is one of the greatest tests of faith in my life. I believe in the possibility you represent.
(Part I and Part II)