Is this my river?

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Moving to New York is exhausting – like running a marathon. It takes so much endurance and the first several months, your sides are aching and you don’t know how to properly hydrate. Little things that were once so easy now seem to take up an entire day. Running errands, doing laundry, grocery shopping – it all takes forever. And you want to make sure that you aren’t having to lug bags upon bags of crap with you on the subway. Those marathon days of running from one end of the city to the other, it’s difficult to ever want to get out again.

But then those moments happen. After a few months, it does wear off a bit. It becomes normal every day life, but it’s in the beginning when you need these moments most. When you run across a patch of clean, new snow in Central Park. When you take the train halfway across the city for the first time without having to stare at a map. When you’re ice skating in Bryant Park as the sun goes down beside the Chrysler Building. When you sit in the middle of Grand Central and stare at the ceiling. Those moments. The ones where you realize where you are and what it means that you got here.

And later, after those moments become a little fewer and farther between, when you no longer think it’s cute that your laundromat blasts Everybody Loves Raymond at top volume, or when a homeless person yells obscenities at you for not giving them change,  it starts getting harder to find those moments. You pick up the New Yorker attitude and automatically loath and detest anyone who gets in your way on the sidewalk. You bitch about how your friends in Brooklyn never come into the city. You yell at cab drivers. You cuss in front of children. It gets to you. The stress and the anxiety. You stop seeing the wonder and start succumbing to the emotional mechanical bull that you are not allowed to get off of.

And then you leave, even if just for a weekend. Or someone asks you, “Do you like New York?” And you stop to think. It’s been a while since you’ve had time to miss something, had time to ask yourself if you’ve enjoyed something more substantial than your morning cup of coffee. Do I like it here? Does this get to be home?

And the answer is a strange one. If you’ve listened to the answers I have given people, even in the past few weeks, of “How do you like the city?” you would be extremely confused. It’s hard to give a solid grounded answer to that question, because it’s difficult to feel solid and grounded – especially in your first few years, I am told. I always wind up starting with an unconvincing “… yeah,” followed by a long explanation the listener is never ready for. And neither am I, for that matter. It usually starts out the same way, with a line not unlike the one I began this with: “It’s exhausting.” As I continue with my anecdotes and horror stories, I usually disintegrate into rambling and end with the sentence that, even though I have said it many times, always comes as a huge realization: “But I love it.”

Because if all I do all day is go around the corner for a cup of coffee, I feel like I’ve done something. Because every month that I send in that check for rent, I feel like I’ve accomplished something huge. Because when you finally let go and let the rapid current of the city take over, you realize you don’t need solid, you don’t need grounded. All you need is enough confidence and clarity to relax and float straight to the top. Because, as cliche is it is, if you can make it here, nothing else really seems that difficult anymore.

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