New York, I love you.
I didn't used to *love* New York. In fact, during the two years I spent living there while I was at F.I.T going to school, I had a lot of "hate" days. It's 2 a.m., you haven't slept in 2 days because of some insane puff sleeve project, and the E train just decides it's not going to come to take you home. Ever. Or you get stuck in a crowd full of people somewhere between the garment district and times square, someone smashes into you while talking on their cell phone which causes your bag to drop and your new fabric swatches to scatter like leaves all over 7th avenue. You watch as muddy shoes step on your silk organza. When you lean down, scrambling to collect them, because they are needed for a project due in 45 minutes, someone smashes into you and spills coffee on your new vintage leather jacket. It's always too hot, too cold, too smelly, too windy, too snowy, or too something. You don't drive when you live in New York, so you're always INSIDE New York. Engulfed by it. A piece of it. Moving among the sea of bodies, becoming a single living breathing thing, that is the city. When I lived there, I lived alone for two years. I had a few friends, but my boyfriend was still in Michigan, my family far away. For all purposes, I was alone most of the time. I battled cockroaches, rats (both in my apartment, yes), missing trains, crazy cab drivers, rude people, emergency rooms, strep throat, laryngitis, anxiety attacks...and more.
When my time had come and I graduated from F.I.T. and my boyfriend proposed, and I weighed out all my options, and decided to move back to Michigan with him. I also had big dreams that I needed to accomplish immediately (launching my own line, having a show...feeling free to do what I wanted with my business) - which was much easier to do in Michigan. I graduated when I was 30 - I had no time to intern for free with other designers for 5 years before finally getting an offer to *maybe* get someones coffee while they abused the new interns. I missed grass and backyards and my family. I wanted a dog. Less people, less of a fight. It all felt too hard. I was exhausted. Plus, I wanted to make everyone else happy. I came back.
While I still don't regret that decision, a giant piece of my heart remains in New York. I'm not sure I even realized to what magnitude. Last month I went back for the first time since I graduated, it had been two years. I revisited my school, walked the halls, peering into the dark classrooms over the lumpy shapes of rows and rows of tattered dress forms and lines of beautiful industrial sewing machines. The lump in my throat grew. I left school with an aching heart, and walked up 7th avenue to the garment district, where I had spent two years feverishly running from shop to shop looking for the "right" fabric for some new project. I went back to the neighborhood I lived in my first year. Williamsburg, even you had changed. Once a mecca for hipsters and artists, now overrun with baby carriages and screaming children. But still, the lump in my throat grew even more when I saw my favorite taco truck, and the dive bar my boyfriend and I shared many giant beers served in Styrofoam cups, and had great conversations. I went inside, and for old times sake, stole another "out for a smoke!" Rosemary's Tavern coaster. The coasters hadn't changed.
The train stop for the L - which had been my nemesis for so long, now seemed somehow friendly and inviting. Come stand on my platform. I'll probably make you late for something once I finally get here - or better yet, I'll arrive so full of people that you will have no choice but to just stand and watch me go by! Someone will probably sneeze on you. It will smell. It will be uncomfortable. But you love me, unconditionally. And it's true, L Train, I do. You were the first train I ever learned to ride alone.
Long story short, the thing I love most about New York, is the comfort in loneliness. In Michigan, I am constantly reminded of my loneliness. It stares at me, smugly. I don't have many close friends, if any, other than my husband. This is of my own doing because I have a hard time finding people to relate to. But here, you're forced to look your loneliness in the face, and ask it lots of questions. In New York, your loneliness is not only shared and embraced, it's celebrated. You and your loneliness are invited and encouraged to step outside your door and be surrounded by a sea of other people who are alone. You and your loneliness have endless museums to go into, shops to browse at, people to watch. You can ride the subway all day and just read or listen to your ipod and be alone, and it's fine. There is Central Park, the MET, Union Square, Soho, the lower east side, Bryant Park. The best books, the best magazines.
Sometimes I would just walk around Grand Central Station, the New York Public Library. I would stare into the window displays of Chanel, YSL, McQueen, and just dream. Being lonely is okay in New York. It feels good. It feels right. No one stares at me, asks about my tattoos, or judges what I'm wearing. I'm not on display, I'm part of the display. I am weird and New York says, hey, it's totally fine to be who you are. Be weird, we don't have time to care. I never felt this kind of freedom until I lived alone for two years. I think in the years I spent in NYC, from ages 28-30, I grew more into myself than any years of my life before.
So that, I miss with all of my heart. I miss being swallowed up by a city, completely consumed by it. Being allowed to just be "me" with no questions asked. Befriend my loneliness and celebrate it. So in my love letter to New York, I'd just like to say thanks. Thanks for letting me be a part of you. I leave a part of me, with you, each time I come back.