I came to New York to complete a three months’ scholarship, but decided to stay, because it turned out to be my life’s second big love at first sight. I became incurably addicted within hours. And have not been able to leave ever since.
They say you become a real New Yorker if you still love the city after 24 months. And really; whoever came up with this time limit couldn’t be more precisely right. The first two years are an unceasing ecstasy of urban romance; that is when it’s at its peak. Within that period you are absolutely blinded by love for the city and you feel that it’s reciprocated; it’s a constant festival of awe and delight. You love it, you can’t live without it. As a matter of fact I have a few friends who lived in the city and left before the termination of the two years’ ‘grace period’ and pretty much all of them have been miserably sickened by love; withering somewhere in Londons, Berlins, Chicagos or Sydneys longing to come back ever since. Two years make the trick. After two years you are slowly starting to develop a love and hate relationship with the city and it is slowly beginning to loosen its grip on you. But ultimately it is the city’s decision when to let go of you for good. Only then are you ready to eventually leave; move on and look back in peace, as opposed to staring back nostalgically with tearing eyes among sighs of longing and despair. You need to give this love some time; you need to cherish it for a longer while to let it grow and ripen. It’s not an easy one, but what keeps it going is the energy.
I am not familiar with the statistics, but I’m guessing there are probably hundreds of people moving to New York every single day. Hundreds of people from all over the world bring in their hopes, expectations and dreams. That’s why the energy of the city is unlike any other. It’s always pumping, thriving, always on an upbeat. It makes the streets and the buildings alive; you can feel the constant flow of living energy at all times; day or night.
New York is like a huge orphanage. It takes every newcomer in its arms and embraces them and whispers tender promises in their ears, depending on what they are looking for, what they are after. Career? Fame? Money? Romance? Fun? You got it. The city has it all and it has plenty. Everything is out there, just reach out for it. Millions have made millions, why not you?
But millions have also brought their hopes and dreams over here, and that’s what the city is made of; ephemeral fabric of dreams, flexible shielding tissue of bold wishful thinking and organic matter of human sweat and hard work for a reason.
The city has its ways to bring you down, and it will bring you down like no other. But it will pick you up right away if you listen to it and pay attention to its inner mechanisms. It will make you feel lonely. Most likely from day one. But the solitude you will inevitably find here is a tender one with plenty of time to think, resolve and create.
New York is a rampaging chaos on the surface but deep inside it’s a realm of perfect balance. It knocks you out when you least expect it, and then creates its own support system. You feel low and dejected, you go out to the streets, and the energy picks you up. It is like a living organism; like an animate companion that always has your back. And it never ceases. Too many hopes, too many dreams, ideas and human stories have been brought here since the 1900’s. They will last for centuries cheering up any random newcomer wandering in the streets.
I brought my story to New York in 2009. I brought my dreams and my hopes. It hasn’t been easy, but I feel like with all the extreme ups and downs it has given me, the city is constantly carving me anew in concrete and steel. Sometimes I feel like I’m bulletproof. There’s no room, no time for breakdowns. If you’re breaking down you’re falling behind, and here very few can afford it. So very quickly you have to learn the art of Transmutation. Because really; it’s not about making IT here (whatever IT is), but about making yourself. Once you get the tools you have to turn yourself into gold. With petty failures, with heartaches, with occasional unbearable solitudes, with cash shortages, casual relations, January winds and July humidities; with borough-to-borough moves on the subway or in a U-haul truck, without a driver’s licence; with all of the above and with so much more you slowly, slowly become shiny and new, stronger and better. Turn a heartbreak, a disappointment, a fallout into a life-giving fuel, don’t look back and keep going.