I flew out of London on a grey and drizzly September evening, and arrived on a warm and clear New York afternoon, almost exactly one year ago. The skyscrapers towered overhead, the sun shone down and the city was teeming with people, spilling out of cafes and bars. It felt so alive, so sophisticated, so energetic, so full of possibility. All of the buildings reached high into the sky; symbols of hope, prosperity and ambition. Within my first few days, I had come to understand why New York is known as the city of dreams; it offers unlimited opportunities to make something of yourself, to try new things, to make new friends, to achieve career success, to grow in confidence and to become the person you always dreamed you could be. People flock here from all over the US and the world, seeking the magic of a city that vibrates with possibility. Some are broken by it, and soon make their retreat; others thrive and make it their home for life. Some, like me, are only temporary visitors, but in a year plenty of that magic has rubbed off on me. I came here dissatisfied, disappointed and discouraged. My twenties were not shaping up as I had hoped. My job bored me, the area of London I lived in bored me, and I was terrified that nothing would ever change. Stuck in a rut of mediocrity, I decided New York would be the answer to my prayers. I packed two suitcases, boarded a plane and took a giant leap of faith that what I would find in New York would be worth the risk of leaving everything and everyone I knew and loved behind. One year on, I am delighted to say that categorically and unequivocally, it most certainly was. New York has given me back the joy in life that I had lost, and it has given me a confidence I never thought I would gain. This city has been the making of me!
At first glance, New York is overwhelming and intimidating. Everywhere you go, skyscrapers loom over your head, people push and shove, voices chatter, neon signs glow, a ridiculous range of shops tempt you, smells either entice or repel you, sirens wail, horns blare and you are sucked into a constant whirl of noise and stimulation. Everyone looks purposeful; coffee in one hand, cell phone in the other, they charge you down as they walk at high speed down the pavements. As a newcomer, it is incredibly difficult to comprehend how you will ever even begin to adapt to the pace. However, slowly but surely, you do. The horns and shouts and chatter become background noise, you soon find your own phone and coffee welded to your hands, you roll your eyes and sigh at confused looking tourists who get in your way, you perfect the zig-zag method of crossing the street in order to avoid any period of waiting at stop lights, your patience levels decrease until it becomes physically impossible for you to wait more than thirty seconds for anything without becoming irate, and somehow your legs move twice as fast as they used to as you too develop the walk of extreme purpose through the streets, striking fear into the hearts of all tourists and newcomers who make the mistake of coming across your path. The day I knew I’d become a New Yorker was when I had to wait more than five minutes for a coffee in Starbucks. As I felt myself irrationally becoming furious at the delay to my day made by the incompetent employee who dared to take more than five seconds to make my drink, I had to laugh at myself. In London it wouldn’t have occurred to me that five minutes WAS a long time to wait. In New York, if you’re not ten minutes early, you’re already late. In an environment like this, you have to toughen up, or get left behind!
It’s been a whirlwind of a year. As it comes to a close, I am absolutely exhausted. Every day and night has been filled with work and social activities, and every weekend I have used to either explore the city or its environs. New York has enchanted me at every turn; from the cobbled streets of the downtown villages to the brownstones of Harlem, from the shady walkways of beautiful Central Park to the breathtaking views from the riverside walkways either side of Manhattan island, New York has provided endless opportunities for discovery. I have coped with everything this city has thrown at me; I have battled through a blizzard, endured 110F humidity, survived an earthquake and weathered a hurricane. I have experienced Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving and Independence Day. I have learned to say yes; to dare to try new things, to be brave, to challenge myself, to embrace difference and change and rejoice in it. I’m not content to sit back and let life go past me anymore. I’m not content with allowing myself to believe that I ‘can’t’. New York encourages you to look up, to aim high, to believe in the infinite possibilities of life. Its whole architectural construction cries out for you to reach for the skies.
I love this city. It has been everything I dreamed of and more, and it will forever be written on my heart. I have so many incredible memories of the time I have spent here that I will treasure for the rest of my days. I am so grateful for the opportunity of living here; it gave me exactly what I needed at a time when I was desperate for my life to change. However, at heart I am a Londoner, and British to the core. I will never truly be at home in New York, as much as I adore it, and amidst my sadness at leaving behind this incredible city, I am also filled with excitement at returning to the place where I was born and where I grew up, to where my accent doesn’t mark me out as being different and where people know how to form an orderly queue. I’m excited to go back a changed person, willing and able to live my life to the full and exploit all of the opportunities London has to offer. Every end is a new beginning, after all, and I am thankful for the new beginning that New York has given me the ability to enjoy.
So goodbye, New York. Thank you for giving me the time of my life!
I will be travelling for the next few days and am flying back to London next week. I start my new job straight away so I might be out of action for a couple of weeks while I get settled. See you soon!