Photographed by Bek Andersen.
Spoiler alert: I love that I grew up in New York. I loved that I had schoolyard playgrounds instead of huge backyards and learned how to cross a busy street at a young age, because otherwise you don't cross the street at all. I even love that my family lived in a house that was attached to another house on both sides, and I got so accustomed to sirens that I can still sleep through 3 a.m. car alarms. It probably wasn't until I graduated from college that I started to realize greener grass even exists — as in, not the little tiny patch found in front of many single-family homes in Brooklyn.
In my teens, Manhattan was where I escaped occasionally to go to the museum, try my luck
with a fake ID at a challenging dance classes, and intern (although, I only had one in college, worked weird and late hours, and didn't exactly get to experience Manhattan as much as see it blur by from an express bus). But, as soon as I was serious about making a career and life for myself as a young adult in not just a big city, the big city, I noticed very quickly that growing up here was not so common. While someone else may have thought it was cool that I lived in Brooklyn way before Williamsburg was, well, what Williamsburg is today, I was eager to hear about how they just moved here recently and were pretty much professionally kicking ass before they even earned a degree. I also started to feel a bit of something else: envy.
There are a lot of really wonderful things about growing up New York City. One of the not-so-good things? It made me develop a bit of a "what if" complex. What if I had first moved to the city for a summer in college? What if "going home" meant really escaping the sometimes-exhausting buzz rather than just slightly muffling it with a ride to the outer boroughs? What if I so took for granted all the opportunities my city has to offer that I kinda just forgot to take them? I wonder if the whole of New York City is like a tourist attraction, one I forgot to notice because it's always just...been around. When you go somewhere new for the very first time, you wait on lines and take pictures, excited to take it all in. Is it strange that I didn't make it to Ellis Island until my 20s?
Here's the biggest on my list of what-ifs: what if I never live anywhere else, ever? For the record, I have no plans to leave NYC; I'm in it for the long haul. But, it's exciting to be in a brand-new place, challenge yourself to learn your surroundings, and build something you can be proud of. I guess I sorta did that in college. And yes, me and my city blinders adjusted to the Hudson Valley just fine. Still, that time made me consider what it might have been like to grow up on quiet streets with easy access to a hiking trail, for example, or a lake — not the subway.
So, consider this less of a like/hate, and more of a love/grass-envy. Because, really, I haven't seen all the grass yet. Any of that verdant stuff that's not a major metropolitan area on the East or West Coast is still un-charted territory as far as I'm concerned. I'm sure if I do make it out there I'll still love New York just as much, but I might also warm up to the idea of leaving it one day.