It’s hard to pick a starting point when it comes to NYC aka. The city that never sleeps, The Big Apple, The Capital of the World, Gotham City.
The good? The bad? The crazy? The unpredictable?
Whichever it is it will be on either end of the spectrum because when it comes to New York City, there is no middle ground.
Over a year ago I moved to the Big Apple for what was almost a year. The move itself wasn’t really all that planned. More of an opportunity that presented itself at just the right time.
Before it all happened I was working on yachts in France with a seasonal contract coming to an end. Two good Otago University friends, Greta and Sophie had just made the move and without too much arm twisting, convinced me to do the same. It was quickly coming up to the year anniversary of my graduation which meant that if I wanted the J1 working visa it was now or never.
It’s hard to say how I imagined it would all play out. The movies made it seem exciting and fast paced and there was definitely a romantic element that played out in my head. What the reality of it was was a combination of every possible emotion amplified by about 100. And even then it’s still hard to articulate exactly how I feel about the experience even now.
I stepped off the plane, New Years Eve to the bitingly cold air tunneling through the skyscrapers, Times Square closed off for the annual New Years Eve ball drop, and people everywhere. So far everything was living up to the movie romance of it all.
New York is one those places on everyone’s hit list, one of the most famous cities in the world and on a whim, it was my turn to give it a crack.
It started in an apartment in Brooklyn, on the corner of a street in Bushwick and right next door to the housing projects. I bunked up in a room with Greta and Sophie in their shared bedroom and started giving it a crack.
For anyone who knows New York there are two things that are not so romantic about the city. Apartments and Job hunting, and if you’re a female in the city, single, straight, half decent, half interesting males.
With 3 million apartments in a land area smaller than Auckland you wouldn’t think it would be too hard to find an apartment, but fast forward through meeting a million Jewish landlords, finding out what it’s like to be a non-American with no credit history and having basically every decent apartment you look at snatched under your fingertips you will quickly learn that no, it is definitely not an easy or fun experience.
And then maybe you move on to the job hunt, or you juggle your apartment viewings with applying for jobs and if you are lucky, interviews. You know what they say about the big city, if you can make it there you can make it anywhere. Well apparently everyone is just as desperate to make it as you are which makes things all the more interesting.
One friend who came over a bit later explained it well. She said that she knew it would be hard, but she didn’t realise just how hard it would be.
In no fewer words the New York experience was a rollercoaster.
And not to deter anyone away from experiencing it for themselves there are, as you can imagine, an amazing amount of highs that come from it all.
When everything eventually starts falling into place, and it will, eventually. The romance begins to return. You catch yourself in a moment walking down one of the Avenues and look up to see the Empire State Building in front of you, or the Freedom Tower, or a sign for $1 pizza.
Or when you’ve finally nailed the subway system, you begin to enjoy the crazies of the street instead of being scared by them and you’ve found yourself a handful of regular spots.
And although there are always still the moments you feel like a tourist you also start feeling a little bit like a local.
Or when Winter is at an end and Spring starts to bring in the sunshine, along with all the people who were hibernating through the Winter and you get to experience an entirely different city.
Or you’ve climbed onto the roof of your Brooklyn apartment with the beers you bought on the corner at the Bodega, you pull together a few crates to perch on and watch out over the Manhattan skyline. And although your rent is probably too expensive and you’ve had to climb a million steps to the top. It’s worth it.
And it is.
All of it.
But New York City, it will get you. It will exhaust you and make you scramble to keep up.
It will push you. Make you find new limits.
Drive you mad. And drive you to conquer it.
New York City is everything. It is good. It is bad. It is most definitely interesting.
But even with my best effort to try and explain the city, to give even a slight insight, I have still failed.
New York is a place you can’t describe with words.
It is a city, a feeling, a world of its own.
So at the end of it all I can be nothing but grateful for the experience. Although I left the day following the election of President Donald Trump the feeling was bittersweet. And as much as I thought I was finished with the city, there will always be a part of me left wanting more.
So I have to say thank you. Thank you to the city, the people – crazy ones and all, the subway buskers, the slow walkers in the busiest parts of town, the big tippers paying my rent, the poor tippers giving me something to complain about, the rooftop bars, the dive bars, the parks – big and small, the greenery hidden between the concrete, the smells – maybe not in the subways in summer, the $1 pizza for sure, the fellow New Zealanders and Aussies, the yellow cab, gypsy cab, dollar cab, holla back.
Thank you New York City.
One hell of a fairytale alright.