New York, I love you.

One of the most vivid memories I have of New York is from when I worked as a bartender in Koreatown. On the weekends, I would leave work at 5 or 6am, arriving home at hours when many others would start their morning commute. As I pass through the Port Authority tunnel, completely dazed, I would read Norman B. Colp’s “Commuter’s Lament” in my periphery:

So tired.
If late,
Get fired.
Why bother?
Why the pain?
Just go home.
Do it again.

For anyone living in New York, this poem hits home hard, since the hustle and bustle of New York can inevitably tire you out. On some days, you can’t help but feel like you’re somebody’s pawn, shifting aimlessly through the crowds in the dirty streets. You wonder why you’re choosing to stay in the city, crammed against others on the train like a pack of sardines.

When I first arrived in New York, I was admittedly broken. I had just been dumped by someone I loved a lot, only to find out that he had begun a new relationship with a friend of his. Not just any friend, but a girl who was the source of our many countless arguments. Normally I love being right, but I hated being right this time; it would’ve been better for me to feel irrationally jealous, so I could write it off with my immaturity, rather than confirming their relationship and bruising my ego severely. I had also just lost my college best friends, due to a series of events, which made me feel like I had no one else to rely on.

However, New York wasn’t going to wait for me patiently to get myself together. On my first night out in New York, I saw a couple engaging in some sort of sexual activity on the train platform while Anna, Matt, and I waited for the train. It was so hard for us to stifle our laughter as the girl seemed to reach orgasm. As ridiculous as it was, it was also quite hysterical to see the man across the platform trying to hide his hard on with a frisbee that he was holding; he must’ve felt so conflicted about himself. This peculiar experience set two precedents for me: One, anything and everything is possible in New York. Two, someone is always watching you, and your actions can make or break their day.

New York gave me a lot but took a lot in return. I had my first anxiety attack in New York. I often worried a lot about money, resulting in having to work two or three jobs almost every semester, including some under-the-table jobs. Seeing homeless people with mental illness became regular; people’s apathy towards others was no surprise. Catcalls and sexual harassment became just somethings to roll my eyes about. The costs of living in New York included sacrificing your mental serenity for the expensive, dirty, and small place of yours that might have a few rat or cockroach friends, so you can go throughout your day trying to avoid other humans who constantly try to haggle you. New York also made sure to remind you of the wealth gap; from Hunts Point to Upper East Side, New York made sure that I got to see the poorest from the richest, the have-nots from the haves (or too-much-haves), and made me wonder about how it is possible for our society to be okay with such a divide.

But alas, that was New York.

Nevertheless, if anyone were to question my allegiance to New York, I would vehemently protest and profess my love for this city. In fact, New York has taught me one of the most important lessons – to find love amidst chaos. New York is about admiring the angelic voice of a performer in the busy train station. It’s about asking a homeless person if they need a swipe and letting them use your unlimited metrocard. New York made sure that you found your own cure, whether it’s the cold pressed ginger tea from your neighborhood’s hipster coffee shop or late-night halal food from bodega across the street; New York always put on a smile on your face, especially when you see a dad playing pattycakes on the train with his daughter or a stranger offering to help carry a stroller up the platform. New York is about witnessing two high school boys admitting aloud that there is nothing as wonderful as cuddling with their crushes, even if it didn’t involve sex. It’s about other humans standing up for another and helping each other out, because that’s what New Yorkers do. New Yorkers are thoughtful and resilient. We just get a bad rep because we have a bitchface.

New York, in all, taught me how to love the whole city. The good and the bad. Even the tourists. And it blessed me with so many different people who proactively showered me with their affection – so much that I was constantly left questioning what I had done to deserve any of it. I could feel love in every meal fed, every café visited, every Instagram-worthy place photographed, every concert or party danced at. I felt it in 2am text messages sent, quick cry sessions in between classes, huddles on the walk back home, and while leaning against each other on the jam-packed trains. Love was omnipresent in New York. That’s what made New York, the New York.

During my first year, my friend Arwa asked for my address so she could send me a birthday card. When I told her my address, she answered, “Wow, you live in New York, New York.” I remember smirking a little. In my defense, it’s hard not to when you live in the greatest city in the world.

So would I ever do it again, despite the cold, the dirty, and the hustle? Absolutely.





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