Human relationships fascinate me. Every relationship with each different person in our lives is unique and reflects a different part of ourselves. Our relationships with our parents is different from that with our siblings, our coworkers different from our actual friends. Some relationships work better long distance, some fizzle out as soon as communication dies. Our friendships and relationships are a direct result of who we are as people. And for someone who is obsessed with personal insight, I love to think about why certain people are attracted to others.
But as I have only a few friends in long term relationships, and I myself have stayed far away from any serious commitment, I’ve started to apply the fascination I have with human relationships, to that which we have with the cities we live in. And particularly, with the cities I want to live in.
If we think about it, committing to a city is a lot like committing to a boyfriend. A city offers you certain perks, while also making life a bit more difficult or different than you’re used to. It can change depending on outside or inside influences. But most of all, it is a personal connection that one cultivates on your own. A city can really be whatever you make it. And it gives as much as you give.
I started thinking about cities this way when I was thinking of leaving Washington, D.C. to move somewhere, anywhere else (two years ago this September, for those playing along at home). To me, DC was the safe high school/college boyfriend whom, at the time, I had stayed with because he loved me and we worked well together. Maybe our conversations were a bit stale, and we went to the same restaurants and bars to hang out every weekend, but there was and is a comfort in routine, and really it was a beautiful, wonderful place to be.
But I wanted more. At that point in my life, I wasn’t ready to find a forever home. I wasn’t ready to never live in a new and different place ever again. Sure, I thought, I could stay in DC for now and move somewhere else later. But who knows when that could be? And because of that, I knew the time to move had come. So though DC was the first place I ever really called home, I knew it was time to find somewhere else to lay down some roots.
When I decided to move to New York, it felt both surprising and inevitable. When I was a little kid I had always dreamt of conquering the big apple, but this was a different feeling. It wasn’t like going away to college where I was safely trying something new, 15 minutes away from my parent’s house. It was the first time I really took a leap of faith and tried something that I hadn’t ever done before, with nothing but me to steer the ship.
At first, it was intimidating. New York is edgy and hard simply because it can be. It demands your best and it raises the stakes whenever it sees fit. But because of that, one has the best opportunities in New York. The best flock here because we demand it, and that makes this city so exciting and alluring. I’ve had some of the greatest days and nights of my life here.
But even as I tend to my life in NYC, I still think about what else is out there, what other places I haven’t explored. I dream of living on the west coast, of being where the sun shines all the time, and the sky isn’t encumbered by what man has produced. I am my mother’s daughter, so there are days when I toss and I turn, restless for a kind of stimulation that could only have been dreamt. And maybe some day, New York won’t be enough for me any more. But as Aragorn so aptly said, today is not that day.
These days, when I go back to DC, it feels like returning to that same old high school boyfriend. One you would see every few times you came back for a visit, who is comfortably the same, but older and probably wiser and more beautiful. Maybe someday that beauty will move me like it did when I was young, move me enough to compel me back. But instead, today I am ready to board my bus and head back north. Because though New York is a stubborn and tough son of a bitch to crack, it belongs to me in it’s own little way. And every time I come home, it smiles at me, and that is enough.