Did I pass the test?

Besides a whirlwind, once-in-a-lifetime experience, this summer was also a test, a trial run. Part of my desire to spend a summer in New York was to see if it’s somewhere I could live in the future. Since about halfway through the summer, I’ve regularly been asked: Could I see myself living here? Could I be a New Yorker?

The answer to that is definitely yes. I felt adjusted to New York in only a few days, and that feeling didn’t go away, so it’s certainly a place I fit. I proved this summer that I can keep up with the demanding pace and constant walking of New York. In fact, for the first time I saw that my working out increases my energy level. (I’ve never really thought so because I’m usually tired, but I had so much more stamina than most of my friends).

I’ve adapted to the “rude” New Yorker lifestyle. I can shove my way through a crowd like no other, I’ll let you know when you’re in my way, and a cabbie can honk at me all he wants but I’m crossing this street. I’ve never had such consistently bad service, and so I’ve learned to tip accordingly. However, I still like to smile at people, and I still say please and thank you. I consider myself friendly, so I try to others the benefit of the doubt, too.

There are many things I love about New York and will miss. The food, the people, the culture, the history. Cupcakes, frozen yogurt, Broadway, parks, museums. The ocean (but luckily that’s not only in NY). The insatiable, intangible energy that just makes life more exciting. One of my friends used “fulfilled” to describe life in New York, and I think that’s the best way to put it. Work and play both happen at a higher caliber here, and that’s very rewarding.

But there’s also a lot to dislike about New York, at least for me. I’m sick of crowds and dirt and concrete. I loathe the subway. The weather here is awful — winter and summer. There is no such thing as a cool breeze; if air circulates, it’s hot and stuffy and dirty. Tall buildings get to be quite confining.

And that’s the biggest problem I have with New York: I need more space. I need more blue and green, grass and sky. A big part of this hang-up probably comes from my cramped and dingy living conditions this summer, so I wonder if I wouldn’t be so concerned if I had a bright apartment with at least some space to call my own. That’s what I would need if I lived here, but I think I’d still feel a bit confined. I’m such an outdoors person, and try as it might, New York doesn’t really cater to that.

Which is why, as much as I’ve loved New York and enjoy life here, I know it’s not my top choice of future home. That, I think, is California. There I can still be in a big city and near the water, but there is also an outdoors, health and fitness culture that suits me better. There, I’d have countless options for running and swimming, and being a vegetarian wouldn’t ever be a problem. I also love driving and want a city that offers me suburbs, not boroughs, 20 minutes outside the city limits. Even the way I dress — bright colors and sandals — is more West Coast than East Coast. And California might not be the hub of the publishing industry, but lucky for me, it’s not too far behind.

I don’t feel ashamed saying this because I think I can love New York without wanting to live here, and I didn’t come into the summer with the expectation that I’d be back here for life. In fact, on some level, that awareness might’ve furthered my drive to do everything possible. This summer was the perfect trial run for me to figure out New York and figure out where I want to be. I wouldn’t have been ready to do it last summer, but I’m glad I had the chance to live here temporarily and go back to school afterward.

However, this summer really pressed upon me that it might be difficult to have a magazine career without some time in New York. It seems that this is the place to start, where you get your feet wet and make your contacts and start working you way into the industry. Time in New York makes it easier to go anywhere, but one summer probably doesn’t suffice, so I think I’ll have to spend part of my career here.

That’s fine with me. I have loved New York and could love it for a few more years. In all likelihood, I’ll move here after graduation next year, find myself an Upper West Side apartment with proximity to two parks and stay for three, five, seven years. That would be enough for me to do some more of the things I’ve loved and really make my way in magazines.

After that, though, I’m running in the opposite direction. New York will never be a permanent thing for me. For one, I could never imagine raising children here. For two, if I’m being honest with myself, I know it’s not what I need or want. Even my boss, who’s known me a mere 10 weeks, told me I “would be perfect in California.” Amen to that.

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