On this day 10 years ago I boarded a one way flight from San Francisco International Airport to New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport. I gripped the ticket in my palm and stared out the window as I sat in my seat breathing deep and reflecting on the biggest decision I had made yet in my 25 year life.
Reflections on 10 Years in New York City
When I was 24 and made the decision to move I had just gotten out of a long term on again / off again relationship and I was feeling unsatisfied in work and with San Francisco feeling small and “more of the same” on most days. I had been traveling to NYC often for work and just fell in the love with the vibrancy and the energy (cliche as it may be) of the city. I found myself never wanting to board my plane home for SFO. But leaving San Francisco meant leaving a state I loved and most importantly – leaving my very best friends.
The decision was huge but it also was only the second time in my life when I had a real, moving instinct deep in my gut and in my heart that said I needed to take the risk, make the move and trust in God that it would all turn out. Ten years later I remain happy I trusted myself. I truly believe life is made up of the hard, uncomfortable and challenging decisions because that’s when we learn what we are made of. And these risks can lead to rewards and deeper self worth.
During my time in New York City I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It’s a place that has shaped me, challenged me, rewarded me, moved me and inspired me. It’s taught me about ambition and continuing to transform. To never accept the status quo. It’s given me an informal education in broadening my horizons and understanding those around me – who are not like me – better.
I still delight in seeing that one-of-a-kind skyline. I still get butterflies when I experience a particularly great day in the city. I still find joy in exploring the unknown here. I love that no two days in my 10 years of living in New York City have been the same. For better or for worse this city is always changing and always evolving. The ability to always have something new to see, to taste, to explore – it thrills me to this day. I still – often – find myself silently whispering “I’m so lucky this is home.”
My life in New York City has unfolded in chapters. I’ve lived in three different neighborhoods and six different apartments. My friends have changed. Friends have left. I’ve held two corporate jobs and then found the courage to take the best leap of faith of all – self employment. In June I will mark five years of self employment running two businesses and I truly believe my being in New York has made those nearly five years as successful as they have been.
In New York I have battled thyroid disease and skin cancer and bad landlords. I have grown a thicker skin. New York has made me more patient. And it’s made me oh so impatient. It’s made me hardened in some ways and it’s opened my heart more deeply in others. It’s broken me on some days and it’s lifted me up on others. It’s reminded me of the greater good and unity and the electric energy that happens when you’re surrounded by people trying to make their dreams come true and find meaning in their life. It’s taken on a defining role in my life not because it had to – but because I’m proud of the person I’ve become while living here. Because I’m proud of the life I’m living here.
The city has tried me. In a city that is filled with millions of people it has sometimes felt like the loneliest place in the world. But there’s also always someone willing to help.
I’ve grown into my confidence and sense of self here. I’ve lived independently and supported myself entirely. I’ve missed my family and my best friends deeply while choosing to live here. But for every hard day – there are plenty of ones that lift my spirit and remind me how lucky I am to live in a place many dream of doing so.
I’ve grown so much in these past 10 years. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others. I’ve seen the best of humanity and the worst of it here in the city. I have celebrated here and I have suffered. But I’ve also come to understand the deep love that New Yorkers have for their city. It runs through our blood like a current and we back each other, protect one another and look out for one another.
And in 2020 I developed an even greater appreciation for this city I call home. I lived in Brooklyn throughout the pandemic and despite staying put in the city – I missed it.
New York is a city woven together of all types of people from all types of backgrounds with all types of dreams and hopes for themselves and their loved ones. This grit, this hope…it is what gives this city the energy that everyone can taste when they arrive here. That energy is the thing that keeps many of us here for the long haul. But that energy, that buzz, that hustle…it slowed to a halt for so many last year and it has to be revived. As I reflect on 10 years here I would be remiss to not recognize that the city I love at its finest is not one I see right now and I know it will be some time until it regains its former glory. The city still lacks its usual luster, its usual energy, its usual pizazz. It’s a bit like she’s a somber shell of herself.
For a while now I have mourned the changes New York City has seen in the past 11 months. The lives lost. The friends who have left. The businesses that have shuttered. The jobs lost. The many benefits of living here that we still cannot enjoy. The silence on certain days of 2020 was deafening. The emptiness haunting.
I for one cannot wait until the city’s magic is back. Until then though, I’m staying by her side. And there’s so much I won’t forget about the time I spent with NYC during the pandemic. This city kept me company on 2020’s darkest days.
I’ve made mistakes in my decade here. Choices I regret and decisions I’d do differently if given the opportunity. But I also recognize those decisions brought me to today. To a wiser, stronger, more courageous, more confident, more humble, more connected, more in tune and more motivated self.
I’ve often said that there’s something so empowering about knowing you’re living in the right place. Ten years ago I didn’t know if NYC would be my place. But it became my place and I feel so grateful to 25 year old me for trusting my gut and taking a risk and diving into the unknown. If you’re not living in your place- I hope you find it. I hope you trust your gut, take a risk and dive into your unknown.
Because life is short and is meant for living in a way that leaves you feeling fulfilled. New York can help you turn weaknesses into strength and challenges into lessons. My 10 years here have been far from perfect but they have been wonderful all the same. I begin this next year in New York full of hope and with an open heart to the possibilities this city continues to unfold in front of my eyes. The same eyes that have taken in these streets and skyscrapers with awe for the past ten years.
There’s no where else I can imagine living right now and my hope for this year and those in the future is more joy, more love, more peace and continued perspective and happiness.
I love this city with all my heart. It is home. Here’s to 10 years in New York City and I hope many more…