When I first came to NYC, I kept looking up, hypnotized by the skyscrapers, culture, and constant movement. It was my ultimate playground and still is, in many ways. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to live and make multiple visits over the years, I’m only beginning to delve into the nitty gritty hustle that coincidentally, I have become a part of. I see the exhaustion on people’s faces, feel the weight of the world sitting on their shoulders, and cringe at bloody heels that have suffered in uncomfortable shoes all day. Moreover, I hear the stories of what people wish they spent their time on spilled across the bar, yet they continue to hustle because they know the rest of the country depends on them and the magnificent city of lights. Not only that, they serve as an international hub welcoming foreigners from all over the world, offering a first impression of the United States of America.
From working in the office real late, heels clacking the concrete to find a quick lunch on the streets, hauling packages from one end of the city to the other, and speed racing on bikes to make a timely delivery, these people work HARD. What I witness on every visit is a classic example of overworked and underpaid or overworked and overpaid but no time to enjoy life outside of work.
I see the dreams working from the ground floor because people were told if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. From starving artists to people at the top wishing it were the other way around, nothing is good enough. Something could always be better or different which is why this is a city always under construction, always changing, always unfinished. Changes are constantly implemented to try and make life easier for the 8 million that live here. They’ll build, destroy, re-locate just stay put in the best city in America. Dreams die every second of the day, but they are revived and re-invented, each time with thicker skin, because they know what’s at stake, both good and bad, if they were to simply give up.
The sometimes barely functional way of living works for New York because it just has to. Things don’t necessarily run efficiently but at the end of the day, they have to pick their heads back up and keep going.
6-7 years ago, I shuffled from one tourist destination to the next, and now, I avoid them like the plague. Times Square, for example, is Manhattan’s personal hell hole, can we all agree? When I lived in the city, my life was confined to the commute between my apartment, work, the gym, never really exploring outside the borders of the East Village. I became fairly domesticated with little desire to set foot in any other area.
Now, when I visit, I tend to stick to friends, free activities, new foods, and events, still choosing not to navigate any further north than, say, 30th street. It still wouldn’t be uncommon to find me tucked away in a friend’s apartment reading or watching movies while simultaneously enjoying the sounds of life on the streets.
After returning to NYC for the first time in 2 years, I see a whole new side of the city that I now love and appreciate more than I knew when I lived here. The city moves at a pace that nobody in the world can keep up with, both in walking and business. It still remains my favorite USA city, and part of my soul lives and will die with NYC. Everything in life leads us exactly where we’re supposed to be so I know I wouldn’t be Wandering Souldier had I not set foot in NYC for the first time back in 2006.