New York, I Still Love You

Everyone is leaving New York. Everyone. Either they've already left, are in the process of leaving, or they're talking about it. It's like a mass exodus. You'd think the the British were coming. Or the plague. Or another hurricane. It's like Manhattan is set for decimation and people are getting out while they still can. And in the midst of all this fleeing, it's got me thinking. Why the hell am I still here? Why am I still obsessed with this city that everyone else seems to be over?

At first, I assumed it was because I'm young. Well, relatively young. Most of the people that I know leaving the city are in their mid- to late- 30s. So I thought, "maybe New York just gets old after a while", channeling the always hilarious Samantha from Sex and the City ("they should call it Same York"). Perhaps, eventually, New York becomes too much. Too much frustration, too much commotion, too much money. Maybe, eventually, we all grow up.

I spent about two days in this Same York funk, as I've taken to calling it. Why have I stayed here despite the skyrocketing rental rates, lack of breathing space and frustrating foot traffic? Suddenly, I was seeing all the bad aspects of city living around me, an odd observation for someone who's almost always looking up in admiration. And again that thought creeped in every time I tried to justify New York - "Grow up, Kari."

But then I realized. I am a grown up. (Sometimes I've gotta remind myself.) Sure, I'm not married nor do I have children. And I'm not looking to buy a house with my beau. But what does that matter for? That's not what makes me a grown up. Peeking in at the lives of those around made me feel like I was drowning in the responsibilities and decisions that should be mine but are not, in fact, my own. And I wasn't going to allow people who were "over it" to put me under it.

"Life's a circus. Be the ringmaster of your own life."

I can no longer recall where or from whom I heard this quote, but as I dragged myself out of my Same York funk, it rang all too clear. Since we are children, it's been engrained in us that we'll "understand when we're older," that we will somehow miraculously have it all figured out once we're adults. There's this expectation that once we hit our mid-twenties, things will suddenly click and we'll have in all under control. But life isn't about control, but rather spontaneity and wonder. It's a circus. And I'm no lion leaping through rings of fire or elephant following a peanut trail all because that's what's expected of me. I'm the ringmaster. I choose the attractions, the timeline of this circus.

Everyone might be getting tired of this place, but, hey, more for me. For them, it's an anchor, but for me - Manhattan makes me feel like I can fly. Taking long walks around the city renews my sense of self, my spirit. The lights and the dark sky, the empty streets full of mystery, the restaurant outside seating on a hot summer day, the honk of the cars traveling down 6th Avenue, the community of people gathered in Washington Square Park. To others, these might be frustrations or reasons to leave. But for me, they are reasons to stay. And that won't change whether I'm young or old, better or worse, rich or poor (in sickness and in health?). I'll always belong to the city. I guess I'm married to it.