I hear it all the time. New York is a transient city. People come here, they live here for a hot second, and then all the sudden it’s time to leave. They get tired. It’s not for them anymore. One day they wake up and remember how lonely they are. How they somehow forgot to invest in the people and relationships and places and community they didn’t want to hurt along the way. It’ll be better for me to keep my distance, they convince themselves. Less pain for all.
It’s always one of the first questions people ask you when you’re in conversation here. Right after, “What do you do….” usually comes, “How long do you think you’ll be here… what’s your timeline… where do you see yourself in a few years… living in the city, still?”
Terrible question, I think.
Maybe it comes with growing up, having older friends, realizing that life isn’t always cut and dry, tied down to particular places in particular moments, but it kind of seems like I’ve been having the same conversation with a lot of people lately. People I’ve said goodbye to, welcomed to the city, people struggling with loneliness and missing family, being far from home, from what they’re comfortable with. And truthfully, I think it all comes down to one silly metaphor.
So many freakin’ people are scared to lay down roots.
They had New York on their heart and their mind for a while. And then the opportunity presented itself. They uprooted their entire life to follow some crazy dream, some insane notion that life had something else to offer them here. Some sense of promise and opportunity. A new beginning, a fresh chapter and hundreds (maybe even thousands) of blank pages.
And then they get here. They realize how quickly people move. How long the hours are. They work a lot. They have trouble making friends. Or if they do make friends, they just don’t seem to compare to the “ones from back home.” The ones they’re watching like a hawk on social media, keeping up with engagements and marriages and babies and new jobs and houses on Instagram. They start second guessing, re-writing their plan. Well maybe a few years would be good… even just a few more months. I tried, it just wasn’t for me.
Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying everyone is cut out for city life. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to leave, to stay, to consider moving… If it’s not for you, it’s not for you. If you’d be happier somewhere else, then by all means, that’s where you should be. Happiness should be at the center. And if it’s not, it’s definitely time to re-evaluate.
It’s not the moving away that I have a problem with. It’s the fact that because New York is such a transient city, people think they can get away with living here even just for a short time without laying down any roots. Without getting to know people. Without accepting the friendship of those around them, who want to be a real part of their life, and not just a few words of chapter one. And then they think it’s crazy that they’re lonely… that they don’t fit in, or feel like they belong.
They forgot to lay down roots. The part that’s messy and broken and unknown. Breaking into new territory, new ground. The foundation.
Why waste 6 months in a place, living each day only trying to make it to tomorrow? Why avoid the relationships and the people and the community, when you could have 6 great months, instead of 6 awful & lonely ones? Why put your life on hold for 6 months, knowing you’ll just have to pick up the pieces anyway, regardless of how far you distance yourself from it all? Why waste even a day’s worth of opportunity to see and appreciate the now and the here? The things you’re learning, the people you’re meeting, the way the city makes everything come alive. The way the sun sets and refracts off the buildings at 7pm.
I really don’t think even one second is worth wasting.
So I’m laying down some serious roots. Attaching myself to every loose string I can… because the pain of saying goodbye is worth 10 times more than not attaching myself in the first place.
And if I move in a couple months, years, decades, whatever it may be… at least I’ll move knowing that the time I spent in this city, any city, was time well spent. And the roots served me well. And the people I met along the way weren’t just some number or group of contacts in my phone. They were part of my life. The city was part of my life. Some photographic scrapbook of a time where everything and everyone around me seemed to move 100mph in a million different directions. Moments I’ll never want to forget.