Reflections on 5 Years in New York City

The train was late. Very late, an unusual occurrence for the morning rush. But still it came. And then a glitch down the line resulted in my taking 4 different subway lines to try and get to work, a process that took 20 minutes longer than usual! Oh, MTA… As I made my last transfer at West 4th Street, I maneuvered my way to the staircase, taking note to veer around a pool of vomit on the floor. Such began this morning, August 22, 2012, a day in which I celebrate 5 years of having lived in New York City.

NYC Subway Mosaic

A mosaic in the NYC subway

I mention these things not because of their annoyance or sheer repulsion but to illustrate a point. 5 years ago when I arrived here I had fresh eyes and was constantly repulsed  by the annoyances that come from living in a city like this. The rats all over the place. The bums who urinate on trains (or do other things one wouldn’t do in public). The crazies who roam the streets. It annoyed me then but now I shrug it off as part of the routine. You embrace the crazy as part of what makes this city tick. It’s just another day in NYC… (either that, or I’m just jaded)

NYC Building

Nice architecture in NYC

You know what hasn’t changed though? This city constantly still amazes me (as evidenced by anyone who follows my Facebook page with its assortment of NYC building photos.) I’ve always said that I love the sheer randomness of it. Like last Saturday when I wandered into Washington Square Parkto find a full symphony orchestra playing in front of a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi as another person sat along the fountain with a sign screaming “FREE ADVICE!” It’s wonderful moments like these which make me remember how wonderfully lucky I feel to be able to experience this on a daily basis. The beautiful thing about this city is that it has a very visible soul.

Free Advice

“Free Advice” in Washington Square Park

You know the funny thing when I look back on the past 5 years? I almost didn’t move here. It was summer 2007 and I was working in Massachusetts. Summer was almost over and I was almost out of a job. What’s more, I had no plans on what to do next and was rather depressed about being back in the U.S., having recently returned from a semester abroad in Thailand. New York was a vague possibility but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then, I had a car ride that changed my life.

I was asked to drive the brother of a coworker to the airport an hour away. We got to talking a bit and it turned out this guy was a travel writer who had been all over the world (this was before I was really into blogging). And then he said something that really resonated with me. “New York is the only place in this country I can live because it’s so different than the rest of the U.S.,” he told me. “So international. Almost like being in a totally different country.” With that, I was sold.

No less than two weeks later, I packed up my car and drove myself to the city with no job and no place to live. Before I even arrived, I had a job lined up (that happened during the drive to NYC) and thanks to a combination of couches with a friend and a cousin, I soon had an apartment too. And you know what? I’ve never looked back.

5 years and 3 major adventures later I’m still here, going about the daily grind. And to some extent, what that travel writer told me is absolutely true. This really is like no other place in the U.S., heck, even the world. It takes the little moments to remind me how much I adore this place; the wonderful architecture, the vibrant people, the awesome places like the The High Line and that incredible airline descent path into LaGuardia airport that goes right up the Hudson River, offering views of Manhattan that will blow your mind. It takes the fact that, though I go about my daily routine, I’m constantly discovering new places I can experience with a childlike wonderment. And it takes so much more that I couldn’t even begin to sum up here, including getting out on the water and seeing views like this:

Statue of Liberty at Sunset

The Statue of Liberty at sunset

But today, none of that really mattered. My day ended much as it began. Some 16 hours after my morning commute, I emerged from the subway onto those streets I’ve come to love so much as I made my way home. Only 2 train lines this time and, thankfully, no vomit. 5 years passed with little notice. Just another day in New York City.

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14 Responses to Reflections on 5 Years in New York City

  1. maryna August 23, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    I love life, therefor traveling the world by friends foto’s & blogs is exciting and valueble to me !
    Thank you for your interesting photo’s and ‘stories’, Aaron.

    • Aaron August 23, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

      You’re welcome! Thanks for reading!

  2. Adam - Travels of Adam August 23, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    Nice story! I always thought I’d live in NYC but so far it just hasn’t happened. Still think that if I did move back to the US, though, it’d be the city I’d most likely live in.

    Either way – I’m excited to visit NYC again in October. First time I’ll be there in over 3 years!

    • Aaron August 23, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

      Thanks Adam! And you’re coming to NYC? We must meet up!

  3. Katie August 23, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    Interesting post. I have always loved visiting NYC but always said I could never live there. But now that I am in job search mode, I am finding so many of the most interesting sounding job possibilities for me are based in NYC, so I have been considering whether I might actually be able to do it…we’ll see. 🙂

    • Aaron August 24, 2012 at 12:46 am #

      Why don’t you think you could live here? Sure, it’s quite different from Chicago and there are some real things to get used to about living here. But the benefits far, far outweigh the any potential pitfalls, at least in my mind. That said, this place isn’t for everyone.

  4. Aurora August 24, 2012 at 5:47 am #

    I recently returned from 9 months of travel and was not sure where I would end up in the US. NYC was never on my radar, but when a great job opportunity came my way — all I could think was – well, this will definitely continue the adventure. Now, a month in, I definitely feel that way. Whether it is hearing Spanish all over the place or seeing folks from all over the world or seeing things for the first time, it feels enough like traveling and adventure that I know I can be here for some time.

    thanks for your thoughts!

    • Aaron August 26, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

      It really does, doesn’t it? Sometimes I find that it gets to be a bit routine, but it takes leaving NYC and coming back to get that exploration feeling back.

  5. Rease August 24, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    Sounds like you found a city that fits you well. Thanks again for sharing some of it with me when I had a short visit!

    • Aaron August 26, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

      Absolutely! Glad you enjoyed your visit!

  6. Dani September 8, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Beautiful post, Aaron! It reminded me that I always wanted to live in NYC for a while, and I hope I’ll be able to fulfil this dream one day 🙂

    • Aaron September 12, 2012 at 11:58 am #

      Thanks Dani! It was great to be able to show you a little bit of NYC! I sure hope you two make it back here for a while!

  7. 30Traveler November 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    I think I feel the same way you do – that NYC is the only place in the US I’d want to live. I’ve laughed at the “free advice” offerings too, and also received a few “free hugs.” A weird but wonderful place!

    • Aaron November 24, 2012 at 4:04 am #

      Weird but wonderful indeed! Can’t say I’ve ever sprung for a free hug though. I’ll settle for a real live exorcism happening outside my apartment window (which really did happen about a month ago…).

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