Get yourself right back
by Teresa Finney
[photo, my own]
It was maybe my third week or so living in New York. I met a friend for burgers in Madison Square Park, and as I walked home I got so caught up in the city streets that I didn’t realize I had walked right passed 14th st, where my first New York apartment was. I got to 18th st when I realized my mistake. Before that I had stared, creepily but discreetly into a brownstone apartment somewhere off 8th ave. It was that vision, that image of a typical New York apartment that had set me on the exact path that I found myself on that night. The city was still so fresh and new to me.
A year prior a friend and I had a serious, intense conversation about what I wanted out of life (there were tears and pizza and wine involved) and I had this vision of an apartment much like the one I peeped into. I wanted that, I told her. And I’ve told the story too many times now, it’s redundant. I was lost in a strange city, one that I had never set foot in before committing to a life there. I didn’t even realize the freedom that would come with that decision. Once while laying in the sand on a beach in Montauk, I told a new friend that the first time I came to New York was the day I moved my whole life there. His eyes lit up and he smiled as if I had just performed a magic trick in front of him. It was the first time, maybe ever in my life, where I realized I felt proud of myself.
You don’t have to be brave to move to New York and you don’t have to be brave to move 3,000 miles away. You just need to be a little bit crazy and a lot eager. It helps to have money. It helps to know at least a few people in the city that way isolation and loneliness do not kill you. It is entirely possible to spend an entire day at Bryant Park, surrounded by millions of people and feel entirely invisible and alone. Sometimes that is exactly what you’ll want. To be left alone around other people. New York can give you that.
It helps to force yourself out of your apartment, even on the coldest day in January when you make the mistake of not wearing leggings under your jeans. The cold air will feel like a thousand knives on your skin. It helps to keep the plans you make with your friends, no matter how tempting a Frasier marathon on Netflix in your pajamas seems. It helps to go for walks. Those same annoyances that make you roll your eyes and curse under your breath on the subway and on Broadway will help take you out of your head. At least for a little while.
Go to the park (any one will do) and just sit. Observe. Put on your headphones and play Broken Social Scene way too loud, or take out your headphones and listen to 34th street parade on by you. Eat a $2 hot dog on the steps in front of the NY library. It’s okay if your favorite bar in all of the city is located in Times Square. It’s okay if you actually really enjoy sitting down on a bench in the middle of the sea of tourists too busy looking up at the buildings and the lights to see where they’re going. Ignore the first guy you went out with when you got to New York who had already been living there for six months when he says not to look up at the skyscrapers because “you’ll just scream tourist.” It’s okay to look up (the buildings practically beg you to) and it’ll be okay to never see him again.
It’s okay to leave New York when you feel like it, when you just need some fucking peace and quiet. When you just need to fall asleep to crickets and silence instead of constant sirens and wannabe rappers spitting verses up and down Amsterdam Ave at 1am. Just make sure when you feel like it, when you’re ready and when the thought of being away feels like a kick to the stomach, that you get yourself right back.