It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, so I’m thrilled to let Catherine take over the reigns today to talk about living in NYC. Growing up in New York, it’s always fascinating to hear about people’s first impressions of the city. I met Catherine working at Food52 (she runs the social media like a champ!) — and we hit it off. She’s feisty and fearless, the kind of person you always want to invite over for dinner because you know they’ll try anything you make. Welcome, Catherine! Her thoughts, below…
I love New York. I heart NY. That’s the slogan you see pasted on tourists’ t-shirts and cheekily graffitied on street corners. But any true New Yorker would rather be caught eating at Subway than wearing an item of clothing bearing the iconic saying (unless they were being ironic, of course). Because “I love New York” goes against everything a New Yorker holds true. They like to complain: about their commute, about the homeless man they saw peeing on their street corner, about how expensive cigarettes are now, and, most of all, about the subway system. But the funny thing is, beneath its coding, all their complaining really boils down to “I love New York.” Because it’s the challenges that makes true New Yorkers “never able to live anywhere else.”
I don’t love New York. Sure, I like some things about it. I like that I can get a tamale at 2 a.m. I like that I have access to the Met (though I hardly ever take advantage of it). I like that I live in the most exciting city in the world. But all those things that people complain about – the commute, the workmen’s catcalls, the fact that people just toss their leftover sandwich wrapper in the middle of a park – actually, really, truly, bother me. Because they’re really unpleasant things.
There was an article in the Onion which called New York City, and I’m paraphrasing here, “an expensive, garbage-filled playground for rich people.” And this is true. It is obscenely expensive, it is filled with garbage (how are all other comparably-sized cities so clean? Paris doesn’t have this problem. Neither does London. It’s just confusing), and it can be a playground, if you’re the right kind of person with the right kind of money.
Life in New York is just harder. Once, walking down the street with my mother, to whom I’d been complaining about New York for the past 15 minutes, we saw a sparrow pecking another dead sparrow’s eyes. “Oh, my God,” said my mother, horrified. I turned up my collar. “That’s New York.”
As life is harder to live in New York, people’s focus tends to narrow. They think about the fastest path to take to work, to get back home, and the best way to spend their free time. So much energy is spent compartmentalizing it’s a miracle they actually have time to take advantage of anything that New York has to offer. I know I don’t. Every time I cross one thing off my list 10 more pop up. Most New Yorkers seem to spend half of their energy keeping up with the “haps” of the ever-changing city. Frankly, it exhausts me. When do they have time to watch crappy TV on the internet?
My new favorite way to describe New York is “it gives you the highest highs. And the lowest lows.” This seems to satisfy most people, and I think it’s true. I’ve had moments where I feel like I’m literally kicking the world’s ass. Then there are times when I think humanity is doomed and should probably be eliminated. Do those two equal out to a general positive? For some, yes. For me? Not as of yet. But I’ve heard from multiple sources that after your first year in New York, you’re hooked. We’ll see if that holds true for yours truly.
Thank you, Catherine! I love your honesty.
All photos by Julian Goldstein.