Going into college, I used being from New York City as my introductory phrase — a pick-up line of sorts for when I met new people at Lehigh.
I loved the reaction I’d get when I shared that it was my hometown.
“That’s so cool! What’s it like growing up in the city?”
I took pride in being from the Big Apple and embraced it as a personality trait.
When people marveled at the city and talked about how they want to live there one day, I basked in the fact that that was my reality. When people bashed on the city, I defended it with my whole chest.
Where in the city have you been? Times Square? Exactly, no one from the city likes Times Square. You have to visit blah, blah, blah, then you’d understand.
You think the city is too much? Too noisy? Too dirty? Too fast? Maybe you’re just not built for it — you have to be tough.
I was unapologetically pretentious about my love for New York.
I believed there was no better city to live in and felt committed to the idea that I would call it my home forever — the place I was born and raised and the place I would live for the rest of my life.
I felt this way up until last summer when I began to fall out of love with the place I defended so strongly.
The city once made me feel energized, but now it left me feeling drained. I used to find it motivating to be surrounded by the fast-paced, go-getter attitudes of millions of people — something I felt was synonymous with drive.
However, I realized that what I first believed to be drive was actually a toxic culture. The need to keep moving and doing and never sleeping did not hold the excitement and encouragement it once did.
By partaking in this culture — walking a mile a minute, weaving in and out of crowds, rushing from one job to another, forcing myself to workout or do other tasks in the one “free” hour I had in the day, going out at night after a long day — I found myself gasping for air. I felt I was governing robotically, viewing life as a series of tasks and movements instead of truly living.
Absolutely exhausted, I asked myself, why?
Everyone around me was doing the same — adding tasks to their to-do lists faster than they could be fulfilled, and moving like machines, attempting to clear them.
The city left me in a constant state of burnout and anxiety. It got me thinking: there is no reason to move this fast. I can be just as, if not more, productive without all of this commotion. It’s simply not sustainable.
I see people on social media romanticizing “mundane” days in New York City, trying to find some calm within it all. I tried to do that before I realized the mundane is too hard to find there, when it shouldn’t be. Within the confines of your home, you should be able to find and feel calm without exerting so much effort.
This has held true each time I’ve gone home since the summer. I get excited to see my family and friends and eat a slice of pizza from Joe’s on Bleeker Street or a bagel from the corner — because that is one thing that can never be denied, our pizza and bagels are the best. Then that excitement slowly lessens as I realize I no longer feel connected to the concrete jungle.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful parts of the city — the nostalgia of my childhood and the stories my dad told me about growing up there, a sense of independence and mental toughness and opportunities on every block. However, it just doesn’t feel like home anymore.
It is a little too much, too noisy, too dirty, too fast.
Now, I’m not planning on uprooting for suburbia — I’ve done that too, spending every weekend until I was 19 going to upstate New York with my parents — it’s a little too quiet, and I’m a city girl at heart. However, one day, I would like to live in a city that does get some sleep.