I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later — because I did not belong there, did not come from there — but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.
Maybe I am over quoting here, tossing around the words of other people until I find my own, like trying to find your favourite dress in the hamper, but I think it was Tom Wolfe that said "one belongs to New York instantly". I've only been here about a month - in fact, I touched down at JFK exactly one month ago this Saturday - and I think I understand what he means.
For those who find themselves drawn to it, this city creates an irrational dichotomy of feeling. You always feel a minimum of two things at once, always. When you feel like you know exactly where you are, you also feel utterly lost. Often literally. Quick tip, when travelling on the NYC subway, if you aren't 100% sure where you are do NOT surface. Only emerge onto the streets with absolute certainty you'll do so on the exact coordinates you need, otherwise the city will swallow you.
The moments of peace you feel are created in a bubble of unimaginable chaos. When you are feeling brave, New York will find a way to remind you to be cautious.
When you find yourself creatively stalled, the city will jump start you suddenly with alarming veracity and you'll know exactly what to do.
You're never alone but a the same time desperately isolated.
It's those in need of possibility, change and inspiration that gravitate here. And if you fight for it, New York will provide. But you've got to have stamina to fight for it or you'll get washed downstream.
New York whispers to you if you have the capacity to really listen. There's an electricity in the air that you can tap into. You feel it when you arrive; an invisible conductor installs itself in your spine that allows the city's energy to flow through you.
This constant conflict of feeling and charge isn't for everyone and there isn't a grey area with New York. You either love it or hate it; some people are not equipped for being yelled at to sink or swim, and that's what happens here.
I went to see Frances Ha the other night at the IFC in the Village. A brilliant wee film that felt to me, what would happen if Woody Allen and Lena Dunham were to have a movie baby. Written and starring the pretty much brilliant Greta Gerwig and directed by Noah Baumbach.
I'm not going to go on about it because you should just go see it, it's great. I'm bringing it up because it was one of the moments of opposites for me. The city feels like it has welcomed me but I was lonely, desperately so, and the city was looking down on me from a great height. Not just because there are a lot of tall buildings. So I took myself to the movies. The movie reminded me why I came here - not just because Frances gets chewed up, spat back out again and rebuilds herself, but because sometimes there are just moments. Little pockets of beauty to be found when you are at your saddest. Remember why you came here. Remember to look for the moments that make life what it should be.
I came here to realise a dream. To find and a create a better and braver version of myself. To learn. To train. To be what I want to be. Hopefully I'll achieve that. In the meantime, I'll leave you with my favourite moment from Frances Ha, I really hope I get the chance to use this monologue in acting class at some point soon. Frances is drunk, at a party comprised mainly of strangers and on the subject of relationships she says....
"It’s that thing when you’re with someone and you love them and they know it, and they love you and you know it, but it’s a party! And you’re both talking to other people and you’re laughing and shining and you look across the room and catch each other’s eyes. But…but not because you’re possessive or it’s precisely sexual but because that is your person in this life. And it’s funny and sad but only because this life will end. And it’s this secret world that exists right there in public unnoticed that no one knows about. It’s sort of like how they say that other dimensions exist all around us, but we don’t have the ability to perceive them. That’s…that’s what I want out of a relationship or just life, I guess."
Me too, Frances. Me too.