This week marked the one-year anniversary of my arrival into the United States and New York City. It’s the first place I’ve lived for a year without getting itchy feet to be somewhere else since I left home for University. It seems Sinatra trumps the Allman Brothers after all.
New York really is the city of dreams. There’s a reason the top-voted comment on the YouTube video for Sinatra’s classic is
My dream is to go to New York.
I’m pretty sure if that guy had had the foresight to put up a Paypal link alongside his comment, that the Internet would have had a whip-around and gotten him a plane ticket. It’s a hell of a town.
I grew up in Cardiff and, however much I loved it, you can’t go home again. University in Birmingham was a riot, with stories and friendships that will last a lifetime, but it was the combination of the people I was with and our shared naïveté and sense of wonder that made the place, not the streets of dull concrete and vomit cushioned between endless motorways. You can’t go home again.
I lived in Reading for one glorious year — working at Microsoft with no real responsibilities and a large expenses account somewhat explains the enjoyment there, but I also really came to love the (relatively) small-town feel and sense of community. Eventually though, what took me away from Reading was the sense of sameness: there’s some wonderful things to do there, but those things change rarely and novelty is scarce. Or maybe I’m just spoiled by bigger cities; my year in London perhaps.
It took a while to make any friends in London beyond those I grew up with in Cardiff or knew from work. It’s not such an open city and people tend to stick to their pre-existing cliques. There’s a lot to do there, but it’s so much effort to actually get there and do it, and people are trying so hard to have a good time (weather, Tube, money and schedule-dependent) that they often forget to have a good time. I’d never want to live there again.
New York though? In New York I feel free. Everything changes but the core remains the same. My social life now is nothing like it was six months ago, but the people I’ve met are still there and game for new adventures, and those I’m just meeting are still welcoming me with open arms and showing me new, cool things. Part of the excitement is that the city does, in actuality, change regularly, but there’s also the fact that even those who’ve lived here for years openly admit they’ve barely scratched the surface of what New York has to offer. There’s always a group of interesting people of a type unknown yet to meet, always a new activity, area or type of place (and I’m not just talking about a new bar with a novel beer) to visit and find.
It’s not just a transatlantic thing, I’m pretty sure of that. It’s not that Americans are a more wonderful people (or less). It’s not that I prefer the American culture and ethos. Because, I have no idea about any of those things; I haven’t experienced them. New York is a microcosm unto itself, partly a blend of hundreds of different cultures and communities but mostly its own, wonderful, living and breathing self-creation.
You can’t go home again. But in New York, you can always feel at home whatever changes come your way.