“When you first arrive in a new city, nothing makes sense. Everything’s unknown, virgin… After you’ve lived here, walked these streets, you’ll know them inside out. You’ll know these people… It’ll belong to you.” -L’Auberge Espagnole
Whenever I’m about to start over in a new city/state/country, I begin to wax nostalgic for all of the places that I’ve called home, as well as all of the ones I’ve yet to know.
And since I’ve moved 4x to 4 different states in the past year – not to mention my upcoming 5th move to state # 5 – I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power that place has held in my life.
I’ve always had a somewhat difficult relationship with it; growing up, I felt equally out of place in America, my adopted home, and China, my birth home, so I spent much of my time daydreaming about languages, cultures, and homelands not my own. Then I started actually leaving – to England, the Caribbean, India, and then to Spain, where I spent a year and a half.
But Spain didn’t work out, and when I returned to the U.S., my college travels were in search of a place so compelling that I would want to stay and claim it for my own.
I think that’s why the quote above speaks to me so much. I wanted to belong to a place; I wanted a place to belong to me. And every time that I started afresh, I couldn’t help but feel that excitement and that potential again. Is this one finally going to be it? Am I home, at last?
With my move to NYC drawing ever closer, I’m falling into that same line of questioning.
New York is energy. Diverse, passionate, intense energy. It pushes you, forces you to move, makes status quo an obscure impossibility. It’s the type of city that I know is going to make me crash – into people, ideas, and adventures – even when I am not actively looking for them.
But of course, the other side of “crash” is “burn”, and I can see myself getting burned out. I can already make out the tiny fissures around the perfect life in New York that I’m imagining for myself. It will be lonely, alienating, and overwhelming. Unlike DC, whose transience makes it friendlier, NYC will remain unimpressed – I’ll just be one of the many dream-chasing migrants that make it to (but perhaps never in) New York.
And yet, even knowing both sides, I feel like New York might exactly what I have been looking for. Here’s hoping that this time, I’m right.