Personal essay: How I began loathing NYC and fell back in love with it

Photo courtesy of Joe Ferreri.

All my life, I’ve been in love with New York City. I spent many of my younger nights in the basement of a Broadway theater, my dad’s office. The city is a part of me, or rather I’m a part of it, and it’s felt that way for as long as I could remember. Yet, for so long, it felt like a destination and never a home. It never seemed to me like that was a place people wouldn’t come home from every night. You know what I mean?

That was until I went to Pace University in Manhattan.

If there’s one thing I learned from my time at Pace, it’s that we tend to over romanticize our lives. Scenarios we spend so much time crafting in our head rarely ever turn out that way. This young-creative NYC lifestyle I dreamt was not the life I lived while away at school. All this is to say: I was miserable. I felt so small where I was. The world around me was huge yet, it still found a way to close in on me. 

The world around me was the greatest city in the world, and at that point in my life, it was just too great for me. I don't think I was ready for it yet. I would stay up at night, I would cry on the phone with my mom, I barely ate that first month. I spent almost every weekend at home. 

Despite the emotional warfare I was putting myself through, I made friends whom I love dearly and still see. Bless them for putting up with me back then. They would go to museums with me and walk aimlessly. One of my friends and I had art and history together and we’d travel across the city to do projects. My overall state of mind aside, there were spots that glow bright in my memory. Spring break came around and when I finally felt unscathed in my own world, the world around me came down in flames. 

The pandemic hit — obviously — and I won't bore you with that. I was sent home, we all were, and then the semester was shut down, I emptied out my room with tears in my eyes. We left the rug that my roommate and I bought move-in week, oh well. I got comfortable in the city that I fell in and out of love with, and it was gone. Like that. A few weeks later, I made the hair trigger decision to transfer to Ramapo College, a good one I might add.

Now, I go to NYC every chance I get: to visit the friends I made, to watch my Knicks or my Yankees, or sometimes to just walk around and reminisce; Walking the streets that I did that first week of school, on an empty stomach because I couldn't eat, with red eyes from the crying I had been busy with. 

My decision is made, and I am a future Ramapo graduate. I am very glad to have fallen into this opportunity and the new path that I am blazing for myself. It is not the one I envisioned all those years ago as I stood staring at the Empire State Building. I already tried that one and it seems it wasn’t meant to be, if you believe in that stuff — I don't. But I'll get back there wiser and with far less debt, maybe then I’ll have the tools I need. For now I'm a Ramapo student who has a story that needs to be finished across the river. 

Until we meet again, save me a spot before rent gets any higher. Please.