NY I love you, but UGH.

 

I'm drafting this as I sit in a park in the middle of the city. I'm on my lunch break. Absentmindedly scrolling through my phone after picking through a very-green-very-pricey salad and sipping on a tastes-like-spicy-algae-super-green juice. Sweating it out in this dank summer humidity.

 

To my right, an older woman is stretched out on the park bench. Not whether she's tanning, napping, or both. What is certain is that she is not wearing a bra. Or shoes. To my left is a group of guys I assume are finance bros based on the volume of conversation. Loudly shouting over each other as they roll up each sleeve of their dress shirt, very confident their own opinion is more important than the person next to him.

On my way to the park, a girl staring at her phone (determined to trigger Snapchat selfie filters) told me off—for her running into me. Meanwhile, to avoid her, I stepped into a mystery puddle and it splashed on my ankle. SKIN CONTACT. WITH MYSTERY DUMPSTER RUN-OFF. 

 

 

New York, I love you but... I hate you.

It's supposed to be hard to hate you. Most people visit only once and you. But I'm not exactly one of those people who overdosed on FRIENDS & Sex and the City and daydreamed my way into a life in the big city. Those people show up with unrealistic expectations, impractical closets, and no job. Those people are the worst.

We had an extended flirtation and I was attracted—but in no way committed. 

I spent a ton of time down here throughout college thanks to a long distance relationship and the $15 Chinatown bus. I was here nearly every long weekend, most school breaks, and spent a couple summer vacations. By the time I graduated, I was well-versed in where to avoid (Midtown) and where I could get a drink without being carded (St. Marks).

I needed convincing that we were meant to be. 

It's a big dirty city and the pace can be exhausting. Plus, I was comfortable in Boston: I had close friends from college, an amazing work partner, and apartment I furnished with my favorite things. My junior art director salary went a much longer way in Boston. I could afford a place to myself and make frequent trips back to California. I worked from 10am to 6pm. Never on weekends. Staying after 7pm (which was rare) meant it was a rather late night. I couldn't imagine sacrificing all that for a hectic life in New York.

I was too comfortable. I was too young to be that comfortable. I set my eyes on an agency that was doing something completely new. And—crazy enough—they wanted me too! I signed the offer from 360i, sublet my Beacon Hill apartment, threw my things into a U-Haul van, and began my relationship with New York.

 

Living in New York is vastly different from visiting.

Visiting new york

Everything feels larger than life.
Stay out all night.
Shots. Cocktails. Shots. Beers. Shots. 
All I do is eat, play, shop, hang out. Eat again.
Take an obscene amount of selfies and check-in everywhere.

Living in new york

Everything feels a bit smaller & tighter. 
Stay in when I can, go out when I have to.
Wine. Beer. Water. Water. Wine. Coconut Water. 
All I do is work too much and are somehow always broke.
Do my best to live outside my iPhone. 

 

 

I had to adapt to make this relationship work.

I adapted how I travel: by subway, though I often forget to add travel time for the inevitable train delay. 
I adapted how I walk: dodging obnoxious tourists who swing their selfie sticks with abandon, while rolling my eyes at the occasional asshat shouting an obscene catcall.
I adapted how I stand: to create just enough space for myself on the subway: tower over a tiny Chinese grandma with a bunny cart filled to the brim, wedge my leg around a dusty construction worker and their toolkit, hug-but-don't-hog the pole while a strange child has their head just under my armpit. Simultaneously avoiding all forms of eye contact while making eyes at the little dog in the tote bag on the other side of the train.

Home is a one bedroom apartment is furnished with an eclectic mix of things from CB2, DWR warehouse sales, the Brooklyn Flea, items inherited from friends who left the city for wider closets and in-unit washer dryers. My most prized possession is a sassy little Bengal cat who snuggles up to me in the winter. 

My wardrobe is comprised of clothes adaptable for any occasion from super important client meetings to low-key bar hangs. Boots and beanies are no longer for frivolous fashion, but vital tools of warmth in the unpredictable weather between November to May. 

 

It's not exactly hard to love you, but it definitely isn't easy.

It's exhausting. Everyone's hustling—both physically and mentally. We all have some place to be and want to get there fast. People try to make a statement about themselves, with their side-hustles, podcasts, tattoos, undercuts, short films, pop-up restaurants. You have to find yourself and hold steady amid the current. 

Living in NY exposed me to a lot of cool shit...and not-so-cool shit. Along with the iconic museums, live jazz lounges, and dope neighborhood bars, there are also actual human poop on a subway bench, rats on the platform, drunk assholes peeing on a subway door, creeps jerking off on the train. 

 

 

 

 

You were one of the most challenging relationships of my early 20s. 

I worked on many personal relationships in my early 20s, but my relationship with this city turned out to be the one that most defined that pivotal time of life. Who I am, how I live, how I understand people, who I want to be—it's all been shaped by the people and places I've encountered in New York. 

With you, I've learned that you can rush everywhere but get no where.
People can disappoint you, but they will always have the ability to surprise you.

People here are insanely talented. And interesting. Everyone is doing the shit out of the thing that they're doing. 

You are the narrator of your own story.

In the short time I've lived in New York, I've seen the city bloom and grow, crumble in some ways, then grow again. There's always something new around the corner, adjacent to something else that's been there from the very beginning. You never forget where you are.

In the few years I've been here, I've become: a content manager, a designer, a (amateur) photographer, a cat owner, an art director, a stylist, a manager, a feminist, a student, a freelancer, a (fearful) cyclist, a coffee snob, a pizza snob, a museum member, a plant killer, a cinema club member, a botanical garden enthusiast, a (unbalanced) yogi, an insatiable traveler. I am more comfortably me than I've ever been. 

New York, I hate you but I love you.

Lessa Chung