I moved to New York City several springs ago. My original episode there was a stubborn campaign, in which I disavowed all advice and help as I thought it would build character to live with unadulterated exposure. To be honest, all I desired to accomplish was to have the metropolitan experience and come to a conclusion if it was ultimately where I should spend the foreseeable future. Sustaining this future was a whole other story I wasn’t even contemplating. I’d figure out the subway lines, be the judge of said hole in the wall, make friends by serendipity and force romance to manifest. My individualistic expectations left me gutted and empty, natural contentment ignored for escapist fantasy. The situation was untenable. My room was partitioned, with a collapsible wall and without a door. Since my status was illegally subletting squatter, I carried around my predecessor’s ID (a possibly felonious fugitive by the looks of his picture) for access to the lobby and all the auxiliary amenities provided by the Stuy Town apartment conglomerate. Finally, my remaining roommate concluded it was time to leave for a milieu more suitable to the bachelor life.
Minus affordable shelter and cash strapped from a gratifying but seasonal job, I decided I would finally finish my last semester of graduate school and found myself a studio near the campus of Montclair State University in New Jersey. Montclair is a perfectly respectable community, offering residents culture enough. It has independently owned and operated businesses of all trade, an abundance of well-maintained green spaces and, of most obvious necessity, five well-positioned train stations whose tracks transit across the suburban landscape toward Midtown. I’ve grown to greatly admire this place and its people — however my presence here is temporary. Ironically, it was only after I left that I was algorithmically introduced to my girlfriend, Yelena in a virtual forum. The previously mentioned self-imposed trappings of a supposedly independent, conquest-chasing Manhattan experience were all of a sudden gone, obsolete.
My climb back toward the idealized, though unclear urban existence — devoid of a solid, steady career — is now fundamentally transformed thanks to a beautiful Morningside Heights girl. Raised in California, seriously ambitious and unbounded from the strange existential struggle of being so close to somewhere but still a guest, Y is my role model for returning next fall. She has instilled in me direction, purpose and capability. After hustling multiple part-time jobs with a parks conservancy organization and as a supplementary religious school teacher, I’m now ready to channel my passions toward obtaining a job in the educational non-profit domain. Before, daily pursuits were a rapid, diverse series of sensory urban phenomena I would visually collect and mentally catalog. Wayward cross-neighborhood tramps, checklist visits to cultural institutions and foolhardy misadventures into the night were my standard operating procedures. Now, I have a partner equally as inquisitive and wonderstruck as I, with who shared memories are made, reorienting my perspective on how I engage and connect with my urban habitat. Endeavoring to explore New York City together has resulted in a combination of appreciation for metro and woman, both changing me for the better.
I never truly realized or observed why I’m partial to any particular places until Y joined me. A sequence of West Village interloping for example: A round of drinks at Blind Tiger, games and jazz at Fat Cat, another round at Peculiar Pub, a slice of pie at Bleecker Street Pizza. Granted they are an aggregate of joints, but these are all regular haunts of mine and some of my favorites on the island. The missing piece to the puzzle was interpersonal reflection, inspired by a partner who challenges me to simply consider what has brought me there and what will I learn to carry onward. A trip to the Museum of the City of New York was a penetrating conversation on our respective visions of optimal city dwellings and arrangements. A concert at the Bowery Ballroom was a moment of recounting our harmonic delights to each other. Frequents of the Broadway Dive Bar are a chance for reposed intimacy, the canopy lounge often exclusive to us. Our shuttles and transfers between activities are reflections of the neighborhood we’re departing and wherever we’re going.
As someone who prizes solitude, allowing another human be an element of self-perception has remarkably improved me and my capacity for maturation. We have a common issue of balancing conflicted identities. Both of us are immigrants of the former USSR, an extremely foreign land — always straddling borders of circumstance, repeatedly discovering incredible contrasts to our grandparent’s limitations of which we can hardly conceive. The confounding alienation and discrimination of our ancestors is our inspiration to succeed in all that we confront, collaborating rather than clashing with the New York crowds. I anticipate my recurrence here will be drastically different due to how I’ve grown by virtue of Y and all I’ve learned with her. I believe I’ll be more capable of upholding my own truths and goals, continually maturing.
However New Yorkers navigate the city, my opinion is that it’s instrumental that they do so through empathetic companionship. However suspicious of stagnancy, I hope and hunger for centrality — somebody or something with the power to create a simultaneous sense of belonging and freedom. At the heart of urban life is a place of balance, stabilizing all my past selves and who today’s actions will lead me to be. For me, Y is the key to unlocking possibility and potential, but still managing to remember that I’m a good-natured and welcoming person. By bouncing ideas off each other and proposing how to deal with issues, we work to nurture one another’s welfare and success. Alone, I might buckle under the immense weight of the city and be intimidated by the ferocious beasts of its concrete jungle. The trust and support between Y and I enables us to not only survive the day, but by inhaling deep the city’s soul and exhaling long a resonance of its primitive essence, change through encounters together.