Tuesday, September 10, 2013

i want to be a part of it--new york, new york.

The view from a rooftop bar--another reason to love NY.
Today was one of those days I hated New York City. I was 10 seconds late for every train I needed to catch; I wore the wrong outfit for the gross, muggy weather; some guy threw his dying cigarette onto my foot on the sidewalk; I felt useless at work; every subway car seemed to smell like urine--and the air conditioning was broken in those cars too.

I kept thinking about what everyone told me my whole life on the west coast: "New York City is the greatest city in the country." The greatest in the world, some would argue. There are certainly reminders of that every block you step in Manhattan. I still remember the January afternoon I got off the bus from DC, with my two suitcases and no place to live--but when I stepped off that bus, I saw a poster in Port Authority that told me to leave my troubles at the door, because I was in New York, baby.

Since moving here, it's felt like a non-stop rollercoaster of ups and downs. Did living in the 'greatest city' mean struggling to stand on the sidewalk somedays? New York City, with its fast pace and loud noises--it never stops.

But as I rode the subway home today, I looked around at the group of commuters packed into the 1 train with me--they looked annoyed and tired, and many sighed that familiar sigh that really says, "I just want to be home." It made me realize something about that struggle I, and others, complain about: it bonds the people of this city together--the unpredictable subways, the inconsistent weather, the trash, the pressure, the stress of it all. We hate it; yet, it's what makes New York unique. It's really all those qualities that we can point to and say, "Our city is great"--the key word being our--"because of these things we never seem to get used to." And it's great because we still live here, no matter how many subway trains we miss and how many still-lit cigarettes get thrown at our feet. We choose to live here, because you never know what it'll throw at you next.

On this eve of the 12th anniversary of 9/11, I can't help but think about how strong that bond must've been in 2001 in this city when the towers came down. Two years ago, I wrote in D.C. about my memories of that morning and how it felt to be so far from something that felt so personal. Last year, I saw the lights for the first time that marked where the towers once stood.

I didn't understand for the longest time what made New York great, but I think I get it now: greatness has nothing to do with perfection. There are problems in this city that've yet to be confronted and issues that need to be fixed, but I truly believe that there are people working to keep this city moving forward.

You can't be a survivor until you've battled something, and won. What makes New York City great is that it keeps battling. It keeps standing tall. Even at times of suffering, when it takes a punch and can't stay up, it finds a way to come together and lift the fallen. It's not perfect, but it's certainly great.

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