Then vs. Now

This coming week marks the passing of my first seven months in New York. I originally thought it was six, but apparently I can’t count. (This is why I practically failed every math class I ever took.) Some days it feels like my first day here, and others it seems as though I’ve lived here for ages. My little sister just came to stay for a week, and it made me realize how much I’ve changed since I moved here.

The first time I came to New York was after my freshman year of high school, about a decade ago. (God, I feel so old when I say that.) I have some fond memories of that trip, like running through Toys ‘R Us, haggling over the price of my sweatshirt, black market purse shopping in Chinatown, and sitting front and center at Phantom of the Opera. The weather was great the entire time we were there, we ate good food, and saw great shows.

Obligatory childhood photos:

There are also some memories that, while they weren’t so funny at the time, are now hilarious. Like our shitty hotel, when I thought one of the street vendors had charged me $20 for a Snapple (another instance of my failed math skills), our flight being delayed to the point that we almost had to spend the night in the airport, and spending the last of my money on edible lip gloss when I should’ve used it on actual food.

The thing is, I also remember being petrified of the crowds. It was the first time I’d been on a plane, the first time I’d been to a Legitimate City, the first time I’d gone on vacation without my parents. I was but a wee teenager in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. So while I had fun, I was absolutely petrified to get separated from the group, and I was thrilled when the plane touched back down on Wisconsin soil.

Since then, I’ve really grown up. D.C. was a great stepping stone for New York. I realized I was no longer afraid of the crowds, or the funky smells one inevitably finds in a large city or coming from the bums on the train. It also helped that I had to learn to handle using public transportation to get around. Don’t get me wrong, I was terrified to use the subway on my own when I first moved to New York because I was afraid I was going to wind up on the wrong train and get out at the wrong stop, somewhere in the middle of the ghetto. Turns out I wound up living there, so I didn’t need to worry about that!

Having April visit helped me realize how familiar I’d become with the city since I first moved here. I take the subway for granted these days, and forget that it’s confusing for lots of other people. I don’t even blink at the people who come through the cars, singing off-key, asking for money. It took me a while to properly figure out the grid of streets in Manhattan, but now I don’t have to think twice about it. I can walk down Avenue B and point at places I’ve been and make recommendations for restaurants and coffee shops. Now, if you give me a set of cross streets, I can figure out exactly where I’m going without looking at a map. (Which is a huge step up from those first few weeks where I had to pull my iPhone out every time I got off the subway.) Nowadays people ask me for directions. I also realized that I’ve totally adjusted to the speed of life here. People are constantly moving, and now I have issues sitting still. I don’t really think about the amount of time I spend commuting, or how many things I have to get done in a day. Time moves faster here, but I guess I just don’t notice anymore.

Funnily enough, I did more sightseeing in the last week than I’ve done in the last six months.

I’ve been lukewarm about New York for a decade. I moved here in the hopes that I’d misjudged it the first time, and that I’d immediately fall in love. And while that didn’t happen, the city is slowly growing on me. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy it as much as D.C., but beggars can’t be choosers. Publishing is centered in New York, so New York is where I’ll stay. And after the last week, that prospect doesn’t bother me nearly as much. I’ve lived in places I didn’t like before, and in at least half the cases, ran back home. But I made a plan to move to New York. I made a plan to stay. And now that I have a job, and I’m starting to realize how much I’ve actually settled in here, it makes me think I really did misjudge it back in high school. And that’s a good feeling.

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