New York. Manhattan. The city. I talk about it a lot. Most people look fondly back on their childhood homes, referring to wherever they grew up as the best city in the world. However, very few have the privilege of being right when they say it.
New York encapsulates more than just my childhood, it’s a place of opportunity. It’s a liberal wonderland. It’s a bubble. And while some areas become lifeless and bleak as grey office buildings tower over tiny people in suits, some streets contain more culture than entire regions in the United States. Times Square and midtown will never be able to compete with the hole-in-the-wall comedy dens in the West Village, the vibe of Spanish Harlem during the Puerto Rican Day parade, the lights that illuminate Bryant Park in the winter, Union Square after dark when the artists come out to play.
We are the coastal elite, only out for ourselves in a way that would horrify anyone attached to Southern hospitality. But our extreme focus on individualism does not mean we are selfish – we do not fit into any stereotype, but are a part of so many communities. We pride ourselves on our fashion, on the way we stick out and the way we exist as if nobody is watching, while also constantly performing for an invisible audience. The world’s a stage, and New Yorkers are the actors. You can visit anywhere from Italy to India to Kenya to Brazil to Shanghai while traversing the boroughs; you can do anything, from trapeze overlooking the sunset to upper east side wine tastings to fully immersive art exhibits; and most of all, you can be anything.
As Colson Whitehead wrote in The Colossus of New York, “Our streets are calendars containing who we were and who we will be next. We see ourselves in this city every day when we walk down the sidewalk and catch our reflections in store windows, seek ourselves in this city each time we reminisce about what was there fifteen, ten, forty ears ago, because all our old places are proof that we were here. One day the city we built will be gone and when it goes, we go. When the buildings fall, we topple, too.”
I was born and raised in New York City. I am the hipster, stuck-up norther easterner that I am fully aware the rest of the country despises, honestly sometimes for good reason. Every time I enter the city I am overcome by a wave of empowerment and every time I leave I feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. And while gentrification eats away at my city, with remnants of the past (RIP Sunshine Theatre) being replaced with beautiful yet cold cafes and juice shops (and so many fucking salad places), they can never take away our attitude. Our pride. Our individuality and our unabashed and well-deserved arrogance. Just let them try.