The train whistle blows as I pass through another no-name town, filled with lush greenery and gemstone houses, hugging the glassy waters of the Hudson River. I'm heading Upstate to visit my husband who is away for the summer on a gig. After a full week, I'm grateful for an escape from the city that I didn't know I needed.
The first time we moved to New York City was during the hottest, most humid week of 2009--August 25 to be exact. We were newly engaged, myself having just graduated from college and my husband about to embark on the journey that was Juilliard graduate school. His student loans, Monopoly money as I like to call them, paid our rent on a modest one-bedroom apartment at the northern most tip of Manhattan. As most newcomers do, I immediately loved the city for all of its diversity and the possibility of adventure that lay outside every set of pinging subway doors.
Not long after we settled into our cozy home, the next stage of New York City newness happened: I loathed everything about the big, rotten apple. The once exciting subway rides were now monotonous. Instead of opportunity, the screeching train doors only opened to a rushing throng of desperate people pushing past, oblivious to common courtesy. Depression and resentment crept inside me and took up residence. In the city of eight million people, I felt side swiped by intense loneliness. That, and everything smelled like urine.
Two years later, I found friends, a job, and enclaves of the city that supported me in the midst of the most arduous transition of my life. Then we left. I surprised myself by missing the city and the world we carved out for ourselves amidst the bustling crowds of funny talking, slightly-callused people.
My husband and I made two more cross-country moves before our recent return to Manhattan. I was eager to move back to the city that was so full of light and life. I came here this time around determined to have the quintessential twenty-something experience of living in NYC: 1 part "How I Met Your Mother", 2 parts "Friends".
Everything was going to be different this time. We had good friends, I had a shiny new job with a company I loved, the colorful lines on the MTA map actually meant something to me, and—most importantly-- we wanted to be here.
Again, I was blindsided by a range of contradicting emotions. Pride, a sense of accomplishment, excitement, happiness, anxiety, despair, nostalgia, anger, and hurried, very hurried, from the first step off the plane. Add apartment hunting to that mix and you may as well look for me drowning my sorrows at the bottom of my sublet's bathtub, clutching a glass of wine as though it were the true Holy Grail.
I've realized that moving to and living in New York makes me strong in a way that I can't fully appreciate. I'm constantly uncomfortable and wishing we lived somewhere where money wasn't such an object of concern. Usually, I teeter between admiration of the city's beauty and the readiness to pack up and leave. My monthly trips Upstate have helped ease my nervous system and calmed my mind enough to know that I am lucky to call this crazy place my home.
At least for now.
Ashley Hanson Curran lives in New York City (again) with her husband.