I have a thing with New York City.
I first thought of moving there when I was fresh out of college and job hunting. They always said in school that NYC and DC were the two places for international relations jobs in the United States, and I was curious about the city’s multicultural reputation. So I applied and was accepted to CityYear in NYC, figuring it was a good backup plan for anything else I could come up with. Eventually, I found a better paying job that kept me in Seattle and I never had to use my back up plan.
Fast forward three years. I was done with South Korea, had a bit of money saved up, and the freedom to go anywhere and do anything. It was coming down to DC or NYC and I chose DC because I was hoping the weather would be better and the cost of living cheaper. The fact that my ex-boyfriend and his girlfriend lived in NYC nudged me towards DC too. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it was a useful excuse to stay away from New York City.
Then the weirdest thing started happening. Decision made, I began to execute on my plans to travel all over Asia before moving to the East Coast of the United States. And signs of New York City started popping up in the most random places. The guy on the bus in Bangkok who had it on his shirt. The restaurant in Ulsan with 뉴욕 in its name and a happy crab on its sign. Philippine Airlines opened their non-stop flight from Manila to the Big Apple that month and their entire in-flight magazine was dedicated to the city’s tourist highlights. Even when I traveled to this tiny village in remote northern Laos, a village so small they didn’t have electricity at night, there was a baseball cap hanging on a cactus, “New York” stitched into its brim.
The same month I moved to DC, one of my Seattle cousins moved to NYC. As it turns out I have family members living in New York City. (I don’t have any residing in the DMV area.)
Being my melodramatic self, I felt a little haunted. Eventually, I chalked it up to grief, and New York City dropped back down to radio noise when I actually met up with my ex for brunch in the city. “You would like living here,” he had said at the time. Even he could hear it in the background of everything I was saying.
I thought that was the end of that, but recently, I was seeing someone who had gotten a Masters degree from Columbia University, from the international relations school I used to Google when I thought about becoming a foreign service officer. Naturally, we talked about New York City. I must’ve been saying something about how I enjoyed visiting the place but didn’t want to live there because he ended up saying (several times), “living there is different.” It really shut me up to have a virtual stranger talk like he too could hear the “thing with New York” in the background that everyone else was hearing. If a stranger could get that from what little he knew of me, then it was real deep juju. (A side note that my best friend from college just moved to the city as well. Heck, it can be argued that my ex moving to NYC in the first place was really another sign from the universe, not meant to be a deterrent.)
In sum, I seem to have cultivated an environment of people who are listening for me to move to New York City. (A friend who was going to London for the summer, texted me to say See Ya Later with, “If you haven’t moved to NYC by then…”) And I am completely in love with New York City’s international hodge podge and its larger than life art scene. I’ve been dreaming about making foreign language films in NYC since I first heard the pitter patter of the place, but I’ve put it off to a “someday, after I finish this this and this, etc.” I can’t stand the lack of trees (if you want to see greenery, you have to be deliberate about it), the pollution and the mild claustrophobia I feel with so many people pressing in and around me. I am terrified of the frenetic high speed.
The thought of moving to NYC gives me the kind of trapped/smothered anxiety I only feel when thinking about starting an acting career or having people love me. (Haha, that’s honest.) When I told one of the coaches in my life about all of this, she had me talk until I got to the bottom of why NYC was so heavy for me. “At the end of the day,” I finally said, “I don’t think I’m a big enough person to win big in New York City.” Which, having said that out loud now, is total baloney.
So… I am still not moving to NYC just yet. (Hilariously enough, I probably have enough resources in place to make the move fairly quickly if I decided to up and do this tomorrow.) But now there’s nothing to keep me from going. There are a few projects I want to complete in DC before doing that. And I still want to live in Japan and make beautiful films in LA and about a gazillion things AND I want to live in New York City. Over the next seven months, I will be doing the Introduction Leaders Program, which takes me to NYC at least four times. I will be listening. I think it could be interesting to develop a life where I’m commuting between the two cities fairly regularly by next year, working on projects in both places just like I dreamed in 2015. I really do love living in DC. I don’t regret making that choice. But I’m also ready to face my fears and be the biggest version of myself possible.