It’s been two years since I showed up at Penn Station with a giant suitcase, a dwindling bank account and plenty of big dreams for the big city. I got onto a bus, collected quarters from strangers to pay the fare and then realized I was on a downtown bus when I needed to be going uptown. I sat down next to an old lady, told her I was giving myself a month to find an apartment and a job, and she looked at me, shook her head and said in thick New York accent: “Oh, honey, you’re never going to make it. Come back again and give it a real try.”
I never dreamed I’d still be here two years later–but alas, here I sit in my Brooklyn apartment. I have a boyfriend and a “real job” and a book club, so many incredible friends and (some) money in the bank and a punch card at my coffee shop. I have a regular dry cleaner, nail salon, bagel shop–I’ve got the fixed life I envied, become the local I admired. I fell in love with this city and this life the way most love goes: slowly at first, and then all at once, the sort of love that you can’t quite imagine ever really ending.
Down the street from me, there’s a wine shop that does tastings on Wednesday nights: you can pop in and try three sparkling ciders, sauvignon blancs or Argentinian malbecs while snacking on crackers and brie. There’s a cute little provisions store that sells fancy cheese by the slice and baguettes and organic Brooklyn-made chocolate bars, and there’s a big Puerto Rican grocery store with fluorescent lights and local cotija cheese and homemade salsa. On Saturday mornings, we pick up bagels and iced coffee and eat them on a park bench. On Sunday nights, we order in sushi or pick up sandwiches from the bodega and watch HBO.
There are mornings when the subway is so incredibly crowded, when the cars are stuffed to the brim with people from all walks of life: the magazine editors with perfect coifs and high heels and stockbrokers in pressed suits, busboys and dishwashers, tourists and immigrants and lifelong New Yorkers. Most people are tuned into their own little worlds, headphones plugged in and iPads out and newspapers tucked under the arm. One of my favorite guilty pleasures is peeking over shoulders and being able to guess what book they’re reading from just one page; other times, I’m wrapped up in whatever book is on my Kindle and I’m just so thankful for 20 minutes of uninterrupted reading time.
Sometimes instead of transferring, I get off the subway at 14th Street and walk to my office through the cobblestone streets and brownstones of West Village. Other mornings, I ride my bike across the Williamsburg Bridge: no matter how quotidian it is, there’s always a bit of magic when you see the Manhattan skyline with the sunshine glinting off the skyscrapers. There’s a sense of freedom and adventure riding a bike in New York City: you absolutely have to be in the moment, fully present to the cars and the people and the streets.
It’s still thrilling to think about what my “normal” activities are: picnics in Central Park, drinks at West Village speakeasies, rooftop yoga in Brooklyn, outdoor movies in Bryant Park, eating sandwiches under the arch at Washington Square, shopping in SoHo. These are the things tourist dreams are made of, and it’s just everyday life here.
Last year, I daydreamed about “getting a dog, about an apartment in Brooklyn with a dishwasher, about long weekends in the Caribbean or jaunts upstate.” I haven’t made the jump on buying a dog yet (soon!), but I just resigned my lease on an adorable apartment that is, yes, located in Brooklyn and has a dishwasher AND HAS AN IN-UNIT WASHER-DRYER. We spent a long weekend in the Dominican Republic, plenty of jaunts upstate to the Berkshires. So basically, dreams do come true. And I can’t wait for (at least) another year of living the dream in New York City.