I was sitting at a bar last week catching the first half of a soccer match before my shift and an Irish bloke next to me struck up a conversation. After the expected formalities and armed with the knowledge of my name, birthplace, and consequent years spent in this fair town, he asked me, in the most Irish of ways, “How do you fair here?”
“How do you fair here?”
“I mean bartending, I guess. But I’m a writer and I used to work in marketing…” I started.
“No no. How do you like it?”
I paused before saying, “Half of the days you spend in this city, you want to kill yourself. The other half, you feel like you’re on all the best drugs at the same time and you’re filled with so much ecstatic joy that you can’t even remember how bad things felt just the day before. It’s addictive, life here.”
He laughed. “I thought maybe you’d dance around the question a bit but you damn went for it. You’re right, that’s exactly how it feels.”
This city is a million heartbreaks and a million first kisses all at once. It’s addictive, in all the best and worst ways. The highs are so high you can’t remember the lows and pinch yourself in an effort to come back to reality. And the lows? The lows leave you crying shamelessly on the subway, screaming on the sidewalk, dying in your shoebox apartment, begging for an extension on rent and on hope and on decency when you deserve none at all. It’s polarizing. It’s captivating. It’s character-building, which of course is a euphemism for if it ain’t killed you… It only makes you stronger and for some reason stay longer. It’s something nearly impossible to explain and it’s every day here. It’s everyday life. And it’s as simple and as complicated as that.
Reflecting on gratitude this season, I realize that this, somehow, is what I’m thankful for. The definitive lack of complacency and silence and predictability here. The way every time I feel the city nearly at my fingertips and within my grasp, it slips through almost with a laugh. It keeps me on my toes and on my knees and on top of its shoulders nearly every day. For this city, the people within it, the challenge inherent to it and the beating heart within it. New York, in all of its captivating complexity.
I am so
thankful. I’m so thankful for this city.