New York I love you, but you’re bringing me down.

I’ve been in love with New York for a long time.

I don’t know why or when it started, and it turns out this is a love affair that may just tear me apart.

I’m at a point in my life where I can do, go, be wherever, whatever, whenever. I find myself suddenly identifying with every “coming of age” story I find, not because of the age bracket or hairstyles, but because those stories are always full of fear, failure, freedom, and fate. Also questionable fashion choices and self-doubt, but I digress.

For the first time in my life I know exactly what I want, but just because I want it doesn’t mean I can have it anymore. I wanted to travel, so I saved money, got on a plane and did it. This time, though, following through is more intimidating than anything I’ve ever experienced.

I can move, just like anyone else. I can pack up my things and peruse Craigslist and save some more money and muster the courage to leave everything I know and love. I can and I will.

Then comes the hard part.

I’ve never felt my dreams begin to shatter before, but I’m starting to feel the shards. As my potential moving date approaches, I’m starting to face the reality of what I’m getting myself into.

New York could be one of the most competitive job markets in the world. If someone can make it there, they can make it anywhere. The thing is, in a sea of people and cultures and buildings and voices and masters degrees and nepotism, passion and dedication aren’t necessarily enough. “Duh,” right? Right. Except love blinds and youth seeks and failure must be learned.

I might not make it in New York, I may not make it anywhere. I know I’m not entitled to anything, and after all, I’m a part of the generation that keeps looking and losing, competing and careening into a so-called life. My point? I don’t have one, but I do want to tell you about what it’s like to be in love with a city in the midst of a quarter-life crisis.

When I was little and my friends were dreaming of becoming astronauts and scientists, I was focused on something a little more concrete. I wanted New York. I had never been, but I had read about it and seen it on T.V. and heard people talking about it like it was a living, breathing thing. I wrote a bucket list and stuck it inside a conch shell my parents had brought home from Hawaii. There was only one item on that list: go to New York. I had dreams of Columbia and NYU and schools that I have never and will never be able to afford or pretend to afford, but as that reality set in, that bucket list item transformed and grew.

I was a preteen when I visited first, and the city was everything I dreamed of. The air felt thick, the buildings seemed more weathered and real than any I had seen, and the people looked like they belonged. A few years later I visited again and my heart jumped again and again at the sights and sounds and smells that felt so right, so right. On the weekend of my 21st birthday, I took the overnight bus to the city for the first time, and as the sleeping pills wore off and I looked out the Greyhound window, I saw my first New York City sunrise and my heart broke because I knew I was home.

It’s been almost two years since I’ve seen it last, and I’m constantly reminded of the my unrequited love for that city. Is it just me or is New York everywhere? I see it everywhere I go, and it’s starting to turn me into a weird person that wants to believe in signs. Television shows, t-shirts, paintings, articles, statues, social media, movies, nail polish names…it’s everywhere I look, and it’s a constant reminder that my love is not unique, not even close.

Maybe it’s not real, maybe my love is a construct built up from years of media indoctrination and false promises, but if I never go, I’ll never know.

So I’m going to go. I may crash and I may burn and I’ll probably cry either way, but that conch shell is calling.

I’m bracing myself for the fall, just like every other 20-something and Depression-era money hoarder. I’m gritting my teeth, losing sleep and attempting to thicken skin that hasn’t seen the marks of criticism and indifference in a while. I’m readying myself for becoming a small, socially awkward fish in (or near) a very, very big and confident sea. I’m terrified, pessimistic, hopeful, naive, nauseous and proud.

I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

Now we wait.

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