New York, I love you.

It’s funny, I never had a lack of things to blog about in Ghana—everything was so different from what I had known and I knew most of my readers (hi Mom!) didn’t know much about West Africa. While NYC is definitely different from the suburbs of my youth, it feels “normal” here, and I have to keep reminding myself to keep an eye out for the lessons, the sparkle, the things that make this city the one I’ve dreamed about for so long.

So, here it is. My New York City post.

I spent my first few months here going to classes near busy City Hall, writing in cozy Lower East Side coffee shops, working in the fancy fur-cloaked Upper East Side, and taking lunch breaks in sepia-toned Central Park. Now I’m working in glittering Midtown, volunteering in formerly gritty Spanish Harlem, and sleeping in the youth-centric East Village. I feel like I’ve wandered this city up and down and side to side, and I have the blister scars and bunions to prove it (yummy).

As the months go on, I find my head lowering, feet speeding up, and gaze increasingly unfocused. It’s easy to fall into this trap, the one built from comfort, repetition, and everyday life. I sometimes have to remind myself to look up and be energized by the inherent frenetic energy surrounding me. Then once in a while, something happens that forces a smile, speeds up the heart, focuses my eyes, and reminds me how lucky I am to be here.

There were the interesting people being interesting, the drunken punk bands screaming in dive bar basements, the West Village cobblestone streets shining in the sun, the sky turning pink over snow-covered Central Park, and the realization of that lifelong mental image of myself strutting around the city in too-high heels, feeling like a boss in a city full of them.

There’s been challenges too, though these challenges are different than the ones I faced in Ghana; no power outages, water outages, or biting ant infestations here. Rather, there’s been the challenges many of my fellow 20-somethings face, like finding new friends, shaping a life, deciding, and missing the people I love even though they’re so much closer than they once were.

Throughout it all, the concrete jungle has sparkled the way it’s known to do, inserted pretty exclamation marks at the end of otherwise mundane days. I came here knowing I’d either fall in love with the city and want to stay forever, or realize my obsession was based on false hopes and pipe dreams. I still don’t know which is the case, and maybe the answer is somewhere in the grey.

For now, I’m taking photos like a tourist, feeling perpetually uncool, spending money I don’t have, smiling at historic buildings, and identifying with ‘Girls’ characters a little too much sometimes. No, I’m not wearing fishnet tanks or ridiculous fascinators. Yet.

I’m wondering and wandering in a city of wonderers and wanderers, inspired not by buildings but by the people I eavesdrop on at the coffee shop, meet at pretentious bars, and sit next to in the packed 6 train.

While the Smorgasburg skyline still makes my heart race, it’s the millions of people calling this city home that make it a place of dreamers and climbers, hustlers and hunters. The New York sparkle comes from eyes, not from street lights.

I’m just trying to keep my eyes part of the shine.

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