As of last Sunday, I’ve lived in New York City for 10 years; that’s almost exactly one third of my lifetime.
I knew it basically to the day. I knew it because the kids and parents were lined up around Rubin Hall on Fifth Avenue and 10th Street last Sunday for NYU’s move-in day. That was me 10 years ago; literally, I stood in that line.
Earlier in the day, we had packed up the car in Narrowsburg and hit the road for New York City. I was nervous, excited, and didn’t know what to expect. We ran around that first day, picking up my new computer (a brand new iMac that looked like a lamp), books, schedule and ID card.
I remember the first night I spent in my new dorm room. I couldn’t sleep a wink with nervous excitement. I could hear kids talking in the hall. I thought about going outside and introducing myself but I chickened out and went and put a DVD into my computer (Yes, kids, that’s how we used to watch movies). I’ve thought about that moment by the door often over the past 10 years.
Little known fact: when I moved to New York I had an eyebrow piercing. I’m not sure how to explain the decision to do it other than curiosity and a bit of rebellion. But I can tell you that it only lasted about a year and that seeing a picture of myself from that time is incredibly embarrassing. You never think about how dated you may look depending on what goes into or out of style. It’s amazing I made any friends at all.
My world expanded from that dorm room on Fifth and 10th. The first week I couldn’t tell you how to get from Union Square to Washington Square Park. But gradually all of the gray areas filled in and I started to understand the way the city is laid out. (I still occasionally do get on the wrong subway but that has more to do with being easily distracted. It happened last weekend and I literally couldn’t believe it. I thought someone was playing a trick on me.)
The first few summers were spent working at a coffee shop downtown and living at a family friend’s loft in Tribeca. The idea of leaving for the summer was unappealing to me. I couldn’t get enough at that time and I learned Tribeca by delivering salads. The next year, I moved over to a dorm room on Third Avenue and over to Avenue B the year after that.
At school I made movies for four years. It wasn’t the way some friends describe their college experience but it was a total joy. I worked at the post-production center as a work-study job and got to know my way around Avid and Final Cut Pro. I became an editor and started focusing most of my attention on that. I made basically all of the friends I now have.
Graduation was scary because I was very nervous about finding a job, and what my big unknown called life was going to be like. But that, like most other fears, faded away after I got my first few jobs and started gaining a little more confidence.
Over these past 10 years I have had adventures you heard about and some not suited for the newspaper. I have had successes and discoveries, made mistakes and learned hard lessons. I have loved and lost and found.
Nowadays my relationship with the city is a bit on edge. I spent three weeks out of town and returned to find the city very crowded and unsettling. A few days later, there was a shooting up at the Empire State Building. I have not been able to casually walk down the street since.
I am not sure what the future holds. I sometimes wonder what it’d be like to start the process over again in a new city but then other times I can’t imagine living anywhere else.