I’ve finished reading “Goodbye to All That“, a collection of essays edited by Sari Botton. The authors are several women who have lived for years or just months in New York City.
The Big Apple is an alluring place. You can’t argue, it has everything you need. New York is melodic with its urban sounds, poetic during the transitional seasons, – the iconic autumn in Manhattan and the colorful spring in Brooklyn – intense and challenging, – like the toughness many Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island citizens claim to possess – and so much more. New York has and is everything. At least, that’s its “welcome” sign, the one you bump into once your feet are on the ground of Fifth Avenue. Or Park Slope. Or Astoria.
I can say I’ve lived in New York for almost four years. I’ve been attending college in Long Island, but during the summertime or any other given vacation I would relocate myself in different parts of the city. I can’t properly state that I’ve lived in the city for an extremely extended amount of time, but without any doubts I can affirm that living in the city – in Manhattan and Queens, specifically – has been part of my experiences in college. I still got one more year in this city and I don’t know what to expect. However, I came to the conclusion that New York isn’t everything.
See, I love New York City. With all of my heart. My first published short story is about New York City. It’s incredible how such a young girl can be struck and fell in love with a city. My love was so pure for this city. Still is. I’ve loved New York the first year, when it welcomed me as well as made me feel its super cold winter. I’ve loved New York the second year, when it made me both smile and cry while discovering its most peculiar parts and people. I’ve loved New York the third year, when it decided to leave me behind in order to follow its lead, its fame, its legacy. New York doesn’t wait you. New York is stubborn. New York doesn’t change.
My dad moved from his little town to study and live in Florence. My mom from Rio de Janeiro to Germany, then Italy. I’ve always dreamed to go to the United States. When I was little I had many dreams, including visiting the Caribbean, and live in another country just like my mom and dad did (mostly my mom), and fall in love with an American boy.
Fun fact: the boy had to be tall, caucasian, blonde, and named Andy or Danny. Don’t ask me why. And he had to be from California or from England in California. Little kids are funny sometimes. I was definitely a funny one. I was very into MyScene Hollywood and Bratz, movies included.
Last semester made me realize many aspects of New York, the city, and New Yorkers in general, that set my mind in motion. As an international student, I’m currently in the process of planning what my future plans will be after graduation. That’s also another thing many people don’t take into consideration: you, international student, need to constantly think about your next moves in extreme advance. It’s the economy, the finances, the family, yourself: what do you want to do?
I want to be happy. I want to love. I want to write. I want to make people happy with my writing and presence. I also want to take long walks and swim. I’ve been happy in New York, but also depressed. I think that I should take a break from this city. The thought of it scares me because “how can I leave someone whom I love so much?”. But you, New York City, will never change. Me? I do change. I might not be ready to be a full New Yorker. I need tons of love and passion, I don’t know if you can provide me that now.
“Goodbye to All That” pushed me to think that my experience in New York City has been a common one that many other writers (all young women) have lived. It made me think also that’s it’s ok if I think to depart from the city, to break up for a bit our relationship. The stories shared in the book are all different and special, they all recognize a deep affection to the city. But in order to preserve the art and the creativity, the protagonists of each of these stories had to be bold and tough, like New York. And leave. These ladies had the courage to pack their bags and say “done”. They struggled a lot, fell in love with many people and aspects of the city, found amazing jobs, but at the end of the day they would be either empty or alone. Is it fair to feel like this in your early/mid 20s, when you’re supposed to work hard but enjoy life at your fullest? Those are stories by New Yorkers and non-native New Yorkers who had the balls (ovaries, shall I say?) to leave the city in order to follow their dreams, after having grabbed all the experiences that New York could offer them and enrich in their life. Some of them returned to the city, others did not. Some of them visit the city, others refuse to.
I want my life to be tasty and exquisite. These writers inspired me. It’s a legitimate goal that everyone should aim for. For this reason, and thanks to this book, I think that settling down for a city that is beautifully irrational and tempting might not be the smartest idea to spend your life. At least your youth. I am a firm believer in traveling and warmer places to be at during your 20s. I can’t do it if I’m gonna settle down here already, no matter if you, New York City, got everything.
It’s been over a year that I’ve been struggling finding my own place and creative flow in college. My gut has been telling me to leave New York City for a bit and see the world. To feel the warmth, both emotional and temperature-wise. To write. To be happy. For this reason I’m glad to have come across this book, because it made me feel not alone in this process of thoughts I’m having. There have been other women who have been through this kind of stream of consciousness. Maybe I should listen to my gut. Thanks to this book I’ve learned that it’s ok to have this kind of thoughts. I’m not betraying my love for the city or the people in it, but a break is necessary. Maybe.
Different from them, I’m an international student. With this title I’m learning that I actually got one privilege, while I’m skimming and going over all of my options that I must take in a given time, the sooner the better: I have a whole world in front of me. I will be ready to discover it after having lived in the city of the world, which is not the world per se.
It’s ok if I say goodbye. I love you New York. I know you love me too. You’re the Mrs. Jones to my Billy Paul. This is not a breakup. I love you New York. I hear you say “I know” and not giving a damn about me. Maybe you’ll miss me or love me. I don’t know, I’m living the present. I’m young and beautiful and a curlyflower. Do you like flowers? Maybe you will appreciate me later. In the meantime, be good and do you New York dear.
Anyways, Alexa, play “Empire State of Mind” by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z.