Sirens, opera singing, fireworks, Dancing Queen (at full volume), street cleaners, etc. This is not an exhaustive list of the sounds that I have learned to sleep through in the five years I’ve lived in New York City, but it paints a picture. After attending college in NYC, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life here. I fell in love with the clatter and laugher of strangers, the way the skyscrapers line up just right when you cross Madison Ave, how you can smell generations of love through the garlic, turmeric, and cumin that seeps into old apartment walls.
Although it makes me sad to admit, I think somewhere along the five years of living in NYC, I lost my love for it. I didn’t gawk at the buildings because I knew I’d see the same ones tomorrow, I hated the crowds on the subway, I was mad every time I had to schlep my groceries up eight flights of stairs—I started to sleep through so much of the bustle that initially drew me to the city.
When I agreed to do a service year in NYC, I was excited—and already a little bored too. I wondered if I had made a mistake not taking a year to explore a new place and try something different. Although the excitement of my community members assuaged my worries, I still left orientation wondering if I would find myself exhausted by the city in a week.
During the drive to our new apartment, my roommate began to share her ‘bucket list’ of all the things she was excited to do in the city—she had an unbridled excitement for the place I had grown to resent. Suddenly, as we crossed the George Washington Bridge, she gasped, pointed at the view, and said, “We get to live there!” There was something so contagious about how she became enamored by the view— it woke me up. The skyline wasn’t just a collection of buildings, it was a painting again. Suddenly there was so much joy left to find in the city.
We boarded the A train to head downtown, and I found that I thrive as a tour guide, happily blabbering about restaurants, bookstores, and musicals. The city I described was whimsical, dynamic, and connected. As I showed my roommates around, I fed off of their curiosity and discovered the city in an entirely new way. I realized there’s a difference between just living in this city and waking up and choosing to love it over and over again— from now on, I intend to do the latter.
Settling in Union square, we listened to the prattle of the Farmers' Market and a man singing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” We fought off greedy pigeons under a canopy of skyscrapers and enjoyed the pasta we brought for lunch. My roommate looked at me and asked, “Hey, do you ever get sick of all these songs about New York?” “No,” I said smiling, “and I don’t plan to anytime soon.”
Written by, Gabby Kasper Washington Heights Community '21-'22