I’ve had a star-crossed love affair with New York City my entire life. Growing up on Long Island, it was almost impossible to avoid it. Both of my parents had worked there at some point, and as soon I became old enough to travel in on my own, I spent most of my time there, too. That’s the thing about living so close to New York; part of you forgets the exact moment you fell in love with it since you’ve known it your whole life. Sometimes you’re not even sure why you fell in love with it in the first place, but you know you did. It doesn’t even matter why. Not until you leave.
And I did. When I was a senior in high school, I was desperately trying to escape my hometown. Long Island has, admittedly, such a tightly knit culture that does not exist anywhere else in the world that at times can be extremely overwhelming. And that’s how I felt: overwhelmed. Overwhelmed at the fact that I didn’t know anything else except the Island. I had been tied so irrevocably to the culture where I grew up that I couldn’t imagine anything else. But I knew I needed to. So I left.
Honestly, the two years after I left New York and made the move to North Carolina were probably the worst two years of my life. I had a terrible case of culture shock of the South, and was absolutely miserable. I had never seen anyone who wore camo or went hunting, or had that slow drawl that reminded me of anything but home. I tried, I really did, in those first two years. I made an effort. I even tried to fit in and buy a Lily Pulitzer dress (I’ll never wear it again, so not me), but nothing worked. I felt like I was clearly an outsider, and it wasn’t just in the way I dressed. It was in the way I talked, too. My accent, which had never been apparent before, was now the most obvious thing about me. It was the brunt of almost every joke: “Say Caw-fee again!” or “Oh my gosh, did you just say da-wg?” Well, yes, as a matter of fact I did. Why did that suddenly become funny? It wasn’t until I was on a flight home that I realized that it doesn’t matter, that I didn’t care.
I was sitting next to an older woman, about seventy-five or so, who had just lost her husband. She had told me she moved to North Carolina with him, but grew up in New York and was finally returning to finish up her work as an artist, a painter, actually. We had just descended and were flying over the city when she leaned over to me and said, “No matter how many years you’re away, it’ll always be home.” I could have started crying. I had been trying for so long to escape the most important place in my life. I missed the thick New York accents that my family have, the smell of an Italian bakery first thing in the morning, snow falling in Bryant Park around Christmas, and twenty-four hour diners. Yes, we have those. And yes they’re glorious.
Do I regret moving to the South? Not at all. Living here has allowed me to meet my best friends, experience the craziest things (country bars anyone?), fall in love with country music, and expand my understanding of the world. I am so incredibly proud of where I came from, and I’m not trying to hide it anymore. New York will always be home. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been away.
Will I move back? Well, I don’t know. I guess it will depend on my future job and future husband, although I’d sure have to love them a hell of a lot to live anywhere else.