I moved into my first apartment in NYC twenty years ago tomorrow–August 18, 1994. I was 21 years old, had just graduated Harvard, and was working at my first job at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Twenty years ago I would not have believed that I would still be a city dweller at age 41. At that time, I assumed that, like many of my peers, I would move to the burbs at some point. Now, I couldn’t picture that happening. Don’t get me wrong…there are many things I envy about suburban life (like backyards and full-size washer/dryers). But the way things have panned out for me over the past 20 years, I can’t think of anywhere better for me and my kids than New York City, which are lucky to continue to call home. I love our home, my kids’ schools, my work, and the family and friends we are blessed to have nearby.
When you live in New York City long enough, it becomes the backdrop to all the different acts and scenes in your life. Over the past 20 years, I’ve lived here as a recent college grad, a single 20something, a young newlywed, a new mom, and as a divorced mom of two. I’ve logged 3 different careers and 7 different jobs. I’ve lived in 3 apartments. I’ve gone to two graduate schools. I’ve had one husband and four long-term boyfriends (my relationship with New York City has outlasted them all). Best of all, of course, I’ve given birth to and raised two great kids who now–at ages 8 and 11–are bona-fide native New Yorkers themselves.
Sometimes when I’m on a long subway ride or taxi ride that covers many miles of Manhattan, it’s like watching “This is Your Life” unfold. Next stop: Madison Avenue! (my first job). Chrysler Building! (an awful short-lived job). Mulberry Street! (my engagement). 77th and Lex! (my babies’ births). Thomas Street! (divorce court). Some people say it’s tough to live your whole life in one place because there are reminders everywhere of past hurts. . . a street corner where you cried into a payphone because you thought you might get fired, or a restaurant where your boyfriend almost broke up with you, or an alley where you tripped on your Manolos while you carried your own cake home from your 35th birthday dinner that no one showed up too (oh wait, that’s Carrie Bradshaw). And, of course, for all New Yorkers who lived through 9/11, there’s that location, that memory, and all the memories of that horrible day and the days after, even the stench of burnt flesh and fuel in the air. But, no, these reminders don’t scare me away. Rather, they remind me of the very “rich” tapestry of experiences (both good and bad) that have shaped the 41-year-old woman I’ve become. I’ve been through just about every emotion during my New York City life, but, like the city itself, I always rebound and find myself marveling once again at all the choices available to me.
New York is a great place for optimists like me. Every day, there is a new opportunity around the corner–sometimes quite literally. It sounds cliche, but this is where dreams happen. After all, I wouldn’t be here if my own German immigrant grandparents hadn’t started their lives over here when they escaped Nazi Germany over 70 years ago. My grandfather lived just three blocks from my current address. Passing by his old tenement apartment building always make me smile. Other locations, too, have been full of inspiration and promise for me. The Whitney Museum–where I started my career and made lifelong friends. Central Park–where my babies went on their first rides on swings. The views from the Empire State Building, or the Brooklyn Bridge, where I went on romantic second–and third–dates. The neighborhoods, mom-and-pop stores, and tiny restaurants I’ve discovered on my own, just by turning a corner or taking a different route home. New York City never gets smaller–you just find more and more places to discover wonderful new things, and people.
Finally, on this anniversary I’m thinking a lot about New York then (1994) and now (2014). It flew by, but, wow, it is TWENTY YEARS. So much has changed in the city. Allow me to share some examples– Some are personal to me, others will ring a bell with fellow New Yorkers–both past and present.
1994: Metal cutout subway tokens.
1994: 2nd Avenue Subway? Never gonna happen. . .
2014: 2nd Avenue Subway? Never gonna be finished.
1994: I lived next door to a middle school.
2014: My daughter is starting middle school.
1994: Gridlock when First Lady Hillary Clinton visits.
2014: Gridlock when (presidential candidate?) Hillary Clinton visits.
1994: You can call any restaurant to have food delivered.
1994: American Gladiator.
2014: Gladiator sandals.
1994: Needle Park.
1994: Loving Time Warner Cable.
2014: Complaining about FiOS.
1994: Robyn Bird
2014: Robin Thicke
1994: Third Avenue Bazaar housewares store.
2014: Three banks in a row on Third Avenue.
1994: Going out at 11:30 pm.
2014: Going to bed at 11:30pm.
1994: Huge bagels.
2014: Tiny macarons.
1994: Waiting for brunch at EJs.
2014: Waiting for a cronut.
1994: No cash? No cab.
1994: The sound of my dial-up moden echoing in my 1-bedroom apartment.
2014: My 11-year-old daughter fixing our wireless connection.
1994: Male jogger in leotard and fishnet stockings, Upper East Side.
2014: Disgruntled Elmos in Times Square.
1994: Madonna sightings.
2014: Suri Cruise sightings.
1994: New York Magazine Strictly Personals.
2014: Dating apps.
1994: Meatpacking District is actually, well, meat.
2014: The Highline.
What are your favorite NYC memories, if you ever lived here (or still do?) Please leave them in the comments!
New York Is My Boyfriend pouch by Pamela Barsky.