I am covered in remnants of orange Bain de Soleil tanning gel, SPF 4. I had been sitting in the park near my house in the sun, enjoying part of the day off of my new writing job, which I did not think I would get. I ate a banana, I listened to music, I read New York magazine. And now I am sitting in front of my computer, the air conditioning pushing cold air onto my back as I type. More than anything, though, I am trying to figure out what to say about the last five years without sounding like a horrible cliche.
On July 30, 2010, my mother and I pulled up to my first apartment and emptied the contents of the giant SUV we rented first onto the concrete, then into the lobby, then into the elevator, and finally into the apartment where I would live for the next four years. A giant bucket of shoes, suitcases upon suitcases upon suitcases, neverending boxes of books, and god knows what else. I had what I always dreamed of: a job and an apartment in New York.
And now, somehow, by some stroke of pure luck, I still have those things--albeit a different job and a different apartment. I remember there were parts of me that were so excited these things I had wished for for so long were finally mine, but there were other parts, deeper, under the surface, that worried they might all too soon disappear. That something terrible might happen and I would turn out not to be as strong as I thought I was, that I would fail and never be the tough New York broad and/or gal about town I aspired to be.
Miraculously, as of this writing, that is not the case. I don't think I really understood the magnitude of what I was doing when I moved to New York at 21 years old, fresh out of college, in a city where I had never stayed for more than a few days at a time. I had this sort of wonderful blindness that shot me forward. I look at the people I meet now who are 21 and I think to myself, my god, you're a baby! Sweet little dear! I know it's unfounded because I know whatever I was capable of at 21 got me to where I am now. And where am I? Still living in New York, still writing, still taking pictures, still growing as a person and a small business.
In these last five years, there's been a wealth of experiences that have led me here, whether in my career, my social life, my romantic life, or what have you. I have this strong feeling of liking myself, and fully owning each of those experiences, be they negative or positive, because they made me what I am. I apologize for myself less, I make sure people only treat me with the kindness and respect I deserve, and I am even learning to be a little more carefree. As AM says, "Every day, you need to practice not giving a fuck about one thing." I find I am doing it, and I am a better person for it!
But I don't think I would have had this sort of personal growth if I was living anywhere else. Because I love New York so deeply, I found myself rising to the challenges it brought my way. I knew before I got here that I was the kind of person who would fight tooth and nail for what I wanted; I just never imagined I would also be fighting tooth and nail with myself, challenging myself to become a better person, the kind who could adapt to living in this ever-changing metropolis and roll with the punches it threw my way. I am not perfect--I am still learning. But I am getting better, and that is what counts.
I would not trade one night of one too many gin-and-tonics, one night walking in the snow with an unexpected hole in my boot, one trip through the Union Square subway station in the height of summer, one meal of only frozen peas, or one broken heart for the experiences and the knowledge I have gained in return. Because for every one of those not-so-great experiences, there's an afternoon spent hanging out with drag kings, there's an evening spent at a Chelsea bakery eating banana pudding with male models, there's crazy disco performance art parties where you end up happily covered in fake blood, there's a bike trip an hour outside of the city with a gay motorcycle club, there's the best burger you've ever had, there's photographing inside legendary arts venues, there's meeting Fran Drescher at a gallery opening, and the electricity of kissing someone you've just met for the first time on a too-quiet street in the West Village. Those are the moments you live for, and you can't have the good without the bad.
To all the bad moments and all the good moments from these last five years in New York, thank you. I don't know what I'd be without you.