I used to love New York City. The bustling crowds, the beautiful architecture, the overstuffed deli sandwiches, the ear-blasting concerts, and the endless (literally shop til you drop) storefronts. Growing up right outside of the city, I’d take day trips there with my parents, field trips with my classmates, date nights with boys, and adventures with my girlfriends.
My first job out of school was in New York City. I landed a job at a (at the time) small digital shop. I lived at home (because affording the city at 21 years old was impossible), and commuted to the city everyday. I was hardcore adulting and loving every minute of it.
I continued going into the city for work, family and friends. My husband and I went there monthly with my father. Dad always knew the best restaurants, and my husband loved putting his taste buds to the test with different cuisines. It was a good match. My brother got a job in the city, and we’d always make time for each other before or after work, typically for my favorite NYC food, bagels.
Fast forward to March 25, 2016. This is the day that my life was rocked. It was turned upside down. It made me hate New York City.
I’ve written about my father before, and the loss my family suffered. His passing was too sudden. Like the changing New England weather, one moment it was sunshine and rainbows, and the next, it was the dark ominous sky of a brewing storm. My father passed away at work, on Madison Ave between 39th and 40th. You can see the office space from the street. You can look up and see the room, the table, and the chair itself. You could imagine the spot where his heart gave out, and his life faded away.
Coming into New York City after March 25th was gut wrenching. The city kept moving. Why didn’t it stop the way he did? The streets still bustled, the bagels still baked, the trains still moved.
Most of my visits to the city after Dad’s passing were for work. I couldn’t bear to visit that place unless I had a mission that took my mind as far from him as possible. It was still tough, but it was bearable because my mission was to simply keep moving forward in an effort to dismiss the past.
After a year or so, I started to miss the city. With so many memories, and my father’s love for the place, I knew that dismissing it wasn’t right. It wasn’t the city’s fault. It wasn’t the fault of the people that kept hustling and bustling. Life continues to move, and I needed to move, too.
I made plans to visit the city for myself. I volunteered. My brother and I had breakfast. I shopped. It was hard. The change from hatred to love was not overnight. It took months of going back. I kept feeling like I was fighting a wall, and the wall kept winning. Would I ever knock it down?
Recently, I got together with my girlfriends in the city. They’ve been my friends since we were little kids, and my dad had been their dad too. They understood my pain without me saying a word.
There’s a harmonious experience that occurs when you combine a place you love with people you love. Similar to a singer and musical instruments, they’re both lovely individually, but together, they make a song. That weekend sang. The girls and I had great talks as we shopped from store to store, bags dangling off of our arms. We ate at one of my favorite spots for Korean BBQ, and ended the night at a rooftop bar. We didn’t do anything wild and crazy this weekend, but it was perfect. I didn’t dwell. I simply enjoyed it. It was the way New York used to be, and the way it should be.
Those old warm vibes were creeping back in, and I was letting them. This was a weekend I needed more than I knew. I didn’t travel into the city thinking about the therapeutic nature of the weekend. I was simply trying to have a good time. I wanted New York to be alive again.
That weekend brought New York back. It won’t bring my father back, but that spark, as dim as a flickering street light, was brightening again. I’m going to keep pushing, like a train that keeps moving, and one day, I’ll bring down that wall for good.