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New York, New York August 28, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Ramblings, Up and Away.
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Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine myself studying, much less living, in New York. Truth be told, if I had my way I’d have been studying in California. But sometimes we don’t get to choose — or the choice is made for us — and if we just go along for the ride we realize what a ride it is.

I’ve spent three years living in the capital of the world, and true to form it seems to have gone by faster than a New York minute. When I first arrived I thought I’d hate the entire experience, thinking that the city wasn’t for me, that it didn’t fit my personality, that by the time winter hit I’d look for any excuse to get my frozen behind back to the Philippines. Well that last bit did happen each winter; but now that I have a chance to look back I can’t imagine not ever having lived here.

In retrospect, I think what makes New York great is that it is the city of cities, not just in the sense that it is perhaps the most representative cross-section of the world but because it has something to offer everyone and anyone regardless of race, origin, personality and persuasion. And this is speaking from experience. As a private person — and more to the point, a nerd — I am probably the least likely individual anyone would have thought would end up in New York, the mecca of high fashion, financial markets, outspoken people and urban attitude. Yet here I am, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that a part of me thinks that, yes, I did belong here, too.

It was no secret that I’d have to move on eventually. In fact, as each semester wore on I rather looked forward to it (still do!). So when I set off on this trip to settle accounts/close up shop/move out I decided I’d also make the most of it by going on a “victory lap” of my favorite haunts and maybe get around to doing some of the things I always intended to but never did (like a tour of the UN). That didn’t quite happen; plans are funny that way. Organizing the move turned out a little trickier than expected, and soon enough I found myself falling back on routine. But I console myself in the thought that it goes to show that I am as much at home here as anywhere else.

Besides, it’s not as if the city itself wasn’t cooperating. This past week the weather has been glorious: sunny, not too warm and otherwise comfortable, making sojourns outdoors quite pleasant. While on just such an errand, waiting to catch a bus on a crowded sidewalk I chanced a glance down the street, and for a moment everything seemed to have slowed down. Taking everything in, I became aware: of how diverse the people around me are, of how on a clear day one can see miles on end down any the city’s storied avenues, of how the buildings that line New York City’s streets are a marvel to behold, and of how the city pulses with life and bristles with history.

In a word, it is simply majestic.

I will miss this place.

And yes, the city seems to have a life and mood of its own, arguably one in lock-step with its many inhabitants. As if on cue, no sooner had I finished packing up the last few items to take home did I come across this New York Times article on how newcomers to the Big Apple must change or be changed to live in the city. Everything in there is eerily true, and I can’t think of a more fitting piece than that to summarize what my stay in the city that never sleeps has been like.

So here’s to New York, the greatest city in the world. I hope you won’t miss me too much; I’ll be back to visit soon enough.

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