Monday, October 7, 2013

New York: One Year Later

A few months ago, one of my students told me she couldn't believe I wasn't a native New Yorker. She said I seemed so "New York," and she kept forgetting that I had only recently moved here. October marks one year in New York. It's hard to believe at times that a year has gone by, but when I think of my old life in Florida, it already seems so distant. Making big changes always reminds me how adaptable we are as human beings. We can adapt to bad situations, and we can adapt to good ones.

In one year, my whole life has changed and that change has been for the better. I moved to New York, I turned thirty, I won a respectable poetry award for my first book (the Lammy), I signed a contract for a second book, and I married my partner of ten years. It's hard to complain with that much good in your life. I also give myself and my partner, Dustin, a lot of credit for the hard work we put in to make many of these things happen. A lot of people don't put in the work to make changes. It's not easy, but I can tell you, it is worth it. Not everything is perfect right now, but we are working to build our lives here in New York. A place we both truly love. A place we want to be. 

At this one year mark, I'm thinking a lot about what it means to be a "New Yorker." There are few places in the country with as much pride as New York. People often wear their New Yorker status as a badge of honor even if they no longer live here. There's the saying that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. In many ways, that's very true. Living in New York is drastically different from living anywhere else in the country, and it provides its own challenges. In exchange for those challenges, I get to live in one of the greatest cites in the world.

I've come to realize that being a New Yorker is not simply living here in the city. In fact, I would argue many people who live in New York are not New Yorkers. My students, most of which are native New Yorkers, often comment on my New York-ness because I exhibit a lot of qualities that are valued here, and I truly live in the city. I'm active, I know what's going on, and I participate.

I spent 29 years of my life never feeling like I truly fit. I always felt like the odd one out. Some might contribute this to the fact that I'm gay, but I think there's more to it than that. My otherness is not simply defined by sexuality (though that plays a role). My otherness is also marked by my personality, my passions, and how I view life. I'm a strong-willed person with a strong sense of who I am. I don't back down easily, and I'm a good judge of other people, which is why I don't like that many people. I'm a focused and driven person with a passion for writing and literature. These are passions many don't understand or respect. I will probably never make tons of money because of these passions, but I'll be happy. I often have unpopular opinions, and I don't follow all "the rules."

This last year in New York has felt like finding a home. I fit here in a way that I've never fit before. My directness is appreciated here. My intelligence is appreciated. My bitchiness is appreciated. People don't get offended easily here and nor do I. My work as a writer is appreciated and valued. I've done more poetry readings in the last year than any other time in my life. What I'm saying is perhaps I've been a New Yorker all my life, but now I'm finally here.  

To me, part of being a New Yorker is also taking advantage of the city and truly living in it. Dustin and I love doing new things and going to events, museums, bars, clubs, and restaurants, so we've taken major advantage of our time here. In fact, we are constantly informing other New Yorkers about events they've never heard of before. I don't understand living here and not being active. There are endless things to do.

I've also never lived somewhere with so many free events or a place with a bigger sense of community. People interact with each other in a very different way in New York. I've had more people speak to me in my neighborhood than anywhere I've ever lived. I've seen people be more helpful and nice than other places. Directness is often perceived as rudeness, which is why people think of New Yorkers as rude, but  I associate directness with honesty, which is perhaps why New York was recently named one of the most honest cities in the world.

It's safe to say that I've fallen in love, and I'm not going anywhere. I'm happier than I've been in a really long time, and I'm very thankful to have a husband who shares my passion for new experiences and enjoying life.

-Stephen (New Yorker)

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