Today marks my fifth day in New York, a city I’ve so quickly grown to love. It’s kind of strange that although I’ve never lived in New York, as soon as I got into the city, I felt really relieved and at home. Surrounded by water and packed with skyscrapers, I feel a familiarity in New York that reminds me of Hong Kong while still feeling extremely fresh to me. The sound of cars and firetrucks at night, the busy footwork on the streets, the fast pace and convenience, the mix of cultures and cuisines all feel so familiar but when I actually navigate through the city I find that each block I pass feels different and fresh, and then I am reminded that this is New York, not Hong Kong.
E.B. White’s Here is New York describes New York as being three cities in one, offering varying experiences to locals, commuters and lastly, adventurers like myself.
There is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last–the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from Italy to set up a small grocery store in a slum, or a young girl arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh eyes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company.
The book captures New York in 1949, yet it still offers me a lovely introduction to the city today. I’m sure I will understand it more or feel differently after living in New York for a while though. As a friend of mine wrote: “not everyone has the opportunity and privilege to come to New York to pursue their path in the first place, and not everyone has the privilege to leave behind their family to create a life apart from them.” I’m so excited for orientation and classes this week and to finally begin my masters. I get the same sense of enthusiasm from all my classmates too. I can’t wait to start learning and living here.
Here I will find my own New York!