New York has an expiration date. But unlike the expiration date that is scrawled clearly across the side of a cardboard cereal box it is a date you can’t quite see.
The looming deadline has more in common with dairy products. Its inked numbers are smeared under bubbling condensation on the side of a milk carton – Does that say May 2016 or 2017? Your guess is as good as mine – only relinquishing its expiration date with an undeniable stench.
I was evaded by such a thought while sitting in a hollow coffee shop in my hometown in North Carolina. More space than needed, a dozen large square tables with four chairs each dotted the interior of the shop. Though half full, an unfamiliar feeling of vacancy and openness filled the room (it’s funny how quickly you become accustomed to tight spaces in New York).
I had escaped from the city for two weeks of doing absolutely nothing after completing my fifth summer internship.
At the age of 23 I am entering my final semester of graduate school, embarking upon my sixth publishing internship, and living with two roommates in a Manhattan apartment under 1,000 square feet. If that doesn’t scream millennial then I don’t know what does.
Though, it took me a year in the City and a visit home to realize that although I’m living the editorialized 20-something lifestyle not every millennial is living the same way. In fact, my friends from high school and college are living seemingly alternative lifestyles back in the south. More established? I don’t know, but it does my heart good to see them thriving in a place I have for so long called home.
They are analysts, and fellows, and managers-in-training. They pay mortgages, acquire boyfriends, and dare to say they would like to be married in the next six years. Of all my friends who are now located in or around my hometown I am now the single one. I am now the friend with the decidedly exciting lifestyle with the ambitious yet “ambiguous” future. I’ve slapped this new label hard upon my chest like a sticky name tag, glancing down at it periodically to remember my new name.
I relish in the novelty of my decision, but the contrast of my life to that of my peers does not go unnoticed. They have no stories of walking several blocks to and from the grocery store in the rain, taking Uber Pool with complete strangers to save a few dollars, or getting up close and personal with dozens of people on a crowded subway car with no A/C on a hot summer day.
These are events that make us new New Yorkers grimace and groan, but we wear these experiences like stitched badges upon a Girl Scout vest. We point and poke at each challenge and tale with pride, though we often get different reactions from those outside the city.
In North Carolina I am confronted daily with the question of how long I plan to stay in New York – in the doctor’s office, at church, while walking the dog down my suburban street. They hear my stories and they too conclude there is an expiration date for living in NYC. The only difference is that they believe it should be much sooner.
I won’t lie, the prospect of moving back to the Carolinas is enticing. But oddly, despite the daily difficulties, New York feels like the best for for me at this point in life. I am a firm believer that there is a unique path for everyone. And as long as you’re still walking down the crowded streets of New York with a funny-looking smile and the spunk of Kimmy Schmidt, I’d say you’re in the right place.
My life in the city at this point is far from a clear picture but I plan to stick around to see what it looks like.
Cheers to one year and the resolve to keep on truckin’ in the city we now call home!