by Heather Vandenengel


I don’t really want to write something about New York City because it feels impossible to do so without sounding like a cliche or a jerk, but here goes. I went to New York City for the first time in two years this past weekend and it kind of unsettled me in a way I wasn’t expecting. Maybe because every other time I’ve gone, it’s been a family or field trip, or a brief weekend stay notable mostly for the tremendous hangover and eternal early morning Megabus ride back to Boston. Maybe because I’ve always wondered if moving to New York is a thing I should consider and now I know that answer, or maybe it’s just me, not the city.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the abstract idea of a city, how we characterize it, what comprises one, the forces that act on it. New York City feels so much like a contradiction of everything at once: vast and claustrophobic, phony and real, sad and funny, insanely rich and extremely poor. There’s its obvious appeal for an observer, a writer, and no shortage of material, but I fear I might go mad from over-stimulation, or more realistically, not be able to afford any kind of life there that would allow me to write for a living. But, of course, people make it there every day just fine, and I’m happy that they do, and happy if they’re happy.

I guess it’s because you can’t think about the city without it reflecting something back about yourself. The idea is that people move there because they have something to prove, or have ambition that can only be realized there, and if I don’t want to move there, what does that say about me? Really, I think it’s a pretense, the idea that you have to live in a certain place to in order to truly live or to do great things, or that relative comfort/quality of life and ambition are mutually exclusive, but still.

The only true thing may be that, whatever the city is, it doesn’t give one shit what you think of it. It doesn’t care if you’re a 7th-generation New Yorker or if you just got off the bus this morning; if you swear it off forever or if you reroute the course of your life for the chance to make it there; if you make it big or burn out. It’ll keep chugging on, the whole glorious, crushing mad mess of it, with or without you.

Also, here are some photos of my beautiful friends, views from an 11-hour train ride and some nice things from New York City.