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Chances Are, New York Is My Home

I remember the first time I visited New York City when I was 12 years old. I made the trip with my mother and a group of other young, aspiring dancers. We were attending a summer convention with dance classes in all genres ––ballet, tap, jazz, even belly dancing. We also experienced the Big Apple, and all the city had to offer in 1979.  

I can visualize that trip as if it happened last year –– stepping off the Bieber bus overwhelmed and smitten at the same time. Without pause, I said the words so many New Yorkers have said, "I'm going to live here one day." How I felt, knew, or even imagined that at the age of 12 and within 24 hours of arrival, I couldn't begin to say. But I knew. Seeing the original production of  A Chorus Line certainly didn't hurt the experience either, even though my mother covered my ears for half the show.

I guess I can compare knowing that I'd live in New York eventually to a person feeling sure about anything important in life –– a child knowing what he wants to be when he grows up, or having that deep, in-your-gut feeling when you have finally found your life partner. 

Throughout my teens and also into my young adult years, dance in New York was always my love. As corny as it sounds, all of the meaningless dates and imaginary boyfriends never quite cut it. Although I searched, I never found the type of love that lasts a lifetime.

I thought my first true love was classical ballet, but of course, my desire to dance in the ballet was in New York City. It was always New York. I can think of at least four separate occasions over the years when my opportunity to move to NYC crumbled. After those multiple attempts, I finally put the dream behind me and tried to forget about my love affair with this city.  

I failed for the final time in 1985. I remember thinking that I'd finally done it. At the age of almost 19, I'd become a New Yorker. I slept a night with my head on a kitchen table in a filthy apartment that was supposed to be my sublet with another dancer.  Live here?  No way. I scoured the city that day and searched for a cleaner alternative with no success. A large one bedroom on the Upper East Side at $700 a month sounded too good to be true, and it was.

Then, about a year or so later, I got a call, and my friend and almost roommate had found an apartment.  I could pack my bags and move to New York City, just like that. But, I didn't. That last experience had left a bad taste in my mouth.  As hungry as I once was, I was now scared and confused. I wanted to stay in Pennsylvania with my friends and my job. I felt like a grown-up in real life and I liked it. I gave up on New York and didn't return, even as a tourist, for seven years. Just like a dead-end relationship, I thought it was over for good.  And so, I moved on.
The outside of my house in Atlanta...
I relocated to Philadelphia and attended art school for several years.  After graduation and a brief stint back home in PA, I considered giving New York City another shot.  But something stopped me. Perhaps I knew that I could no longer accept the rejection.  Or, maybe it was my acceptance that some things are just not meant to be. 

A few years passed, and I had an opportunity to migrate to the South, and Atlanta became my home for 12 years.  I met my husband, started a business, owned a big house, had more friends than I could count, and accomplished all that is expected as a thirty-something.   
My living room in Atlanta...
Then, 9-11 happened, and I was devastated. I remember thinking this horrific tragedy happened to my city.  New York was a city that I'd not visited in years, and still, I felt a strong connection. I wanted to be there despite the tragedy and chaos.  I felt helpless and too far away.

The following year, I began visiting Manhattan again, and not to my surprise, I fell in love like the first time.  I began to dream the dream more than 20 years later.  My nostalgia returned, and it was more intense than my early years.  I looked for every opportunity to come back to the city, again and again, sometimes several times in one year.  I would daydream on almost a daily basis at one point. I thought that I'd never be in New York permanently, but I could fantasize about living life in the city.

Then in 2007, without warning, my life changed course. The financial crisis hit, the housing market crashed, and Mike lost his job. After many applications and interviews in various cities, he had multiple offers in Manhattan.  My dream could now become reality. Could I actually leave my familiar life behind and make the move to New York City?

Questions raced through my mind. Could I take this chance once again? My lifestyle would be entirely different than it had been. I'd downsize from my 2,800 square foot Victorian bungalow to a 900 square foot apartment. I'd ride the subway every day instead of driving. I'd have to give up what I thought was an easier way of living. It’s funny how destiny takes over. Somehow, all the questions were answered. 

Thirty years after that very first visit to Manhattan, as I walk many of the same streets that I walked so many years ago, I stop and think. I think about my time here when I was young, inexperienced and naive.  I think about the way the city has changed, mostly for the better. I think about the blood, sweat and tears and all the emotion through my years of training and aspiration to dance professionally. I also think that perhaps my love of loves was never really ballet to begin with.

What I adored was the adventure and excitement of coming to this city to be a part of it all.  I was like a tiny needle in a huge haystack, but an individual at the same time. I felt a sense of belonging and comfort that I'd never felt before. The thrill, energy and beat of NYC that no other place can even begin to touch were an addiction for me, and always will be.

In 2007, I discovered that my home is here, and probably has been since my heart arrived so many years ago.

It was always New York. 

Now that I'm a New Yorker and proud to be one, I have to coin the phrase – "True love never dies." And after all, any love that enduring deserves another chance.


Ecomanta said...

Tracey! You have done a wonderful job capturing some of New Yorks most unique moments - keep up the great work! If you have a chance check out my updated website.

Inson Wood said...

Awesome blog Tracey - can't wait for the next post. - Inson Wood

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