I’ve lived in New York all my life. I’ve also gone to the same school for most of my life - Calhoun, a progressive school on 81st and West End Avenue. I consider myself lucky to grow up in a city as vast and as varied as New York.
So when I was accepted to college for the fall, going to the University of Rochester, I was overjoyed, but I also felt a twinge of sadness. Aside from the regrets anyone would feel when they’re about to move away, I also had this idea that because I feel like being a city kid is part of my identity, that I would not necessarily fit in. Where I’m going is not in the middle of nowhere, but it is certainly far from New York; no matter what, it would take some adjusting. There are people from all over the country, all over the world, who I will be meeting. And even though the diversity of NYC can make someone think they know every perspective, I will get to know those who have much different backgrounds than I do. I’m thinking of that New Yorker cover “View of the World from 9th Avenue,” and how my perspective -- or the perspective of a city kid in general - can at once seem so worldly and then so limited.
One thing that being raised in New York has allowed me to do is harness my interest in music, whether through joining a jazz band at my school or going to small concerts around the city. While Rochester has many places to see live music, it is not quite the same experience as seeing a band yet to make it big discovering its capabilities, or a group that started playing to crowds of zero at the Mercury Lounge playing a triumphant show at Terminal 5 or the Barclays Center. As for my jazz experience, Calhoun’s program is one of the only of its kind, and I’ve been privileged to have worked with talented musicians to develop my playing. That part has not always been the easiest, but I’ve been able to improve exponentially because of what I’ve been taught over the years.
Music is far from the only reason I love New York, though. There’s just so much in New York that is difficult to find elsewhere - no equivalent of a place like Central Park in a town like Rochester, nowhere that a guidebook would call “the city’s backyard.” There’s nothing as chaotic as Times Square in most of the world, let alone my college town, with tourists and, um, superheroes constantly swarming the streets. And even those idiosyncrasies, to me, make New York what it is, both a tightly controlled city and one where people will run around in costumes for money and attention.
I acknowledge that New York is far from a perfect place, though that is because generally, no place is really “perfect.” But a few months ago I was texting with someone from outside of New York, casually mentioning that I took a subway home, and she responded to the effect of “where I’m from there aren’t any subways,” accompanied by a laugh-crying emoji. That one text speaks volumes about the things I take for granted, or the things I might complain about on a given day. Even after working at this newspaper for a couple of weeks, seeing how it treats the neighborhood like its own small town, I have begun to appreciate everything about New York a little bit more, even as I’m leaving it behind.
Anyone that lives in New York already knows the hectic pace of the city. But something tells me that being away for a while will make a huge difference, especially to someone like me with a perpetual case of FOMO (fear of missing out). The best piece of advice I’ve received for heading to college is that it’s okay to fall into a “bubble,” that it’s okay to not keep up with the rest of the world, especially when work is the priority.
Essentially, not only is this concept of FOMO ultimately trivial, it is also temporary, and the experiences at Rochester are ones I can keep with me forever. That said, as the moving day gets closer, I start to take more walks through Central Park and continue to ride the subways and realize this won’t be my home for much longer.
But I’m excited to take the knowledge I’ve gained from growing up here to a new location, hundreds of miles away.