In the end, though, it doesn't matter whether New York was a toxic prison or spiritual haven or both. It's New York. It simply is.
One of my favorite books is the Time Traveler's Wife (trust me, it's nothing like the Nicholas Sparks knock-off the movie makes it out to be). In it, the two lovers, Clare and Henry are madly and passionately devoted to one another. But I remember thinking that despite their purity of their love, the two seemed incapable of doing anything but making the other inadvertently miserable. You can't help but wonder, as you read the book, if perhaps they both wouldn't have been better off if they had just never gotten involved with one another. But then you have to ask yourself, when would they have made that choice? Because of the circularity of his time travel, when Henry meets Clare for the first time, she's already in love with him. And when she meets him as a child, he's already married to her. There really was no beginning to their love. They love each other because they've always loved each other.
Likewise, there's no qualifying my love of New York City. It simply is. I asked myself for a long time, "Why do I love this place so much? Why do I stay here?" It's dirty and it's loud, it's expensive and it's hard. And though there are a lot of answers you can give to that question - the theater, the museums, the food, the people - none of them were strong enough reasons to explain why I was there. And then I realized: I love New York because I've always loved New York.
For a long time, I thought fell in love with the after a vacation with my family when I was 12. It was only a 2-day trip, but it seemed like every day I lived in the interim, from age 12 to age 18, was spent with a yearning and determination to get back to New York City.
So when I finally came to New York for college, I was already in love. I loved the city because I could remember being knocked breathless by it as an adolescent, so many years ago. But I think, when I fell so hard the first time I visited, it was because I could already see myself there. I could imagine my life in New York City, working and struggling and making and seeing amazing art because I was compelled - because there was nothing greater.
I love New York now because I can remember myself then, at 12, loving it so much. But I loved it at 12 because I could see myself now, at 27 still loving the city, still bound to it. There is no beginning and no end to my love of New York. It's always existed. It simply is.