The last time I was in New York was in 2006. I was 23. I had just graduated from college with a degree in art history. I did not own a computer or a smartphone – papers were written on computers in the basement of the school’s library. I was making about $200/week as an intern at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and my mommy and daddy paid my rent and tuition. I thought living in New York was hard. I shared 400 sq ft with a roommate. I never had money. Winters sucked. People were hard. cold. I was ready to leave.
And leave I did, without looking back until last week. 2012, six years later. I went back for a 5-day, fashion & art-filled, girls-only long weekend. And to my surprise the city felt welcoming, warm, and above all extremely small. The blocks felt shorter, things felt closer together, and the strangest part, the buildings shrank! For example, the Washington Square Park arch and the Brooklyn Bridge, tiny. Magnificent still, but quaint and charming. How did this happen? I wasn’t a little girl when I was last here, you know how you revisit the house you grew up in as an adult and you feel like a mighty giant…that wasn’t the case. (Sure, maybe I’m fatter now, but bigger? doubtful.) With the help of friends I have formulated 3 theories:
1. The smartphone shrank New York (Kyle’s hypothesis).
Don’t know where you are meeting your friend for lunch? Can’t remember if the Whitney is on 5th or Madison? Does the A stop at 14th street? In 2006, not knowing one of these answers could have derailed a whole afternoon. In 2012, whip out the phone and I have my answer in seconds. City maps, subway apps, visitor information, restaurant reservations, texting your friend that you’ll be late, sharing photos on FB, Instagram, Twitter, all done so quickly, so easily. The city is manageable and friendly.
2. Personal experiences shrank New York (Nicole’s hypothesis).
Time I’ve spent visiting other, larger cities, getting older, having more money, and various life experiences might be making New York feel easier this time around. When I moved to New York in 2004, I had just finished studying abroad in Bordeaux (which has two main streets) and Florence, which is about as old-worldy and quaint as can be. Since then, I’ve traveled a little bit more. I’ve gotten a master’s degree. Worked and made money. Perhaps I’m more confident, which makes people more confident in me?
3. The vacation effect shrank New York (Odette’s hypothesis).
I don’t think my mom mentioned it specifically this time, but we often discuss how being on vacation makes one feel all warm and gushy towards a place. As we sip sparkling wine and look out over the park, we think, “I could get used to this.” No agendas, frickin’ perfect weather (sunny with a breeze, 75-80 degrees), eating and drinking to our heart’s content, museums and shopping every day. There was no pressure to be on time, to meet deadlines, everything felt easy and therefore, more manageable, even the size of buildings.
Maybe it was one of those reasons, something else (like the city is actually shrinking!?), or a combo. Whatever the reason, I can’t wait for my next trip out there.