I Went Through All of My Growing Pains on the 4 Train

third year claire torak

photo by Atithi Patel

photo by Atithi Patel

Ralph Ellison once said that New York isn’t a place, but a dream. I’m starting to think he’s right. 

New York was supposed to be one of my greatest loves. We were supposed to belong to each other, to spend our moments apart in agony, because time spent away was time wasted. Our long distance romance consumed me. My bouts of missing Macdougal Street and taking the C Train through Bed-Stuy were so acute that I wouldn’t get out of bed.

I was homesick for a place I’d never been in for more than five days at once. To me, New York was a glistening city that made me dizzy just thinking about it. 

So, I set up my life to get to Brooklyn as soon as possible. 

When I got offered a summer internship for my dream company, I was so excited that I collapsed on the floor of my kitchen screaming. I was going to test-run the future I always pined and planned for. I was going to hang out in the Village and read on the subway and never go Times Square because Times Square is for tourists, and I wouldn’t be one of those. I was going to live in New York, and everything would be all right. I had it all figured out. Everything would be perfect.  

Except, it wasn’t. 

There’s no skyline in Crown Heights. There aren’t any stars to keep you company when you’re alone on Avenue A at night. The trains are always in repair and no one gives you a second glance when you cry in public and Coney Island is just a glorified parking lot that your ex never took you to一no matter how badly you wanted to go. 

This city, this illusory city, was just that: an illusion. 

All of the things I pictured in my head crumbled within weeks of me getting there. There were people everywhere, yet I had never felt so alone in my entire life. 

How could I wanted to be somewhere so much, yet dread every minute of my time there? 

I felt like my misery disappointed not only myself, but everyone around me. People expected me to love it. I expected to love it, but we were all wrong. 

For a while, guilt consumed me. I felt like I had failed at the one thing I wanted most, and I hated myself for it.

The thing is, I turned 20 a week ago, so why should I have to have my entire life sorted out? I still tie my shoes with bunny-ears. I spend my grocery money on books, I kiss people I don’t care about, and I never sleep. I don’t have to have my shit together, and I don’t need to. There is so much growth in youth, and I forgot that for a while. 

It’s okay to hate New York. It’s okay to love New York. Regardless, the Big Apple will never stop shifting and neither will I. 

Happy Monday