There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last — the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is the third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion. —E.B. White
In these next few months, I'll see several friends leave New York City: best friends, sisters, and sisters of best friends. Some have already gone, some are preparing to leave, and some have had plans to migrate elsewhere from the get-go.
This happens. New York is a town that inhales and exhales people, both visitors and residents. It breathes better with such constant flows, and it's something I've come to expect. But in the wake of these recent few departures, I found myself feeling surprisingly empty and forlorn.
I thought of all the familiar places these friends and I used to frequent, and the many more restaurants, food counters, shops, museum exhibitions, and perch-perfect stoops that remained on our ever-expanding list of things to do. Something felt incomplete. And then, in an almost cinematically-hokey way, the clouds parted. The sun came out, my bike emerged from its winter hibernation, and I took myself out to lunch somewhere that is, and always will be—as long as we're both here—one of my favorite spots to go when I need to remember how lucky I am to be part of this town.
For a moment I had forgotten that New York is my ideal, not my default. But my temporary dolor, somehow as involuntarily as this city's restless breathing, transformed into the greatest feelings of affirmation. I'm here, not because I've been left here. I'm here because I choose it. This city defines me. Friends and dear ones will leave this city and create new lives for themselves elsewhere, but I still get to experience those places on the "To Do" list, and with the greatest privilege of knowing it's what I want. I wish everyone had that kind of passion for where they live.