E.B. White once wrote that in New York City, there are three kinds of people: Those who were born here and chose to stay, the daily commuters from outside, and the ones who come to the city to realize an ambition.
Each brings am important qualitiy to the melting pot that is the city: The first brings stability, the second change, and the third passion.
It’s true: A riddle in its own terms, the city is balanced in its imbalance, ever-bubbling with life and struggle, thriving on passion, and subsisting on loneliness. “I absolutely love my job,” says a friend to me one night. Another hesitates: “There are way too many options…”
You could spend years studying New York City without ever getting anywhere. Perhaps, you, too, would find that there are too many avenues to explore, all leading at some specific point, important on its own yet meaningless in the collection of the city’s impressions. But the big picture is this: It’s a self-sufficient city made by self-sufficient people. Tiny neighborhoods run on their own, connected to hundreds of other neighborhoods that are complete islands in themselves.
Spend all your time in your neighborhood and you’ll feel like you’re in one cohesive, smaller town. Or you could entangle yourself in the city’s circumstances and feel like you are part of a great, exciting, rootless city — almost a cause on its own. And there, you meet all its people — those with amazing jobs; those with life brimming their eyelids as they discuss a mighty idea over cocktails; those with accents thick as butter; and those with nothing, who sleep in the streets at night and sing on the subways, begging for change, by day. Or, those who are just like you — regular people with eyes wide open and nothing to lose.
What is it about New York that is such a riddle, you ask?
It’s a love affair. Like love, the attachment is a mystery. The city is tough. It makes you work hard; it challenges you to frustration. But it pays you back for your work generously. It offers you culture, and food, and constant diversity. It offers you everything to see and do, all kinds of people to meet and learn to understand. People from all walks of life with all sorts of dreams and nightmares and intentions.
And as you involve yourself in all these things, the city toughens you up; it makes you wiser. It teaches you to be what you do and love who you are.
But most important, it makes you earn what you feel.
You see, there are no free meals in New York City — neither for the bum in the street corner, nor for the girl who loves her job and wakes up in the morning thankful, and eager for another a full, almost too full, day.