I think it all started with Frank Sinatra. Or maybe I first thought about it because of Frank Sinatra. I once gave a ride to a friend of mine, and he remarked that I was one of probably very few people my age whose car stereo playlist included a major selection of Sinatra songs.
After Sinatra, it continued with my living room decoration. First, the picture frame with a photograph of me in my NYU graduation attire in Washington Square Park. Second, the four black and white posters (printed from my own night photographs): Manhattan Bridge, the skyline from the Top Of The Rock, Brooklyn Bridge, and Washington Arch. Third, my NYU diploma on the wall.
It is of course all over pop culture, TV in particular. I’m not sure whether anyone could avoid it, even if willingly, but the truth is I’ve never even tried to avoid it. Well, as with any addiction, I seem to seek it no matter what. And so it appears in my favorite TV series—Friends, Law & Order SVU, CSI: NY.
My friends and colleagues often ask me about it: how the experience of it was for me, whether I want to dive into it again eventually, and when. Some ask me for advice on how to enjoy it the best way possible when they dive into it themselves.
At work they encourage it. My boss sends me news items about it from time to time. It seems that even the contents of my bilingual business cards, mentioning the jurisdictions where I’m licensed to practice law, were provocatively designed to remind me of it.
However, I don’t blame others for keeping my mind wrapped around it. I’m liable, more than anyone else, for my addiction. A recent expression of it is my obstinacy about watching all of Woody Allen’s movies, prioritizing those involving it.
I guess a growing urge to listen to the complete works of George Gershwin is its next expression. And there a cycle will be completed: from music to interior design to television to social interactions to professional activities to cinema to, once again, music.
My addiction to all things New York has been persistent ever since I moved out of the City—that is, I moved out of it, but it hasn’t moved out of me. My unwillingness or inability to let go of it is clear from the hope I express in my previous post:
New York is not the place where God wants me to be, at least for now. […] It could well be that I’ll go back to New York eventually, or it could be that my time there is over. There’s no way of knowing it for sure, so I’m taking one day—or year—at a time.
Rereading this, I realize my stance has changed at all. I would love to go back.
To be fair, I’ve been honestly striving to live [in] Porto Alegre to the fullest extent possible (my main restriction being my work hours, naturally, and to the exception of a few dark months I’ve been through earlier this year, during which I wasn’t really motivated about anything but work). I’ve been making a consistent effort to adapt and significant progress in adapting to life here—functioning in the city, absorbing its atmosphere and culture (even its accent), getting involved with its academic life, making new friends, cultivating existing friendships, seeking a church community. I’ve now lived longer here than anywhere else in the previous four years. Longer than in New York.
It just doesn’t feel like it. I miss New York City, simply being there. I miss its cultural life (which, being a student on a tight budget when I lived there, I enjoyed as much as I could, but certainly not as much as I would have if I had had the money). I miss the endless academic opportunities at NYU and That Other University Uptown. I miss my friends, most of them from City Grace Church, but also a few from NYU who are still there. I miss City Grace, its pastors, its solid theology, its strong sense of community.
In sum, what I am living now is very real—I’m just nostalgic. Reality equals Porto Alegre. Nostalgia equals New York.
Interestingly, though, I’m well aware that what I’m nostalgic for doesn’t necessarily exist anymore.
If I were to live in New York again, I wouldn’t be a Master’s student: I’d be an overworked (and potentially underpaid) professional like many if not most New Yorkers, desperately seeking work-life balance. Even if now, as a professional, I might have the money I didn’t have as a student, I probably wouldn’t have enough time to enjoy all the cultural effervescence and the many academic opportunities New York has to offer, or to be with the friends I still have there, or to make new friends. Plus, I would be missing my friends who are here just like I’m now missing my friends who are there. As for the church, City Grace is what probably went through the least change, considering the New York I’m nostalgic for. But who knows? It might as well have changed quite a bit.
So I sometimes wonder whether my nostalgia holds me back or whether it keeps my heart beating. Should I try to overcome my unwillingness or inability to let go of New York? Do I really have a pathetic New York addiction, an illness, or is it a healthy expression of my love for New York and what it meant, means, or could potentially mean again for me? Depending on the answer, it might be advisable for me to simply archive (so to speak) my New York experience.
But I don’t want to.