Junior year of high school was when I first started raving about going to New York and how it would be the perfect city. New York was the only US counterpart as far as I could see that could contend with the mega-metropolitan city that is Seoul, where I had spent 10 years of my childhood. After all, I was a city girl.
I harbored the same dreams through college up until 2008, when I finally broke away from my fears of bankruptcy and visited New York. Once there, I realized with shock that I’d been Californianized far more extensively than I’d ever thought possible. I craved rolling hillsides and vast blue sky? Freeways stretching endlessly, terrifyingly into the horizon before me? Strangers approaching me for conversation in line, on BART, and along the streets? Next thing I knew, I’d want to stay in Friday nights.
After returning to Korea to work for two years then moving to Chicago for grad school, and craving the Bay Area more than tears could express, I pushed New York to the back of my mind, although I knew I couldn’t put it off forever. It was like the pebble in my shoe: The urge, the need to try out the New York life at least once in my youth constantly itched at my consciousness, even as I yearned to crawl back to my Californian haven and what was familiar and comfortable there, even to stay in Chicago for an extra year.
But if there’s one thing my return to Korea has done for me, it’s made me excessively ageist, mostly against my own self. 26 has been a daunting number for me, impending 27 even more so. In the grand scheme of things, the mid-20s is, of course, not terribly old at all, but when I think of the rough sketch of my near future—I’ll spare you the intricate details, but it involves some degree of professional success and purchasing real estate by mid-30s—and the amount of headway I haven’t been able to make in my impossibility of a career path (journalism, bah), the pressure is a bit overwhelming.
So here I am, armed with one suitcase, a duffel bag, and a purse, standing in the middle of Times Square and staring up at the Reuters and Condé Nast buildings flirting with each other in the sky over the head of Walgreens. Hello, New York. You and I are going to become well-acquainted with each other over the (hopefully) next few years.
(P.S. I will be so pissed if you turn me back into the angsty citizen I once was in Seoul. Bay Area and Chicago semi-suburban life may not have completely kicked the city girl out of me, but at least I grew a lot more relaxed.)