After all this time, and especially because of COVID-19, I’ve come to see New York City is just a city that survives on human connection and togetherness.
On September 1st, I woke up and it hit me. Summer is over, I’m starting my junior year of college, and I can count on at least six more months of living in my childhood bedroom feasting on zoom calls as a means of social interaction. Fall snuck up on me out of nowhere and just like that, summer is a memory. This summer was different, naturally. And it was the first summer that I haven’t been to New York City.
I know I sound a bit melodramatic, but growing up in New Jersey comes with a few perks – living right next to New York City being the biggest one, at least for me. Since I was a kid, I’d travel to NYC with my family and friends, finding new cafes, museums, parks, etc. to waste our time in. My childhood is littered with memories like eating ‘Nuts for Nuts and seeing the skyline at midnight on the way back home, or waiting for subways with my friends just to get lost anyways. All these little moments are so precious to me and yet, they feel so far away.
This summer was rough for New York City and for myself. As I had to face many changes in my personal and academic life, I also saw the city I’ve loved for so many years struggle like I’ve never seen. Problems such as homelessness, wealth disparity, lack of clean public transportation, etc. were only exacerbated during the pandemic and the people of New York City had no choice but to face it all. I’ve always admired the city and those who lived there for being resilient and determined. But, honestly, this seemed impossible to come back from. By June I’d seen dozens of bleak videos featuring the empty NYC streets and quiet subway stations. It was relieving in a sense to see people taking coronavirus seriously, but also heartbreaking seeing how the once lively city appeared barren.
As the end of summer rolled around, parts of New York City began to reopen outdoor seating and limited capacity for stores and services. It’s definitely going to take a few more months of recovery, at least, for me to feel comfortable going back to the city without feeling like I’m putting myself or others at risk, but for the first time in a while I felt hope for New York and the rest of the upper east coast. I have to admit, it seems silly and a bit self-absorbed for me, a girl from New Jersey living back at home, to make any meaningful commentary on the state of New York City. I don’t want to come across as ungrateful for my position in all this and make myself the center of this narrative. So instead of finishing off my thoughts here feeling sad about my missed time in the city this summer, I’d like to share one of my favorite New York City memories with you.
It was the day after my cousins, sister, and I had a long night out. It was my first time being to a live comedy show in the city and also my first time singing karaoke! That night was fun on its own but the day after, we were all really tired. So we cancelled our plans to see another comedy show that night and decided to have a relaxing night in. After talking away the evening in acute cafe, we made the necessary pitstop at the grocery store down the street from my cousin’s apartment to get tons of boxes of Bagel Bites and chocolate. We all changed into our pajamas and decided to watch Eight Grade, directed by Bo Burnham. And when I tell you, we sobbed, WE SOBBED (in a cool, cathartic way). It seems like such a simple night, but that’s what made it so fun. New York City may be the city of adventure, spontaneous nights, and freedom but let’s be honest. I’m definitely guilty of glorifying NYC as if I haven’t lived less than an hour away my whole life. After all this time, and especially because of COVID-19, I’ve come to see NYC is just a city that survives on human connection and togetherness. Despite all the adventures and crazy stories, the togetherness is what makes the city so beautiful.