This morning, like most millennials, I pulled up Facebook to do my morning scroll. Where there is normally a news feed filled with my friends' successes and cat videos, today there was a little message telling me that one year ago today, I was visiting New York for the first time.
The message popped up as a 'on this day' memory, one of Facebook's many features. It was accompanied by this picture, three of my closest friends from Paris reunited in New York:
Thinking back, it was one of those 'pinch me is this really happening' moments. These three (and our fearlessly spirited but unfortunately absent Hanan) guided me through Paris and now we were walking through New York together. Freaking amazing.
The one on the left, Rachel, ignited my love for art in a way that no one else ever could. Week two of our time in Paris, we made a pact - we'd go to art museums on the days we didn't have morning class. We'd go to the museum, which was almost always free since we were students living in the EU and were studying art. Afterwards, we'd find a quiet little cafe to drink an espresso and journal. We'd talk about the artwork, how the exhibition felt, what we liked, what we hated, and why. We'd veer into philosophical conversations and then nostalgically tell stories about our animals, who were waiting for us back home. It was, in my opinion, the best way to experience Paris. I kept a tally, and by the end of the four months, we had gone on 100 museum trips. She was also there to walk with me through the Met and MoMA, just as she had been for the Musee d'Orsay and the Louvre.
Kasey, the giggling human in the middle, was my very first friend in Paris. I'm not always great at making friends, and my first impressions almost always end up with a foot in mouth situation. Kasey and I met in the airport shuttle van that was taking us to our rooms, which were spread out throughout the city. I sat beside her in the crowded van of eager women. She and I were talking about what we wanted to see while we were in Paris, and I sassily and sarcastically made a joke about wanting to see DisneyParis. Kasey laughed, picking up on my sarcasm, and wholeheartedly agreed that anyone who came to Paris for the culture of DisneyParis was a bit of a fool. I quickly found out that coming to Paris for DisneyParis was the main reason that the rest of the van had come to Paris. Needless to say, Kasey and I were bonded in our awkwardness, and we spent the next four months not going to DisneyParis.
This picture sums up Anastasia pretty well, I think. The far right belly laugher, that's her. She hails from Western PA, same as me, so she reached out to me before our program began. We had a good conversation via Facebook, but then she ended it with, "Hahah yeah, never talk to me again. You seem weird and we have nothing in common." I appreciated her honesty and thanked her for it. She was being sarcastic, but it took flying to Paris for me to fully grasp that. Being from Western PA, we were both a little grosser than everyone else in our program. We were just more okay with a dirt, molding shoes, or old food. We probably shocked one or two Frenchmen with our lack of dainty characteristics, but dang, we had fun. She makes everyone laugh and restored my hope in true love (hi, Tim Lasher). She was my go to to celebrate my successes, and to cry to when ordering a baguette was just too damn hard.
It was with these three that I first explored New York. For me, the trip was far less about New York than it was about my friends. I was focused on reuniting with my friends, hearing about their lives, how re-entry was for them, what boy troubles and life success we were facing. I wanted hugs and high fives, New York was just the most convenient meeting place. But I immediately fell in love with its chaos.
Within the first couple hours, I boldly declared that one day, I'd like to live in New York. (Just as I had done to my sister in 2011 in Paris, a prophecy that came true in 2014.)
Fast forward to today, and I'm celebrating three months into my New York adventure. I've signed my first lease, survived my first semester at Parsons. I've had (and gotten rid of) bed bugs and gained (and lost) weight. I've made friends, drank on rooftops, and on more than one occasion, I've bought more books than I can carry. (Curse you, The Strand, and your dollar book sales! - Just kidding, you're perfect. Don't ever change.)
It's been a wild ride. And it's only been a year since I first peaked into this crazy city.
In Midnight in Paris, this quote pops up. And I think it's a fitting reaction to cities.. There really is no creation, no artwork, no masterpiece that shines as beautifully as a living city. So thanks, New York and Paris (and even you, Pittsburgh), for existing in this "cold, violent, meaningless universe".
You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can't. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights, I mean come on, there's nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the cafés, people drinking and singing. - Gil Pender, Midnight in Paris