A tale of two cities
Every time, no matter what, I’m swept off my feet. My pulse quickens and a spontaneous smile arrives on my face. There’s at once a feeling of soul-deep comfort and a tremendous delight in the excitement, the brilliance of it all.
And no, this is no tall, dark, and handsome gentleman I’m referring to. It’s…well, Manhattan. Yes, that glorious gem of an island overstuffed with humanity. I called it home for nine short months over two years ago, but still it draws me most powerfully. I return with frequency for visits to old friends, work trips, the occasional family excursion. I always revisit the beloved blocks of my old neighborhood, those routes well-worn by foot and subway springing back to life. I pop in my old library and favorite coffee shop and the lovely remodeled church around the corner. I walk by the garage next to my old place, hoping against hope that my attendant friend will be in. It all—the delight, the joy, the hominess—comes rushing back. In New York, my heart swells in a way like nowhere else.
And then there’s my current home of Philadelphia, the city with a quietness and humility and grit unlike its previous counterpart. My time here began with a forlorn year in the suburbs, with months of fighting off nostalgia and regret for leaving New York behind, with forced hopefulness and gratitude. It was quite the rude awakening, I assure you. But that forced hopefulness and gratitude has transformed most beautifully into true joy, great comfort, a life so full and good like never before.
During my most recent journey home from New York, I pondered these marvels, as I often do while traveling. And it came to me, the perfect analogy: New York is the romance, and Philly is the friendship. My love for New York was immediate, and reflexive, and it always comes rushing back in an instant, bringing with it a particular giddiness and pleasure and all-encompassing warmth. My love for Philadelphia was slow to grow, and hard-fought, and well-earned. I’ve worked for it and nurtured it and gained it, at last. And each day as I drive home from work, as I pass Boathouse Row along the glistening Schuylkill and watch the sun-kissed skyline appear into view, there’s a sweet affection that rises in my heart for this, my city.
Now, we all love a little romance. Or at least I do. But, New York and I, we just weren’t meant to be. I still think very highly of it, and reunite with it at nearly every chance that arises, and reminisce about that wild year we spent together, but we always part ways, as we’re meant to. I make my way there every so often just to get my fix, to catch up properly with dear friends I still have there, to be reminded of my old metropolitan love. But whenever I go, however long I stay, I am always just a visitor. All good things must come to an end.
As much as I loved the great delight of life as a New Yorker, there’s a striking goodness to my friendship with the place I now call home. I see its faults and grime more readily, I suppose, but they are far outweighed by the virtues and the beauty I’ve trained myself to see, and appreciate, and really love. And as thoroughly as I enjoyed that spurt of romance, I’m happy to say: I think this friendship is here to stay.
How about you? What’s your relationship like with the place where you live? Do you yearn for an old home? Have you worked to see a new home with fresh eyes? Do tell.