After a two year pandemic-induced pause, writer Lauren McCurry has a second chance at living out her New York dreams. The city she arrived back to is different, and so is she.
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The bright side is that some people found the space to quench interior yearnings for lifestyle equilibrium – hobbies like bread-making, knitting and sobriety soared. The awful side is that some people died, some lost their businesses, and some lost hope.
My plight lies in the former camp; my big life plans to relocate to NYC were postponed for two years. A pause like this is not very serious because no one was hurt.
When I returned to NYC earlier this year, I found it to be a seriously different place. I found myself to be a different person, too.
New York: Synonymously the most over-celebrated city, and the most beautiful – is a place I’ve wanted to live since I can remember.
I spent my teenage years studying Vogue and my early twenties studying publishing, and for over two decades – amplified by quite a few trips to the city – my desire persevered.
Through books, films, magazines, and blogs, I taught myself to believe that NYC was the centre point of my sartorial, cultural, and political universe – and everything about my life would be better if it took place there.
Previously, a lot of my drive to live in NYC was shaped by being able to afford nice stuff and by being able to achieve a lot professionally. Watching Millennial ‘girl boss’ icons like Emily Weiss and Leandra Medine Cohen sculpt their empires made me believe that aesthetically-pleasing ambition was my ticket out of monotony.
I genuinely believed that if I could make it in NYC, it meant that I could be both exceptionally clever and wear really good outfits. That I could work in a light-filled office overlooking the crawling metropolis and subsequently unlock a sanctum of happiness otherwise inconceivable; all while wearing a preposterously flattering Prada outfit from head to toe.
Looking back at my naïve pomposity, I cringe.
Fast forward to this year, I returned to a city and a country that had endured many tidal shifts beyond the pandemic – to discover this brand of naivety wouldn’t work. After a sordid election, the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the #BLM movement; too many mass shootings, it was evident from the second I arrived that I could no longer lean on the blind indulgence of aspired prosperity to find happiness here.
Good clothes, a weekly column, a checkerboard rug, and a Skyting membership – they simply weren’t enough.
As a privileged white, cis-gendered female with seminal capitalist sensibilities – I am only fit to comment so far on NYC’s racial, social, and economic disparity. Yet, being more aware of it than ever before, I feel it’s my continuous journey to reframe my desires and dig a little deeper into what is now meaningful to me – in the wake of a global pandemic, and also a want to feel more aware of the realities diverse people face.
Digging below the glassy, glimmering surface of the cultural institutions I once worshiped is where I start; but I do not know where I finish.
What I do know, is that without the desire to trawl the pages of Man Repeller aspiring to dress in a perfectly asinine cottage-core outfit, or spend hundreds of dollars on the latest upbeat and quirky D2C product – I have a lot more time and money to focus on things that bring more joy, and feel more substantial.
My pace has slowed and I like to hope my footprint has lessened. I feel more convicted to my personal taste and less prone to sipping on the kool-aid of what the liberal elite of NYC tells me to.
I’m not woke, awakened – I’m different. I am older and I seek different things to gratify my hunger for a blissful state.
The world has changed but New York is still wonderful, smells awful, and makes me cry happy tears of joy.
And, without the handholding of the cultural monarchs that once claimed my devotions, I feel I have a little more room to navigate it on my own.