When my ninth grade class came to NYC to visit every single tourist attraction in the entire city, we stayed overnight in New Jersey. So when my friend came to visit and wanted to spend a night in a hotel and invited me along, of course I said yes.
I wanted to have a chance to experience New York through a non-New Yorker’s eyes. Unfortunately, my eyes remained unchanged and instead of pretending I was seeing this great city for the first time, I ended up at a bar my company used to use for happy hours all the time, next to a couple who somehow spent 20 minutes talking about doing the dishes. (I mean, I’m glad they’re so happy together and felt the need to mention their future together at least 4 times throughout the evening, but all I could think about was whether this is what happens once you hit 30 and if so, who am I going to talk about boring household chores with?)
I was yawning the whole time, and I couldn’t help but recognize what a terrible tourist I was being. Especially when, instead of staying out all night, I was in bed by 12:30 setting my alarm to wake up for work the next day.
There are times when I still feel the wonder at being in this city, but I don’t think I will ever again feel it as strongly as the first time I visited.
From my 14-year-old perspective:
“I’m actually in New York! Well, technically, we’re in New Jersey. But we were in New York. It’s worth the drive. It was long and pretty boring, but New York is indescribable. There are so many lights! Just being in the city makes me feel like something exciting will happen…
“I think if I was in New York for a year, I still wouldn’t see everything there is to do and see. It’s overwhelming because I haven’t really been to any big cities besides Cleveland. If we weren’t on a tour bus, I would never be able to find my way around the city. I can only imagine how crowded it will be in the daytime. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow.”
That innocent sense of excitement can’t be recreated. And that’s okay. Some things about this place are better as a tourist, but staying in a New York City hotel reminded me that the best parts about this city are often the most mundane. It’s just home now, and really, that’s exciting enough.