It happened that night while I sat eating New York cheese cake and breathing in the life of the city. I always need a moment to orientate myself whenever I visit someplace new. I had more moments like that when I walked through Central Park and rode the subway. But that very first time is when my heart clicks – and it either does or it doesn’t.
I arrived in New York City late, around midnight. I discovered a 24-hour deli in Times Square filled with small clusters of people drinking coffee and beer. I grabbed a chair next to the window where I could see the news ticker on the building across the street. People in Saint Patrick’s Day costumes stared at me through the window.
As a girl growing up in a small town, I always dreamt of skyscrapers and fast-paced cities. I’m older now, and still fascinated. But for different reasons. I’ve traveled to cities in the United States and abroad since my childhood. Each city has its own charm, architecture and people, but the draw for me has always been the fusion of all those elements.
There’s a piece of me that craves the life of a city where I can watch indie films, study at all night coffee shops, frequent the art museums, see a new play every night of the week, have an expanded grocery selection, and read more than one daily paper.
I love living in South Dakota. My family is here, of course, but it’s more than that. Life is simple here and I understand it better than anywhere else. Traveling to Los Angeles, New York or Paris floods me with new images and ideas that I need to come home to digest.
I think it has to do with the way time feels like it stands still here; at least it does when I leave and come back. In New York things never stay the same. Over spring break, I went back to Fort Collins, Colo., where I used to live. It’s a medium-sized city near Denver. All my favorite hangouts had been shut down, new constructions was going up, and major landmarks had disappeared.
In New York, I could walk the same sidewalk every day and never see a familiar face, or go to the same coffee shop and the barista will never remember my name. In my hometown, everyone knows what I’m doing. The postman tracks my movements by where I forward my mail, and the local grocer asks about my ex-high school sweetheart.
I’m not ready to write off South Dakota, and I’m not ready to pack my bags and move to New York City. But I want to keep exploring. I may never understand anywhere like South Dakota, but I won’t stop trying.