I moved to New York when I was eleven years old, and at the age of twenty-four I finally saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. This might sound unbelievable to some, but I think it’s fairly common for those of us who actually live here to either avoid tourist attractions altogether or simply take for granted that…well it’s not like the statue is going anywhere, right? We tell ourselves we can go anytime. And then we don’t.
You see, I live in an adorable but tiny house with wood-paneled walls on a dirt road on a mountain. At the bottom of that mountain is a forgettable little town in a sea of forgettable little towns. It can be easy to get caught up in the daydreaming – sitting in the bathtub with my girlfriend late at night and fantasizing about all the more exciting places we might one day run off to. Portland? LA? San Francisco?
All this while somehow forgetting that we could hop on the train and be at Grand Central Station in an hour and a half. That date-night could be a Broadway show or a walk through Central Park or the hippest little coffee shop you’ve ever seen. That we have access to THE Pride Parade. That there are countless songs and movies about dreamers wishing they could be right where I am now.
I have been reflecting on all of this a lot since last Father’s Day, when my girlfriend’s father picked us up on a nearby dock and within a couple of hours we were bobbing around in front of Lady Liberty herself. No lines, no tourist, no walking. Just the sun shining and a cooler of beer and a hell of a view. And while my initial reaction was wow, it’s smaller than it looks on TV, I very quickly began to think most people will never get to do this.
I watched the helicopter tours come and go and marveled at the skyline and drunkenly sang Elton John songs at the top of my lungs with my girlfriend’s father. It was an amazing day. And I can do it as often as I like.
So what makes us think the grass is always greener somewhere else? I so often forget that my sea of forgettable towns is tucked quietly into the Hudson Valley which turns into a painting every autumn, or that I could be standing right in front of Van Gogh’s Starry Night at the MOMA in about two hours. When did these things stop feeling special? Why did I allow them to?
Perhaps I will be somewhere else a few years from now. Maybe I’ll be eating doughnuts in Portland or road-tripping across the country or hiking down south or enjoying the hustle and bustle and glamour of LA. But, for now, I will be living it up here in New York, jumping on that train every chance I get and never forgetting to stop and breathe and take in the mountains. I urge you to look around yourself and do the same. See your hometown as brand new and start exploring it all over again – or for the first time. I bet somebody else would love to be right where you are.