Sea Change

and when i saw you

glimmers of light, sea, life

the ships were racing past me

and in your anchor i found my island.
you see with you i could float

flashes of watery undercurrent 

disappear into shimmering sunlight
i held my breath

dizzying circles

the hurricane that never came
and when i looked up

all i could see 

was water


and sky

The Times We Live In: A Mindful Approach – How to Live with Courage and Love in a Time of Fear and Hatred

It’s a tough time to be alive. We live in a time where hate crimes are a regular occurrence and where random acts of mass violence appear on the news every other day. We live in a time where normal people are killed mercilessly as they do everyday things like run marathons, attend parades, have a night out or simply walk around the neighborhood. This is a time where it’s much easier to focus on everything that’s going wrong – it’s a time that’s making it much harder for us to see the things that are actually going right.

We post on social media and express our disgust, fear, hatred and sadness about the events going on around us, and we focus on everything that’s bad in this world. In a sense, we rubberneck as the car accident happens, and then we spread and perpetuate the experience of fear and negativity  by posting photographs and commentary online. Very few of us are doing anything to solve the problem – we simply point out what is wrong, and then social media allows the fear and hatred to spread like wildfire. The more we focus on the negative, the bigger it seems. The more we focus on the negative, the more it becomes all we see. What we need to recognize is that this world is not “going downhill”* and that the people performing these acts of violence don’t illustrate society as a whole – they illustrate a small, hateful population that is getting a lot of press.

*note: current US election not included in this sweeping generalization about the world not going downhill

I want to challenge us to focus on the good things that are happening in the world. I want to challenge us to focus on the positive events that still exist and have always existed – the positive energy that we’re actually inhibiting by spreading the fear, hatred and negativity. This isn’t to say that we should be ignorant; we should all be aware of the events that are unfolding across the globe. But what we should do instead of throwing more hatred into the mix is throw more LOVE out into the world every chance we get. We need to break the cycle of negativity by interrupting it with love. What if instead of focusing on the random, unexpected acts of violence, we focused on performing random, unexpected acts of love? Could we cause a domino affect that would break the cycle, setting off a new chain reaction? What we look for in life tends to be what we find. What we focus on changes our experience of what happens. Our thoughts manifest – and this isn’t touchy-feely spiritual nonsense…this is physics.

Negativity is a defense mechanism, and it’s a defense mechanism that is outdated. It stems from survival instinct – we almost use negativity to try to “prevent” bad things from happening to us. In this day and age, we don’t need that – it doesn’t help us. We can’t prevent bad things from happening, and our very focus on them is what gives the fear and hatred fuel to multiply. Negative thoughts create negative actions, which in turn create more negative thoughts, actions and events. We need to develop a new, better defense mechanism, and that defense mechanism is called positivity. If we can focus on positive energy and the good things going on in the world, we promote a cycle of love, acceptance and gratitude – and it multiplies.

Here are the things we should be focusing on and the things we should be doing more of – especially in times like these:

  1. Focus on positive energy and events
  2. Focus on the beauty in this world (it’s everywhere!)
  3. Focus on the good people in this world
  4. Focus on the love of our friends and family
  5. Focus on our goals
  6. Focus on giving love to others in spades
  7. Focus on helping others
  8. Focus on our similarities and not our differences
  9. Focus on our humanity
  10. Volunteer time to help others
  11. Promote love
  12. Promote courage
  13. Smile more
  14. Hug more
  15. Show your love more frequently
  16. Spend more time with your loved ones
  17. Focus on the things you want to do, and do them
  18. Make sure every day of your life is happy
  19. Make changes if you’re not happy
  20. Appreciate everything. Little moments, big moments, and everything/everyone you have
  21. Forgive people who have wronged you (let go, for yourself and for them)
  22. Keep looking up
  23. Create beauty wherever you go
  24. Be so, so grateful to be alive.

Why don’t we focus on the great things? Let’s become fountains of love and positivity. Let’s be so, so, so kind to one another that we soften the hardened hearts around us and prove that there is still so much boundless love to be found in this world. Let’s keep looking for the light – always.

Goodbye to All That – Joan Didion

A year ago I told a friend of mine, Courtney that I wanted to write an article about moving to New York. She sent me “Goodbye to All That” by Joan Didion and I told her that I would read it after I finished writing my own piece. A year later, with my article published and as she touched down in LA for the very last time, I remembered that I hadn’t yet read it.

Here it is – a truly beautiful piece and miles better than anything I could ever have hoped to have written.


How many miles to Babylon?
Three score miles and and ten—
Can I get there by candlelight?
Yes, and back again—
If your feet are nimble and light
You can get there by candlelight.

It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my  finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was. When I first saw New York I was twenty, and it was summertime, and I got off a DC-7 at the old Idlewild temporary terminal in a new dress which had seemed very smart in Sacramento but seemed less smart already, even in  the old Idlewild temporary terminal, and the warm air smelled of mildew and some instinct, programmed by all the movies I had ever seen and all the songs I had ever read about New York, informed me that it would never be quite the same again. In fact it never was. Some time later there was a song in the jukeboxes on the Upper East Side that went “but where is the schoolgirl who used to be me,” and if it was late enough at night I used to wonder that. I know now that almost everyone wonders something like that, sooner or later and no matter what he or she is doing, but one of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.

Of course it might have been some other city, had circumstances been different and the time been different and had I been different, might have been Paris or Chicago or even San Francisco, but because I am talking about myself I am talking here about New York. That first night I opened my window on the bus into town and watched for the skyline, but all I could see were the wastes of Queens and big signs that said MIDTOWN TUNNEL THIS LANE and then a flood of summer rain (even that seemed remarkable and exotic, for I had come out of the West where there was no summer rain), and for the next three days I sat wrapped in blankets in a hotel room air conditioned to 35 degrees and tried to get over a cold and a high fever. It did not occur to me to call a doctor, because I knew none, and although it did occur to me to call the desk and ask that the air conditioner be turned off, I never called, because I did not know how much to tip whoever might come—was anyone ever so young? I am here to tell you that someone was. All I could do during those years was talk long-distance to the boy I already knew I would never marry in the spring. I would stay in New York, I told him, just six months, and I could see the Brooklyn Bridge from my window. As it turned out the bridge was the Triborough, and I stayed eight years.


In retrospect it seems to me that those days before I knew the names of all the bridges were happier than the ones that came later, but perhaps you will see that as we go along. Part of what I want to tell you is what it is like to be young in New York, how six months can become eight years with the deceptive ease of a film dissolve, for that is how those years appear to me now, in a long sequence of sentimental dissolves and old-fashioned trick shots—the Seagram Building fountains dissolve into snowflakes, I enter a revolving door at twenty and come out a good deal older, and on a different street. But most particularly I want to explain to you, and in the process perhaps to myself, why I no longer live in New York. It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city only for the very young.

I remember once, one cold bright December evening in New York, suggesting a friend who complained of having been around too long that he come with me to a party where there would be, I assured him with the bright resourcefulness of twenty-three, “new faces.” He laughed literally until he choked, and I had to roll down the taxi window and hit him on the back. “New faces,” he said finally, “don’t tell me about new faces.” It seemed that the last time he had gone to a party where he had been promised “new faces,” there had been fifteen people in the room, and he had already spelt with five of the women and owed money to all but two of the men. I laughed with him, but the first snow had just begun to fall and the big Christmas trees glittered yellow and white as far as I could see up Park Avenue and I had a new dress and it would be a long while before I would come to understand the particular moral of the story.

It would be a long while because, quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later—because I did not belong there, did not come from there—but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month. I was making only $65 or $70 then a week then (“Put yourself in Hattie Carnegie’s hands,” I was advised without the slightest trace of irony by an editor of the magazine for which I worked), so little money that some weeks I had to charge food at Bloomingdale’s gourmet shop in order to eat, a fact which went unmentioned in the letters I wrote to California. I never told my father that I needed money because then he would have sent it, and I would never know if I could do it by myself. At that time making a living seemed a game to me, with arbitrary but quite inflexible rules. And except on a certain kind of winter evening—six-thirty in the Seventies, say, already dark and bitter with a wind off the river, when I would be walking very fast toward a bus and would look in the bright windows of brownstones and see cooks working in clean kitchens and and imagine women lighting candles on the floor above and beautiful children being bathed on the floor above that—except on nights like those, I never felt poor; I had the feeling that if I needed money I could always get it. I could write a syndicated column for teenagers under the name “Debbi Lynn” or I could smuggle gold into India or I could become a $100 call girl, and none of would matter.

Nothing was irrevocable; everything was within reach. Just around every corner lay something curious and interesting, something I had never before seen or done or known about. I could go to a party and meet someone who called himself Mr. Emotional Appeal and ran The Emotional Appeal Institute or Tina Onassis Blandford or a Florida cracker who was then a regular on what the called “the Big C,” the Southampton-El Morocco circuit (“I’m well connected on the Big C, honey,” he would tell me over collard greens on his vast borrowed terrace), or the widow of the celery king of the Harlem market or a piano salesman from Bonne Terre, Missouri, or someone who had already made and list two fortunes in Midland, Texas. I could make promises to myself and to other people and there would be all the time in the world to keep them. I could stay up all night and make mistakes, and none of them would count.

You see I was in a curious position in New York: it never occurred to me that I was living a real life there. In my imagination I was always there for just another few months, just until Christmas or Easter or the first warm day in May. For that reason I was most comfortable with the company of Southerners. They seemed to be in New York as I was, on some indefinitely extended leave from wherever they belonged, disciplined to consider the future, temporary exiles who always knew when the flights left for New Orleans or Memphis or Richmond or, in my case, California. Someone who lives with a plane schedule in the drawer lives on a slightly different calendar. Christmas, for example, was a difficult season. Other people could take it in stride, going to Stowe or going abroad or going for the day to their mothers’ places in Connecticut; those of us who believed that we lived somewhere else would spend it making and canceling airline reservations, waiting for weatherbound flights as if for the last plane out of Lisbon in 1940, and finally comforting one another, those of us who were left, with oranges and mementos and smoked-oyster stuffings of childhood, gathering close, colonials in a far country.

Which is precisely what we were. I am not sure that it is possible for anyone brought up in the East to appreciate entirely what New York, the idea of New York, means to those of us who came out of the West and the South. To an Eastern child, particularly a child who has always has an uncle on Wall Street and who has spent several hundred Saturdays first at F.A.O. Schwarz and being fitted for shoes at Best’s and then waiting under the Biltmore clock and dancing to Lester Lanin, New York is just a city, albeit the city, a plausible place for people to live, But to those of us who came from places where no one had heard of Lester Lanin and Grand Central Station was a Saturday radio program, where Wall Street and Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue were not places at all but abstractions (“Money,” and “High Fashion,” and “The Hucksters”), New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself. To think of “living” there was to reduce the miraculous to the mundane; one does not “live” at Xanadu.

In fact it was difficult in the extreme for me to understand those young women for whom New York was not simply an ephemeral Estoril but a real place, girls who bought toasters and installed new cabinets in their apartments and committed themselves to some reasonable furniture. I never bought any furniture in New York. For a year or so I lived in other people’s apartments; after that I lived in the Nineties in an apartment furnished entirely with things taken from storage by a friend whose wife had moved away. And when I left the apartment in the Nineties (that was when I was leaving everything, when it was all breaking up) I left everything in it, even my winter clothes and the map of Sacramento County I had hung on the bedroom wall to remind me who I was, and I moved into a monastic four-room floor-through on Seventy-fifth Street. “Monastic” is perhaps misleading here, implying some chic severity; until after I was married and my husband moved some furniture in, there was nothing at all in those four rooms except a cheap double mattress and box springs, ordered by telephone the day I decided to move, and two French garden chairs lent me by a friend who imported them. (It strikes me now that the people I knew in New York all had curious and self-defeating sidelines. They imported garden chairs which did not sell very well at Hammacher Schlemmer or they tried to market hair staighteners in Harlem or they ghosted exposés of Murder Incorporated for Sunday supplements. I think that perhaps none of us was very serious, engagé only about our most private lives.)

All I ever did to that apartment was hang fifty yards of yellow theatrical silk across the bedroom windows, because I had some idea that the gold light would make me feel better, but I did not bother to weight the curtains correctly and all that summer the long panels of transparent golden silk would blow out  the windows and get tangled and drenched in afternoon thunderstorms. That was the year, my twenty-eight, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and ever procrastination, every word, all of it.


That is what it was all about, wasn’t it? Promises? Now when New York comes back to me it comes in hallucinatory flashes, so clinically detailed that I sometimes wish that memory would effect the distortion with which it is commonly credited. For a lot of the time I was in New York I used a perfume called Fleurs de Rocaille, and then L’Air du Temps, and now the slightest trace of either can short-circuit my connections for the rest of the day. Nor can I smell Henri Bendel jasmine soap without falling back into the past, or the particular mixture of spices used for boiling crabs. There were barrels of crab boil in a Czech place in the Eighties where I once shopped. Smells, of course, are notorious memory stimuli, but there are other things which affect me the same way. Blue-and-white striped sheets. Vermouth cassis. Some faded nightgowns which were new in 1959 or 1960, and some chiffon scarves I bought about the same time.

I suppose that a lot of us who have been very young in New York have the same scenes in our home screens. I remember sitting in a lot of apartments with a slight headache about five o’clock in the morning. I had a friend who could not sleep, and he knew a few other people who had the same trouble, and we would watch the sky lighten and have a last drink with no ice and then go home in the early morning, when the streets were clean and wet (had it rained in the night? we never knew) and the few cruising taxis still had their headlights on and the only color was the red and green of traffic signals. The White Rose bars opened very early in the morning; I recall waiting in one of them to watch an astronaut go into space, waiting so long that at the moment it actually happened I had my eyes not on the television screen but on a cockroach on the tile floor. I liked the bleak branches above Washington Square at dawn, and the monochromatic flatness of Second Avenue, the fire escapes and the grilled storefronts peculiar and empty in their perspective.

It is relatively hard to fight at six-thirty or seven in the morning, without any sleep, which was perhaps one reason why we stayed up all night, and it seemed to me a pleasant time of day. The windows were shuttered in that apartment in the Nineties and I could sleep for a few hours and then go to work. I could work the on two or three hours’ sleep and a container of coffee from Chock Full O’ Nuts. I liked going to work, liked the soothing and satisfactory rhythm of getting out a magazine, liked the orderly progression of four-color closings and two-color closings and black-and-white closings and then The Product, no abstraction but something which looked effortlessly glossy and could be picked up on a newsstand and weighed in the hand. I liked all the minutiae of proofs and layouts, liked working late on the nights the magazines went to press, sitting and reading Variety and waiting for the copy desk to call. From my office, I could look across town to the weather signal on the Mutual of New York Building and the lights that alternately spelled TIME and LIFE above Rockeffeler Plaza; that pleased me obscurely, and so did walking uptown in the mauve eight o’clocks of early summer evenings and looking at things, Lowestoft tureens in Fifty-seventh Street windows, people in evening clothes trying to get taxis, the trees just coming into full leaf, the lambent air, all the sweet promises of money and summer.

Some years passed, but I still did not lose that sense of wonder about New York. I began to cherish the loneliness of it, the sense that at any given time no one need know where I was or what I was doing. I liked walking, from the East River over to the Hudson and back on brisk days, down around the Village on warm days. A friend would leave me the key to her apartment in the West Village when she was out of town, and sometimes I would just move down there, because by that time the telephone was beginning to bother me (the canker, you see, was already in the rose) and not many people had that number. I remember one day when someone who did have the West Village number came to pick me up for lunch there, and we both had hangovers, and I cut my finger opening him a beer and burst into tears, and we walked to a Spanish restaurant and drank bloody Marys and gazpacho until we felt better. I was not then guilt-ridden about spending afternoons that way, because I still had all the afternoons in the world.

And even that late in the game I still liked going to parties, all parties, bad parties, Saturday-afternoon parties given by recently married couples who lived in Stuyvesant Town, West Side parties given by unpublished or failed writers who served cheap red wine and talked about going to Guatalajara, Village parties where all the guests worked for advertising agencies and voted for Reform Democrats, press parties at Sardi’s, the worst kind of parties. You will have perceived by now that I was not one to profit by the experience of others, that it was a very long time indeed before I stopped believing in new faces and began to understand the lesson in that story, which was that it is distinctly possible to stay too long at the Fair.


I could not tell you when I began to understand that. All I know is that it was very bad when I was twenty-eight. Everything that was said to me I seemed to have heard before, and I could no longer listen. I could no longer sit in little bars near Grand Central and listen to someone complaining of his wife’s inability to cope with the help while he missed another train to Connecticut. I no longer had any interest in hearing about the advances other people had received from their publishers, about plays which were having second-act trouble in Philadelphia, or about people I would like very much if only I would come out and meet them. I had already met them, always. There were certain parts of the city which I had to avoid. I could not bear upper Madison Avenue on weekday mornings (this was a particularly inconvenient aversion, since I then lived just fifty or sixty feet east of Madison), because I would see women walking Yorkshire terriers and shopping at Gristede’s, and some Veblenesque gorge would rise in my throat. I could not go to Times Square in the afternoon, or to the New York Public Library for any reason whatsoever. One day I could not go into a Schrafft’s; the next it would be the Bonwit Teller.

I hurt the people I cared about, and insulted those I did not. I cut myself off from the one person who was closer to me than any other. I cried until I was not even aware when I was crying and when I was not, I cried in elevators and in taxis and in Chinese laundries, and when I went to the doctor, he said only that I seemed to be depressed, and that I should see a “specialist.” He wrote down a psychiatrist’s name and address for me, but I did not go.

Instead I got married, which as it turned out was a very good thing to do but badly timed, since I still could not walk on upper Madison Avenue in the mornings and still could not talk to people and still cried in Chinese laundries. I had never before understood what “despair” meant, and I am not sure that I understand now, but I understood that year. Of course I could not work. I could not even get dinner with any degree of certainty, and I would sit in the apartment on Seventy-fifth Street paralyzed until my husband would call from his office and say gently that I did not have to get dinner, that I could meet him at Michael’s Pub or at Toots Shor’s or at Sardi’s East. And then one morning in April (we had been married in January) he called and told me that he wanted to get out of New York for a while, that he would take a six-month leave of absence, that we would go somewhere.

It was three years ago he told me that, and we have lived in Los Angeles since. Many of the people we knew in New York think this a curious aberration, and in fact tell us so. There is no possible, no adequate answer to that, and so we give certain stock answers, the answers everyone gives. I talk about how difficult it would be for us to “afford” to live in New York right now, about how much “space” we need, All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore. The last time I was in New York was in a cold January, and everyone was ill and tired. Many of the people I used to know there had moved to Dallas or had gone on Antabuse or had bought a farm in New Hampshire. We stayed ten days, and then we took an afternoon flight back to Los Angeles, and on the way home from the airport that night I could see the moon on the Pacific and smell jasmine all around and we both knew that there was no longer any point in keeping the apartment we still kept in New York. There were years when I called Los Angeles “the Coast,” but they seem a long time ago.


And when we’re up there on the summit,

where the sun meets water’s edge

we’ll see why the tides fell like they did

and why the moon always shone in that very same spot.

why no matter how the wind blew

you’ve always felt like my soft spot to land.


you’re my home amidst the clamor and the lights

and maybe you’re my north star


– or maybe this is what happens when galaxies collide.

New York: The Lover You’ll Never Forget 

DUMBO NY Waterfront
My article, as originally published on The Elite Daily. Uncut & unedited – the B side.


I’ve been wanting to tell this story for a while now. Mostly it’s a love story, but it wasn’t always that way. It’s actually a story that started out with a decision that I thought would be one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

When I first touched down in New York City, it was a warm summer night and I went straight to a bar. It was a very New York thing to do, so I thought, and I was your typical west coast girl who’d decided to uproot myself to start a new life in the big city. I was bored. I needed some excitement and I had concluded that the best way to do this was to purposefully inject it into my life. I quit my job, gave notice at my apartment, packed my bags and left for – you guessed it – Manhattan. Little did I know, I was about to embark upon one of the most tumultuous relationships of my life. I was about to embark upon a relationship with New York.

The bar wasn’t anything special. It was a hotel bar. It had high ceilings, chandeliers and comfy chairs. It was, in my opinion, very New York and it kept me from seeing the reality of the city I was about to encounter. When I walked out of the comfort of the bar, I was immediately greeted by the sounds of angry honking, of blaring sirens and of traffic. People were rushing around in the streets like they really had somewhere to be.

I’d imagined leisurely strolls through the West Village and lazy afternoon coffee breaks at 4pm – no. I quickly discovered I had to be light on my feet to survive these city streets. New Yorkers have a way of walking that is unlike the way people walk anywhere else. They walk with a dogged determination – unwavering, laser-focused conviction and they threaten to knock anyone over who dares walk in their paths. You see, walking in New York isn’t walking – it’s bowling for people. And in this bowling match, you’re either a ball or you’re a pin.

I absolutely hated Manhattan. I hated the buildings, I hated the noise, and I hated the fact that everyone rushed around the city as if they were late to see the president. I hated that the people who were trying to make the 12:08 train would knock you over just so that they wouldn’t have to wait an extra minute for the 12:09. The intensity of the city compared to the relative peacefulness of San Francisco was almost too much for me to bear. As I lay down on my sister’s couch to sleep one night, the not so familiar scent of cigarette smoke wafted through the windows next to the fire escape. A siren blared off in the distance. I remember lying awake that night wondering if I’d made a huge mistake.

I really missed the stars. I missed the mountains. I missed the fresh Presidio forest air that would stream into my window at night. I found myself waking up every single day struggling to keep myself afloat with optimism. Hating New York became one of my favorite sports. I joked with friends in California about living in an overpriced rat hole. I joked about the trash on the sidewalks. I joked about how it cost $18 to purchase a cocktail, when in California you could get one for $8. I remember lamenting the fact that New Yorkers seemed to take so much pride in what to me was a sub-par city. I hated New York for 6 months straight.

What I didn’t realize was that New York is a gift. It’s a gift wrapped in deceptive clothing. It is nothing like you thought it would be, and it gives you things you would never have even thought to ask for. When you receive those gifts, you realize that your life would never have been able to reach its fullest potential without them. You feel more than you have ever felt. You know more than you have ever known. You realize exactly who you are. You understand exactly who you’re not. You’ve seen real pain, you’ve seen real joy, and you know that one cannot exist without the other.

Suddenly, something clicks. And it’s not the drinks that you’ve shared with the strangers that you’ve turned into friends. It’s not the amazing little coffee-shop/bar you found at 2am. It’s not those impromptu nighttime walks across the Brooklyn Bridge towards Manhattan. Maybe it is in part – but what it’s really about is the realization that New York is life itself – magnified and in extreme concentrate: flawed, imperfect, intense and incredibly beautiful and horrible at the same time. And in an environment of such intensity, you are pushed to your limits and you learn more about yourself and life than you ever thought possible.

Here’s to the things you’ll never forget.

The People

This is more of a love story. The first thing I noticed about New York was the people, and it has quickly become one of my favorite things about New York. I’d come from California – land of the “Hey, how’s it going,” “good, how are you,” “can you believe how gorgeous today is,” and the “let’s hang out someday (never).” I came to New York expecting rudeness, callousness and an overall disregard for others. What I experienced was the opposite. New Yorkers are some of the kindest, most helpful human beings I have ever encountered. You don’t get many congenial smiles from strangers while you’re walking down the street, but what you do get is the most inspiring acts of kindness.

Here, people open doors, carry your suitcases up flights of subway stairs and carry your groceries into your apartment all without expecting anything in return. Many times, they do these things for you without even a backwards glance. They just help. In California, people will smile at you all day long and tell you things you want to hear – but they’ll never go out of their way to help you in a way that inconveniences them.

In New York, I have encountered the most interesting people I have ever met. Musicians. Actresses. Yoga teachers. Burlesque dancers. Entrepreneurs. Artists. Scientists. Writers. There are very few people I have met who have not been passionate about something. The city has a way of weeding out those who don’t have some sort of dream. This is a city of people who feel…and as tormented as some of them might be, they all have fascinating stories.

I love the passion and energy this city inspires. I love that this city brings out the absolute worst and the absolute best in people – sides of people you might never see in any other city. But when you see the most wonderful sides of people, they are the most memorable things you will ever experience. There are so many beautiful souls in New York that it’s paralyzing just to think about all of the incredible people you might not yet have had a chance to meet.

Some of these people will leave your life as quickly as they entered it. Whirlwinds. You will experience some of the deepest relationships of your life – and these people will bless you with their presence, their love and their lives – and then they will disappear. You learn very quickly in New York to appreciate what you have when you have it, because people move in and out of your story at light speed. You’ll also learn that some of the people who make only brief appearances in your story leave the deepest marks.

The Stories

New York is a place of people and of crowds, and it is a place of stories. Every person you push past in the subway has a story, and all of the stories compound when you realize that everyone in the city has a story in which they are the main player. In a place as dense as New York, you encounter masses of people all in the midst of their own stories and you overhear dozens of conversations every day.

You see these people in every state – poverty, wealth, sickness, health – and you see them in every ethnicity, every size and every walk of life. Here, you are filled with the overwhelming feeling of being of the same human race. You begin to recognize the shared experience of suffering, of loneliness, of loss, of love, of connection, of desire, of want. You find that we are all a lot more similar than we realize.

The Music

New York is loud, alive, and filled with music. At 9am in Penn Station on your way to work, you are roused by loud Caribbean music playing live on the platform. 34th street is a party, and people are dancing. You notice a man playing the violin on the corner of the street at 96th when you’re on your way home from work, and you smile and drop a dollar in the bucket he has next to his case. One night at 2:30am when you’re least expecting it, you’ll stop dead in your tracks on your way up the stairs in the subway as a lone guitar player fills the station with rich, deep sound. And as his voice travels through the station and you make your way into the night, you’ll think to yourself, “This is why I love New York.” And it’s in these moments that you fall in love.

The Feelings

When you have bad days in New York, they are really, really awful. I’ve never cried harder than I have in this city. When you have great days, you feel like you’re on top of the world. You feel invincible. There is no in between. But you learn in New York that no day is exactly the same, and that as each day passes, a new one comes. One terrible day does not mean another one. In fact, a very bad day is usually followed by a very good day. You learn that stars shine the brightest against the darkest night skies.

The Life

You’ll never forget the life overflowing in this city – the swirling, rushing, spilling, unstoppable life. Life here moves forward at a relentless pace, and it vibrates with color and energy. Here, you can feel its force beating like a pulse. You feel the pulse so hard sometimes that it drowns out everything else. There are moments where it’s hard to believe that life exists outside of the city – and yet it does, in all its different shapes and colors and forms. But life outside of this city will never feel the same. And the colors of life in this city are colors so vibrant that they can never be replaced and are often the hardest to forget.

The Relationship

Here is the funny thing about New York. It has an odd way of turning the very things you hate about it into the things you love. New York is the urban embodiment of a whirlwind toxic romance that leaves you reeling. It is the lover who drives you mad. It throws you into pits of despair and then it lifts you to euphoric heights. If ever you thought you’d reached complacency, rest assured – New York makes you feel feelings you never thought possible. You will cry in this city, you will hate in this city, and you’ll be thrown to your lowest lows only to be returned to your highest highs.

You will complain about the noise – you will complain about the heat – you will complain about the crowds and you will complain about the stench – but when you leave, you will feel the absence of the clamor and the chaos so intensely that you will miss it more than you’ve ever missed anything else.

Compared to New York, everything else feels silent. You can’t help but wonder sometimes if you truly miss the commotion or if it’s simply an unhealthy addiction formed out of habit. At one point or another, each person who comes to New York makes the decision to either to leave the city or to settle down indefinitely. Many end up leaving. Only a very specific type of person can last a lifetime in the high intensity, polarizing environment it creates.

But whether your relationship with New York is short or long, one thing remains true – you cannot be unaffected. You don’t have a relationship with New York and forget it – you remember it for the rest of your life.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said:

 “There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice.”

New York leaves a mark in your heart forever. It is the lover who teaches us what we want, what we don’t want, and that the incredible beauty of life is found not in our surroundings or in what happens to us, but in what we choose to see.

When you fall in love with New York, you realize quickly that it’s not New York you’ve fallen in love with – you’ve fallen in love with life.