A Love Story That Began With Heartbreak: NYC + Me

BY DANIELLE HARTNETT

My love story with New York City started like many love stories do. Girl meets city. City meets girl. Girl falls in love and decides that one day, the two will get together. This is the story of what happened to me after that initial meeting—after the decision, after the honeymoon phase, and in the midst of the full-blown relationship.

2011 was the year of The Brutal Heartbreak. I capitalize the name of the event because it’s that classic and traumatic break up everyone goes through at some point. You know—the one that changes you. Shapes the kind of person you’ll be in every relationship thereafter. Forces you to become a grown-up, whatever that means.


“You’re moving to New York City and I’m going with you.”


As that year ended, I found myself running around Brooklyn with new friends on a chilly New Year’s Eve. At the young age of twenty-two and still reeling from The Brutal Heartbreak, I was about to enter what I assumed was going to be the worst year of my young adult life. Instead, however, I ironically found myself elated, shouting from every possible rooftop about my love for the city I hoped might soon become my new metaphorical boyfriend.

After I returned home and the initial shock wore off that I would, in fact, not be spending the rest of my life with my ex, my best friend (a perfect angel) came to me and said, “You’re moving to New York City and I’m going with you.” At this point I should probably mention that it’s been a life-long dream of mine to live in NYC; my New Year’s Eve in Brooklyn had only cemented this fact. Because I am a makeup artist the city offered a wealth of opportunities for me, and it was definitely the right time for me to explore my options, geographically and otherwise.

Danielle and Mollie

Danielle and Mollie

Okay. Flash forward three months. Now I'm in a yellow cab, fresh off of a red-eye flight and on the way to my new home in the super cute (but cheap!) neighborhood of Ditmas Park. After two days of celebrating my newfound independence by buying myself and multiple strangers glasses upon glasses of cheap prosecco, it was time for me to face reality. I was both financially and emotionally broke, far away from all of my family and friends (excluding my angel of a best friend, who had followed through on her promise and made the cross-country move with me), and I was terrified. Questions like, “Did I make the right choice in moving here?” and, “What the fuck were you thinking?” were constantly running through my brain. Come to think of it, they still do.


One moment you're watching someone urinate on the subway platform (yes—it has happened to me) and the next you're lying in the middle of a field in Central Park you didn't know existed, far enough from the sounds of the city that you forget where you are.


The first few months were difficult for those reasons and more. However, it was also the most exciting time in my life thus far. I was living in New York effing City! By myself! Free of anyone I’ve ever known. It was liberating, and it was exactly what I needed.

The honeymoon phase was unlike any other. I was working seven days a week as a makeup artist/assistant/whatever would make me extra cash. I took a bus to visit family in Boston. I went to Mets games. I stayed out late. I went on dates. I overslept. I spent every extra penny I earned on people, places, and things—and I was Ioving it.

New York City has a very dark (yet somehow romantic) way of getting one through each day. There’s constant motion; you’re never allowed to get too comfortable with any one feeling. One moment you're watching someone urinate on the subway platform (yes—it has happened to me) and the next you're lying in the middle of a field in Central Park you didn't know existed, far enough from the sounds of the city that you forget where you are.


It's a cliché, but I believe nothing to be truer than "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." And if you're lucky, you can experience it all with wonderful people who are in the same boat.


In New York, you’re able to witness the seasons change. Being a Southern California native, this is not something I was used to. The ambers and golds of the fall, the crisp whites of winter, and the fresh look of everything being born again in the spring—these sights still take my breath away. In the summer, everyone is outside, no matter the time of day. And it’s widely acceptable to wear your hair in messy bun because well, humidity. When it comes to the weather in New York City, there are moments when it becomes so hot (or so cold) that it's actually socially acceptable to ignore others. Even if they are close friends. There's no place for hurt feelings when it comes to NYC weather.

Park Avenue Tulips

Park Avenue Tulips

Public transportation in NYC is light-years ahead of the west coast. You can get pretty much anywhere in the city or (on the east coast, for that matter) safely by train. And contrary to popular belief, it's not that hard to get a cab. However, it is true that cab drivers do not like to take passengers from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I've had to yell and gesture profanely at many cab drivers in the four years I've lived here just to get home.

The last thing you want to do is fall asleep on the subway and wake up in a neighborhood you've never even heard of. (I know, I said it was safe, but you still have to be smart!) I once fell asleep and asked a MTA worker if I could walk home from that particular station. She looked at me with the eyes of a worried mother and insisted I "get my ass back on that train." I will always love that woman. She reminded me that I am not invincible and that regardless of where I am or who I'm with, I am someone's kid. We all are, even the toughest of us. And most likely, one of your parents, or someone else who cares about you, would be annoyed with the fact that you're out late, alone... and asleep on the train.


Anytime I think about our possible break up, I stop, I look up, and I see that New York City skyline shining bright in the distance, reminding the young girl inside why I took the plunge. 


It's taken a while for me to get used to the fact that while I live in NYC, my life will be a constant but beautiful struggle. It's a cliché, but I believe nothing to be truer than "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." And if you're lucky, you can experience it all with wonderful people who are in the same boat. Along with wonderful companions, I’ve found that weekend trips are key. Whether it's to a farm upstate, Rockaway Beach in Queens, or back to your hometown to regale your friends and parents with stories about how exciting your life in the city is while purposely leaving out the fact that you spent your last $12 on a pack of cigarettes (I don't smoke anymore). It’s just as important to get away from the chaos of the city as it is to learn to live with it.

These days, I find myself living in a quiet loft style apartment in North Brooklyn with a beautiful boy who loves me. I walk to work. I make my own schedule. And I was somehow able to convince my sister that she needed to live here, too. She's been here for two years and has no plan to ever move back.

Rooftop View

Rooftop View

That's what this place does. It reels you in, time and time again. Anytime I think about our possible break up, I stop, I look up, and I see that New York City skyline shining bright in the distance, reminding the young girl inside why I took the plunge. I owe a lot to my best friend. To my parents. To my friends. And to that one boy in my past. The one who insisted that I move on and fall in love with someone else. And I did. I fell in love with a city.

As I write this four years later, even as in love with NYC as I know I'll always be, I find myself at a crux.  Now that I've spent a few years in the city, I know that while it's an incredible place and I actually can make it here, it's not the be-all and end-all of cities. It's just another place where i've somehow made it work, and perhaps it's time to explore other options. I'm at that point where I'm pretty sure NYC and I are going to break up someday, but we're both unsure of who's going to have the guts to do it first.

And man, that's going to be another rough break up.


All Images Courtesy of Danielle Hartnett