i went back to my first love, and i don’t regret it.

I want you to imagine the beauty that is New York City in the middle of September. Imagine looking down a city street, maybe not in the middle of Times Square, but perhaps in the middle of Brooklyn or the Upper West Side. A vacant street bordered with a sidewalk littered with leaves of reds, greens, golds, and oranges. Trees that aren’t yet naked, but have definitely started undressing. A sky so pale blue it’s threatening to break into a shade of gray, but it hasn’t. Not quite yet anyway. This is the kind of weather where you can still brave bare legs, but you should probably pull out those leather boots you’ve been missing in your closet since May.

September in New York City will always be one of my favorite things – right up there with coffee on Sunday mornings, or smoky scotch while sitting fireside, or belting out tone def versions of Shania Twain in the shower. So it’s no wonder I found myself in the middle of it to celebrate the very first day of fall. (Okay, so I didn’t plan that, but it happened that way and I thought it was pretty fricken commemerative.)

When I was younger, I used to travel around with no plans to places I’ve never been and while everything always worked out as I knew it would, there were a lot of scary moments. New York was my first series of scary moments, my first string of exhilirating adventures. I look back at that naïve little 19-year-old girl, and I miss her. I guess every time I come back to this city, a wave of nostalgia washes over me so thick I almost feel like her again. I remember my first night in the city, landing in LaGuardia Airport for the first time, not knowing a single thing about the city or anyone in the entire state. I remember lugging my two massive suitcases into a yellow cab, showing up to my very first old rickety model’s apartment, and walking into a room full of beautiful, tall, skinny girls whose eyes bore into me like lasers. (I’m happy to report they later became lifelong friends and are to this day some of most incredible people I know, but walking into that initially was terrifying. I may or may not have fallen asleep crying that night.)

I remember my first walk around the city to familiarize myself, when I pronounced Greenwich as “Green-wich” and Houston Street as “Hew-ston street” and being totally overwhelmed with the subway system. I remember walking up to fancy nightclubs and restaurants clad in heels and flashy outfits and dancing on couches at bottle service tables until 4am. Sometimes I have to do a double check and make sure I really did do that at a time, because homegirl can’t hang like that anymore, but that 19-year-old girl was really wrapped up in the glamour of NYC nightlife for a minute. Even after I got familiar, my tendency to act on a whim never stopped. I remember heading over to my best friend’s place like I did every day, except one morning I stopped into a Ricky’s Hair Shop in Union Square and bought a jar of Manic Panic purple hair dye on the way. I remember flipping my hair over in his bathtub and dousing my bleach blonde hair with the dye, just for the hell of it. I remember ditching the nightclub one night after 5am and not wanting to go home, and detouring to Central Park, strolling through and watching the sunrise in my little prostitutey outfit. (I was literally wearing fishnets and black eye shadow, in the middle of Central Park, at sunrise, while all the little overachievers were starting their morning jog. SO MANY SNEERS FROM GRANDMOTHERS, YOU GUYS!) And I remember walking to work one day in the middle of fall, kicking the bright leaves in my Ugg boots, sipping my little pumpkin spice latte, fully aware of how painfully basic I was and fully not giving a shit. I just remember looking at my surroundings and thinking, this is the most beautiful life ever. I felt like I was in a movie, like a rougher version of Carrie Bradshaw.

Life is so beautiful in the fall in New York that for a few brief moments, I can’t tell if I’m playing past memories in my head, or some cozy ass movie I remember from ABC Family.

This trip was no exception. Remember how I said I kind of missed the little girl who never made any plans before she did stuff? I flew to New York early in the morning without any plan as to what I was going to do when I landed, or where I was going to stay that night. I landed in New York, pulled up my Uber app, and typed “coffee” in the ending destination. It pulled up a few options, and I selected the cheapest one to get to in Manhattan.

The day consisted of multiple cappuccinos, shopping trips with girlfriends I haven’t seen in forever, buying fruit from fruit stands, and lugging my suitcase the whole freaking way. (Yes, I classically got stuck in the subway turnstiles trying to get my suitcase through it.) By the end of the day, I was laying my head down in Brooklyn in my friend’s beautiful apartment, snuggled up to her kitty. I mused about how much I miss living here and started toying with the idea of moving back, to which she responded, “Do it! Do it! Move in here!” (I’m not sure I’m actually going to do it, but I love how abundant the Universe can be.)

And then I got to wake up in beautiful Brooklyn, right back into that “most beautiful life ever” that I remember so vividly. And I got to take a walk in that picturesque fall setting I described in the beginning, all the way to the coffee shop for a clove latte from a local coffee house (cardinal rule guys: Starbucks is only used in an act of desperation.) And then I got to come back, open all the windows, crawl onto the fire escape and bask in the warm autumn sun with her cat, Junior Gong. Its moments like these that I am so blissfully in the present moment that I swear it counts as a few moments of meditation. (That’s all meditation is when it comes down to it anyway: thinking of nothing but staying in the present moment.) And just like old times, I curled my hair and put on my darkest of lipsticks and joined my beautiful friend to a party in a gorgeous studio space in Soho. I spent too much time standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows and reveling in how content I was just being here amidst the sparkling lights that make up the skyscrapers across this place.

I left that night. I jumped onto a bus in midtown and went back to Philadelphia. I swear, my stays in New York from landing to taking off are so damn dramatic and romantic. I am always, always, always going to be desperately in love with this city. I know I’m going to spend the rest of my life making abrupt trips and colorful memories in this jungle, and I don’t think my heart will ever stop flying because of them.

Until next time, you filthy ass city.

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