It is so surreal going back, years later, to a place that once used to be home. Where everything seems so familiar yet so different all at the same time. Where it feels like you have never left, and then you question weather you had ever been there at all. It’s so wonderful taking a stroll down memory lane.
Recently I went back to Lower Manhattan and the first apartment I had ever rented, almost 14 years ago. I lived at 80 John Street, which was a couple block away from World Trade Center and Wall Street, where I worked. There were very few residential buildings in the Financial district back then – I think I could count them all on one hand. This neighborhood would go quite at 5pm, but it really didn’t matter, since working 12 – 16 hour days was the norm for me in those days. It was more important having a place in walking distance from the office. There as just one convince store in the area, that has limited selection and was crazy over priced. There were only a handful of restaurants open in the evenings, so it has pretty much become a set pattern on which day we ate at each restaurant. If we ever wanted to grab a good meal or go out it would be a quick cab ride to the Village after work at 10pm, 11pm, or even midnight. New York is definitely the city that never sleeps, and in those days, neither did I. The goal was just to be back home before the fruit guy sets up around 5am, otherwise it would be a long day at the office. You only live once, so if you work that hard, you have to make time to enjoy life as well.
Like most buildings in this neighborhood, my building was also a converted office building. The floor was gutted and walls were put up to create apartments. There was a long radiator that ran the length of the floor, and if I wanted my heat adjusted, I would have to go knock on the corner apartment’s door.
I have been back to New York many times in 14 years, and even back to Lower Manhattan a couple of times, but I’ve never ventured back to see that old street and the old building where I used to live. This was my first apartment, and as with any first there are so many vivid memories of this place. This was my first time truly being on my own. It was the first time living in another state from my family, the first time looking for an apartment, the first time signing a lease, and the first figuring out how to live on my own. I was so young, and there is no better place to make you grow up than New York and Wall Street – you grow up very fast. After those couple of years in Manhattan, New York has been engrained in me for life. I still prefer walking to driving, eating out to cooking, and urban living to the burbs.
So gtateful for all the experiences this apartment has given me. The most unforgettable memory of this place will be of 9/11 unfolding. From the sole window in my studio facing World Trade, I saw the 2 planes hit the north and south tower a couple of blocks away – an image that is etched into me forever. Living here had taught me a lot and changed me forever. You can take this girl out of New York, but you’ll never take the New York out of me.