Is it possible to fall in love with a city? I mean, to really fall in love with a city? The kind of love that consumes your thoughts, where the idea of it still makes you giddy and excited, where you can’t wait to get up and go out and explore and discover new things, the way you do when you first meet someone and you’re trying to find out what makes them tick? Where you’re trying to determine your compatibility? Where you almost jealously guard your discoveries, not entirely sure you want the whole world to know how special they are?
I think so.
Is it possible that, like the concept of soul mates, there are also soul cities?
I used to strongly believe that each one of us had a soul mate – one person, one chance, no more and no less. I’m reminded of the East Asian concept called the Fate of the Red String.
The Fate of the Red String says that when each of us are born, the gods attach an unbreakable, invisible red string to our pinky fingers. At the end of this string is another person, whose pinky is also tied to the red string. These two people are destined for each other, and no one else; and while their paths in life may vary – they may be with other people, their string may get tangled, crossed, or stretched – they are soul mates, and will eventually find their way to to each other.
While I’m a little bit sceptic of this concept (out of the what, 7 billion of us in this world, I’m only destined for ONE other person? What if he lives in, like, New Jersey? Shudder…), a part of me still likes to hold on to such a romantic idea. But does it apply to just people? Or can you apply it to a place as well?
I first fell in love with the city of Florence, Italy in the fall of 2009.
As you can see, it didn’t take me (center) very long to get super enthusiastic about my adopted city (Forza Viola!). It was the typical but not-so-typical study abroad experience that included dinners with air plane seat neighbours, dates and dancing with Italian baristas, and meeting the Italian boy who would teach me not only the language (only the nice words of course), but how to ride (and crash) a Vespa, how to eat steak that can only be described as just past past moo, and how to enjoy life in the beautiful city I called home for a year.
That experience changed my life in profound ways, and after graduating college (ayo waves!), I returned to Florence to get my masters and to teach undergraduate art history (not my calling) for over 3 years. I thought I’d done it. I’d made it! I was finally going to live in the city that I’d thought about with heartbreaking longing ever since I’d left it in the spring of 2010. I was moving to my soul city and I was going to stay there forever!
But while some cities stay the same, most people change. Including me. And after three years, I began to feel the itch to move beyond Florence. It wasn’t like I’d outgrown Florence, or my love of it, but I’d outgrown the Lauren I had become in Florence. It was time for something new. I needed a new challenge, a new way to grow. I needed to try something that, frankly, both excited and scared the shit out of me. What might that challenge be?
New York City.
My love affair with New York began when I came for the first time about 6 years ago. NOT that I’d ever cheated on Florence during my time with her — I met New York before I ever set foot across the pond. But I was only there for a short time, and while the affair was passionate, it was brief. I was going back to California and long distance just wasn’t gonna work for me. But the idea of the city was always there…
Now, after four months of courtship, I’m pretty sure I’m ready to take it to the next level. We’re not “just talking” or “seeing each other” in one of those seemingly endless low-commitment relationships we’ve all been in (hey hookup culture!). I’m pretty sure New York and I had the DTR (hey Pepperdine) and are taking this thing to the next level. Beginning with this blog.
Starting a blog is something I’ve toyed with for a while. And while it might’ve been a good idea for me to have begun while I was travelling throughout Europe, for one reason or another I always put it off. My plans are to keep it fun, light, and focused on the adventures of just another girl in Gotham city.
Is New York City my soul city? Am I one of the millions of people whose red string is attached to its bridges and buildings, fastened atop the spire of the Empire State Building?
As the Italians say, vediamo.