The Third City


For the past 3 weeks, I’ve been a tourist. Seeing NY alongside my peers from Abu Dhabi has been an incredible experience. We climbed to the top of 30 Rock today and looked out on the city- I couldn’t help but think that there’s something great about being a tourist. The New York hustle can be overwhelming. We forget to frame our urban surroundings as an intricate, amazingly designed system for organizing these millions of people.

E.B. White found there to be three New Yorks: “the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter-the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night, Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last-the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from Italy to set up a small grocery store in a slum, or a young girl arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love”

Well, I was born here. I guess I’m the first type. But my family moved to the suburbs when I was younger, so I guess I’m number two. However, I’ve been studying and living in lower Manhattan for the past 3 years. Am I back to the first NY? Seeing my city with my friends from Abu Dhabi has shown me the third New York. This New York only peeks out at us “New Yorkers” every once in a while. We get so wrapped up in the incessant pace of the city that we forget how splendid it really is. Hopefully, I’ll be able to see the “third city” of Abu Dhabi some time. Getting comfortable somewhere can make you forget what brought you there in the first place. Consider this my resolution to be more of a tourist in the city I can only begin to scratch the surface of.

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