New York City: America’s darling and the heart of everything that is just the right blend of trendy, hipster, classy, and of course, expensive. I have lived in Manhattan (not to be confused with the annoying song of the same name from the movie English Vinglish) for 5 months now, and it still feels like a dream.
When I last wrote for Gaysi, I was an unhappy, not-so-out, college graduate forced to live at home while I figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. There were so many different directions my life could’ve taken from that point, and looking at how far I’ve come, I’m a little heartbroken for the girl I was then. What matters is that I finally got my act together and got into a graduate program I really loved, that also happened to be at my dream school which is all the way across the country from my parents.
Living here is like a dream. I have been to India countless times, but have never been to Mumbai, so I cannot compare the two. What I can say is that this city has stolen my heart. The first night I spent in the city, I took a stroll and just took in the amount of people and cabs whizzing by all around me- it was the strangest thing I had ever experienced. I’m from Los Angeles, where pedestrians are anomalies and sitting in traffic is as common as Himesh Reshammiya copying tunes. But for the first time, I felt like I was in a place that literally had a pulse- it was palpable that everyone had a purpose. I felt alive.
New York makes you believe anything is possible. It’s a city of immense beauty, chilly winter nights, and a knack for making you used to walking everywhere (which also makes me terrified of driving a car when I visit home). No one here is weird or abnormal. I remember seeing a topless woman reading a book at the park by my school the second week I lived here, and no one lifted an eyebrow. By far, the best part of moving here was starting fresh, a.k.a. being single. Within a few weeks of moving in with my randomly-assigned roommate (and future best friend), we had come out to each other (me: lesbian, her: bi), and she was helping me revamp my OkCupid online dating profile. I quickly realized that being a twenty-something queer person in New York City came easy to me- there was no baggage, no history of struggles of coming to terms with my sexuality, and no residual pain of coming out to my family and friends. Right away, I was out and proud and ready to mingle.
In just my second semester of my Master’s program, I found myself on on a research team that is looking at self-harm, family acceptance, and depression among LGBT youth in New York City. I am also taking a class called “LGBT Issues in Public Policy” that fascinates, enrages, and engages me more than anything has in a really long time. If someone told me a year ago I’d be in a healthy relationship, living in New York City, and working towards a thesis about mental health outcomes in the LGBT community, I would have laughed and called them crazy. This is the first time in my life that LGBT issues have been at the forefront of my life, and it’s oddly comforting to not have the conversation so focused on my piece of the pie. I’m not worried about lying to my parents to go visit my girlfriend, or constantly fretting about the day I will have to come out to my conservative Dad.
Here, I am not a lesbian, I’m not Indian-American, and I’m not even a graduate student. I’m a New Yorker, which means I’m finally me.