However, I love New York.
It's true. I do. I even want one of those ubiquitous "I love New York" t-shirts, complete with the big red heart.
I'm giggling as I write this because I *never* thought those words would ever leave my mouth - EVER. I'm just not a city girl. My motto has always been: love to visit, happier to leave.
In thinking about it, it's not just that I love New York. It's that I really love being an American, something that didn't strike until my recent trip to London.
In the spirit of honesty, when I stepped onto the plane to return to the States, I was thrilled to return home, not just to the city in which I live but to a country that has allowed me to become who I am today.
I think that many Americans lose sight of what this country is about. It's so easy to do, especially now. It's so easy to forget that what this country represents is deeper than any political entity or government could suggest. I would like to think this country's core is deeper than anything any of us could imagine and that it will survive anything any of us can throw at it.
We are so lucky to live within its borders, even though America has its fair share of problems, issues, concerns, grievances, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
For example, I take for granted every day the privileges I have simply because I am an American.
The privileges I have as an American woman.
Like others, I have criticized this country, wished it would do a better job reaching out to its fellow citizens, both here and around the world, hoped it could act as a light in this world. And, I think for some folk out there, it has.
For others, it has not.
I think that every country out there has something special about it and its people. Maybe it's the landscape or food or music or rich traditions. I wasn't sure what America's quality was until the days directly following 9/11 when I listened to what the world said about it.
What struck me over and over again is that America is seen by others as a ray of hope in an already ravaged world. It was as if the attacks across the country on 9/11 had some how damaged America's innocence and optimistic spirit and, at least at first, the rest of the world leapt up to protect it - to protect some fragile sliver of...je ne sais quoi.
I'm not going to get into what has transpired since then and what the world thinks of the U.S. now. What I will say is that New York, for me, was magical after my return from London.
The funny was that I was only there to search for a wedding dress with my friend, Lauren. This simple trip and subsequent time spent at her excellent Bed and Breakfast became something I don't think I had anticipated.
These new emotions still catch me off guard, and I'm still trying to make sense of it. I can state the obvious:
Where London was polite, NYC was in your face with AT-TI-TUDE. There was no "Please, mind the gap" on the NYC subway. Instead, it was "Get IN!!! I'm closin' the doors - NOW!!!" The city has a vibrancy about it that London lacked. It's a cacophony of shouting, yelling, honking, bustling and jostling. New smells and sounds and sights constantly barrage your senses. There is simply too much ponder.
***In short, it's a city of possibilities. As I bounced around some of its neighborhoods and avenues, I found myself wondering what my ancestors thought of the place when they immigrated here in the 19th and 20th centuries. What were they thinking from the boats? Where they afraid? Jubilant? Excited? Nervous? I wish I knew.
What I do know is how I felt when I walked its streets a few weeks ago. I was proud and had a sense of belonging I hadn't known before. And, while it's true that I'm not a native New Yorker, I do have New York blood in me, courtesy of my grandmother, who grew up in Brooklyn but who died this past fall.
As much as I have come to recognize my love for NYC, this isn't to say that I want to move there tomorrow - I don't. Still, what this recent jaunt into the city reminded me was that despite America's flaws and the mistakes of our leaders (and there are many), I'd still pick America over any other country in the world to lay down my hat.