Why You Long for NYC When Visiting Your Hometown

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PHOTOS BY ANDREW DRESSNER AND JILL RICE

If you’re feeling nostalgic for New York while at home these next few months, you can pretend you’re doing your favorite city activities instead.

By EVELYN SIMS

As the semester comes to a close and many of us return home for the holidays, those of us who come from small hometowns will be forced to morph back into a world where we are remembered by who we were in high school.

Since we go to school in New York City, going back to a small town can be a rough reminder as to why you left in the first place. Returning to your old stomping grounds will ultimately cause a clash in the small-town lifestyle you have replaced with a fast-paced New York City one. 

It is critical that you remind yourself of your new life in the city while you try to navigate your hometown upon returning.

The wave of uncomfortable nostalgia that overcomes someone when they eventually pull up to their childhood home is a feeling like no other. It only sinks in when you go back to your bedroom and realize that you’ve returned to the small hometown bubble you worked hard to escape. The only true good that comes from returning home is the ability to confront and reminisce on your past. However, if you get too comfortable reliving your past, it can easily become a form of your personal character regression. It is critical that you remind yourself of your new life in the city while you try to navigate your hometown upon returning. 

One of the hardest parts of going back to a small town is leaving behind the art and vibrancy of New York. Trading the glow of skyscrapers at night for a clear, starry, small-town sky is not enjoyable. Buildings with two floors don’t have the same charm and character as the skyscrapers, especially if you’ve spent your entire life looking at the stars and have finally had them replaced with New York’s tall buildings. 

To combat the dull surroundings of your small town, think of the graffiti around town as the closest thing to artwork from The Metropolitan Museum of Art you’ll see. In both cases, someone’s art is on display that has a special kind of beauty, and this creativity is important to recognize.

In New York City, there is a certain freedom of being able to wear whatever you want, knowing that no one will care what you look like — a sentiment not always shared in small towns. The world of fashion in New York City is marked by a special kind of creativity and freedom that is not found anywhere else — even getting dressed to go to Trader Joe’s is an opportunity to wear something bold. Dressing up to go to a small-town grocery store will never have the same feeling. If you do dress up, it is highly likely that you may get some judgmental stares from those who prefer conformity over personal expression.

If your small town is lucky enough to have a main street with shops, you might be able to pretend you’re on Fifth Avenue by Rockefeller Center without the overwhelming masses of tourists, while simultaneously knowing you won’t be able to afford anything anyway. Driving to the grocery store is the equivalent of taking the subway to another borough. The grocery store is the most fast-paced, crowded place you’ll visit, so it’s important to bask in the feeling of walking down the aisles as if you’re walking in the streets of NYC. If your town has a cafe, there is little-to-no benefit of going there after experiencing the luxury of New York coffee and bagels.

Although the oxygen may feel cleaner in your small town, your lungs will always long for the polluted air of New York City.

The green of a small town is like a tourist attraction in and of itself. Seeing grass everywhere instead of concrete feels extraterrestrial. All the wildlife you’re surrounded by is the polar opposite of what you have been used to. The rats of the subway have now become deer, coyotes or any other animal that will run in front of your car at night and that need to live on open land. The powerful traffic on the streets of New York City will be a thing of the past when the only traffic you’ll experience is in the parking lot of the grocery store the day before Christmas. Nevertheless, if you close your eyes it might feel like you are on the streets of New York. Although the oxygen may feel cleaner in your small town, your lungs will always long for the polluted air of New York City.  

Returning home to an underpopulated small town after leaving a city like New York will cause you to face day-to-day uncertainty as you try to figure out how to adjust. You will be faced with dilemmas on a daily basis, but as long as you’re able to remember your infinitely more exciting city life, everything should be fine.