Everyone has a happy place. It might be somewhere that no longer exists but in memory, like a beach visited in childhood. It could be a family home, or somewhere further afield you don’t often visit. Hell, it might even be Disneyland. Your happy place might be nowhere specific, but somewhere indefinable surrounded by the people you love.
My happy place is New York City. I love it for many reasons, and I enjoy being there at any time of year, even in early June when the damp and cold makes you feel like you’re going to go mouldy. My aborted trip to see my friends at French Woods in July was a huge blow to my confidence and self-esteem, and in the months that followed I became defeatist and increasingly isolated. I had my show, so I couldn’t take off for the week. What I wanted most – to see my friends at camp – was somehow out of my control. It was impossible.
I decided about a week ago to fly out to Manhattan next month, for about as long as I can afford given the shoddy exchange rate this side of the referendum ($1.22 = £1? Lame). 2016 has largely been a series of disappointments, save for a few moments of happiness (Edinburgh, hey) where I felt kind of normal. It certainly didn’t help that 2015, in comparison, was one of the most exciting and wonderful years of my life. 2016 never had a hope in hell, really.
Why do I love New York? Let me list the ways. I love its diversity, and seeing people from places you don’t often come across in the UK like South America and North Asia. I love its chaotic order with its grid plan and subway system simmering away a few feet under the concrete. I love the culture and the museums and the parks. I love the food. God, I love the food!
I feel free in NYC. Despite the tall buildings, stagnant air and tumult, my mind makes sense of what is happening around me in a very specific way. This is the New York I know from Hollywood movies and television sitcoms. All around the city are recognisable markers that reconfigure your location on the planet. You are, inescapably, there.
I fell in love in New York. Not with any one person, but with the music my new friends and I made and the incredible feeling of achievement – and loss – when it was all over. It is this that draws me back. I’m not trying to recreate those feelings, because I know they’re gone. Like any beautiful memory from the past, I hope my return makes me feel comforted and valued. I made an impact in this place, albeit a hundred and fifty miles out of the city centre. I made myself proud and I worked hard and took risks. I was the best version of myself in my happy place. After this year, I need to remember that feeling more than ever.