As one friend introduced me to a group of older New Yorkers the other day, "she has just moved here because, in her wisdom from a young age, she has always wanted to."
For the first 11 years of my life, I lived on the same street number as I do now.
For those early years, I lived in a fishbowl-like beach-front house, with about 90:10 ratio of glass windows to walls (or so it seemed), with sliding glass doors and thin blinds for some semblance of privacy.
We ate our morning Cheerios to the view of waves crashing into shore, fell asleep to the same sounds, and used the sand instead of grass as our backyard terrain.
People watching was an evident part of our lifestyle.
And even still, living at the beach was not without its imperfections.
There were riptides in the water, dog poop on the beach from disrespectful owners (my dad would sometimes hunt them down and accost them with plastic bags for the dogs' business - awesome), the rust on our soccer trophies and bikes from the salt air, people smoking cigarettes and weed on the public seawall in front of our patio, the bums all around (aside from the 'beach bums'), the need to wear sunscreen for the omnipresent skin cancer risk.
Sometimes, as my dad relayed in his early mornings, there were naked surfers (undecided whether that is a pro or con of coastal living).
There were always people coming and going within feet of our house.
Even though it's not situated on a beach, this is part of the reason why New York feels so natural to me. Anonymous people everywhere, small cozy spaces, close-proximity living, people watching.... the air filled with smoke (I just pretend it's Europe), the dog poop (ok, still gross), the necessary skin-clearing benzoyl peroxide creams, waking up to the horns and sirens, and falling asleep to them too.
I was the only one of my sisters to ride a bus to school for a few years, as the schools we would later attend did not have them. Perhaps my affinity for public transportation stems from this: for me, the ability to walk anywhere is more liberating than being able to drive myself.
I think it boils down to the fact that you are never isolated here, which I think, looking back, was a weird adjustment when we moved to a home with a 'normal' amount of privacy and stillness.