Updated: Jan 3, 2021
December 31, 2020, this is for you New York City...
I have been trying to respond to the urge to put down this letter for months, since early spring, when I was in quarantine recovering from Covid_19. But I couldn't. It is indeed too hard, and it feels worse than a breakup that already torn the inside of me apart.
Who would know a temporary escape would become a long farewell? In late 2019, when I officially earned the New Yorker status after living in the city for over a decade, I decided to take on a new venture and relocate to London for a short-term assignment. And it became my last time seeing the skyline of the big apple.
If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere...
Many of you may have only seen one side of my life. But The City has certainly been the stage of many lives I have had. Having arrived right after the Financial Crisis in 2008, The City has taught me some great survival lessons. The difficulty I experienced as a foreign newcomer to the melting pot came to a break after scoring a job offer with a visa after 60 plus interviews. Then from Bergdorf Goodman, Louis Vuitton, Gilt Groupe to Issey Miyake, my fashion career took off thanks to the hard work and the exceptional people I have worked with along the way. I have lived through numerous fashion weeks and fashion moments such as: complemented by Jean Paul Gaultier, had a one-on-one interview with Tommy Hilfiger, invited to dinner with Roberto Cavalli, partied with Jeremy Scott after Met Gala, and gathered with Valentino Garavani, Kris Jenner and Olivia Palermo for presentations. When I first entered the Vogue office at the Freedom Tower for a deskside meeting with the editors, it was like the "Ugly Betty" moment but better! The NYC connection made all of these memories possible for me.
Got to be Real!
I have to admit, one main reason for me to move to NYC was because of the show "Sex and the City." (Ok, very cliche, I know..) The diversity and freedom of NYC lifestyle from the series was truly inspiring, turning this countryside kid into a city animal. While struggling on New York streets daily, I have come across some of the best and worst drama of the dating scene, deal with the yeses and noes in the relationship, and the best of all of them, finding my New York family just like how the show went on. It was them that saved me from being one of the lonely souls in the ruthless city jungle.
In the city that never sleeps, I have also learned how to live the life behind the velvet rope, witnessing the dark and bright sides of the social scene and its (harsh) reality. From the early days at ever-green 1OAK, cutting edge Electric Room, to bottle-popping Avenue, swanky Boom Boom Room, then The Box in Lower East Side and the new wave of Blonde and Paul's Baby Grand, I probably have not missed out any of their openings or invites. It was almost unstoppable, from Monday to Sunday, and so easy to get carried away among the powerful celebrities, industry tycoons, Wall Street wolves, and everything the city had to offer. I fell down many times, then I stood up again and again. The New Yorker spirit made me realize the critical rule to break in: my own identity, Being ME.
Through the very heart of it...
After gaining my own ground in the city, I became one of the city's pulses, sharing this incredible little universe with the rest of the world. I have built up a unique network and platform from fashion, public relations, entertainment, art, creativity to hospitality. Like many other New Yorkers, I lived for the better and newer city each day. 2019 was indeed full of many highlights: with me attending the grand opening ceremony of the highly anticipated Hudson Yards, being one of the first to enter The Vessel, sharing the elevator with Kendall Jenner and Cara Delevingne at the stellar opening of The Times Square Edition Hotel, being honored as one of the top Local Guides in NYC by Google, and sitting on top of the Empire State Building as their ambassador celebrating TV Show Friends 25th anniversary. Along with the rising supertall skyscrapers in the city, NYC seemed to achieve the new height with me.
But 2020 took a surprising turn when the pandemic hit like a vacuum machine that emptied out the memories from the map. Not only could I not return to my beloved city, but I also had to let go my lovely Upper East Side apartment and moved everything back to Taiwan. New Yorkers were dying and suffering, and the businesses were closing and shut down. Since April, I have received notices and emails about restaurant or store closures, big and small, from my goto Fedora in West Village to my favorite shopping destination Century 21. Even the newly established Times Square Edition and TAK Room had switched off the light since.
Then the BLM movement happened. Like many parts of the country, the city went into chaos, once occupied by the looters that had nothing to do with the cause, taking and stealing from businesses and people's property. The scary footage of breaking the windows and attacking NYPD officers was nothing but shocking. You heard about shooting and rubbery in every borough and even in my old neighborhood. Since when we need locks on the ice cream cabinets in the convenient store? Since when you could not have your online package delivered to your doorstep just because someone may steal it? On top of the sacrifices we have to live with during the pandemic, we surrounded by safety uncertainty. Undoubtedly, this is not the NYC I used to live in or know for the past ten years. Every week I have heard people leaving or moving out of NYC for many irreparable reasons. And sadly, since March, there have been more than 300k people left the city. My heart hurts every time I hear such news about my second home. It feels as painful and hopeless as I was there in person.
Empire State of Mind...
With all the negativity that happened during this "Missing Year," I have learned one word: "New York Tough" from Government Cuomo during his heroic briefings. While the system and things we were familiar with are collapsing, the term represents the determination and hope of carrying the city to endure through this difficult time. We have been through tragedies such as 911 and Hurricane Sandy, and we will live. Let's not forget the lost ones, and it is time for us to heal. New York is resetting and preparing itself for the next new wave. New Yorkers like myself will never truly leave New York. Instead, our love for The Empire City would persevere till the end of the tunnel. And we will shape the landscape of the city together once again.
I still remember the magical moment every time seeing Manhattan's skyline after landing at JFK airport. Like every New Yorker once said, there is nothing quite like New York City. Whether it is a love/ hate relationship or a modern fairy tale, Gotham is always there calling my name...
All photo credits: @myinspireproject