New York City is one of the great loves of my life. I grew up four and a half hours away, in Ithaca—but when, at 3 years old, I stayed with my parents in a Manhattan hotel, I looked up at them and said, "This is my home." Eventually, it was: I moved there at 17, when I enrolled at New York University. I felt a chest-swelling pride every day, as though I'd accomplished something just by breathing the city's smelly air and drinking its excellent tap water.

In New York, it's easy to believe that around every buzzy corner lies possibility—a chance encounter that will become the stuff of romantic comedies, a wild adventure. After all, haven't a million movies told us so? (Not to mention a few Jay Z songs and daily throngs of slack-jawed tourists.) In New York, I felt like a member of an exclusive club where all of us, regardless of our profound differences, were secretly thinking, "No matter how bad things get, at least we're here."

And then, 15 years later, I moved to Boston when the other love of my life, my husband, changed jobs. I felt exiled. I'd left the center of the universe. Boston provided no unexpected thrills. It seemed tiny, puritanical, provincial. For a year I told people, "We just moved here." I compared every meal and outfit I saw with those I'd devoured and admired in New York and found them wanting. On visits back, emerging from Penn Station, I felt my ego engorge as I milled through a diverse microcosm of the world. "No matter where you're from, you're welcome here," I'd think. "There's no judgment!

That's when it hit me: New Yorkers might not be judgmental, but I was. I'd wanted to believe that my former zip code had made me superior, but that's not how it works. Where you live doesn't define your worth. If I believed otherwise, was I not, by definition, a xenophobe? I was committing civic bigotry.

I still love New York. But I don't work it into every conversation anymore. And after a trip there, my heart is no longer heavy as I board the train back to Boston—where I continue, for better or worse, to be the same me I'd be anywhere.


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