In every civilization, there’s the indisputable marker of success.
In ancient Egypt, it was pyramids.
In ancient Greece, fancy togas (probably, right? I’m no scholar).
In New York, it’s frames.
Anywhere else, putting frames on the wall is ordinary. In New York, it’s a statement.
It means you like your apartment and whoever’s living in it.
That you’re so comfortable in it that you’re empowered enough to hang things in the common spaces without it being an imposition or some kind of twisted play at asserting dominance.
And, most amazing of all, that you’re planning to stay a while.
In a city as transient as New York City, where people don’t settle down until their 40s, because 30 is the new 20 (because what even is the biological clock, am I right, ladies?), that last one is the biggest statement of all.
After all, many people move to New York City to have a wild couple of post-college years, get some killer work experience, cram into impossibly expensive apartments, form weirdly tight instant bonds with incredibly cool people you wouldn’t meet otherwise, before moving elsewhere to live real lives. Usually this elsewhere is back home or somewhere like the home they grew up in, because they can’t imagine raising kids in a place such as this.
But to a person like me—that is, someone who did grow up in this place and turned into an adult who typically moves into apartments expecting to leave soon because that’s just the way things roll around here, and vows to hang frames anyway but never does, so the frames stay in a pile on the floor or hidden in a closet somewhere so as not to instill shame on their far-too-optimistic owner on a daily basis, the actual hanging of the frames is an act of defiance.
It took me three years to do it.
Before this apartment, I moved every year after college, either to a new apartment in Queens, or to an entirely different city altogether. Once, I stayed in one apartment for two years. I was in grad school, and I barely spent time in it other than to sleep. On my second year there I got bedbugs, so I stayed in it even less.
All told, I’ve lived in New York about 14 years. First as a kid, when my family and I routinely moved to different apartments in the Bronx, mostly in a building owned by the hospital my mom worked in. There, we went from the studio apartment all five of us lived in, to the one-bedroom, to finally the coveted two-bedroom. We stayed in that one for a while and gained some semblance of stability until we moved to Richmond, Virginia—current quirky hipster utopia and former seat of the Confederacy—when I was in high school. Waddup, Culture Shock.
As an adult back in New York, amid the striving and the busting of the ass, I dreamed about staying in one apartment and building a life in it with someone I loved, ideally with a dog and a cat, and reading books. That, to me, was making it.
I’m in my 30s now, and New York’s a much emptier city. My world has shrunk, limited to the boy and the dog I love, the places in the things I write, the museums and bars and bookstores I go to, and the handful of friends who have stayed. Some are here because they don’t have anywhere else to go. Some because they truly love it. Some because they find beauty in the struggle. They too have stayed long enough to see the city become the place that has ceased to be a romantic ideal and simply the place we live. It’s home.
And now, my home has frames.
At least for two years.
That’s when the lease ends.