New York City possesses a magnetism unlike that of any other city I've known.
Time and time again, it draws me back for just one more fling.
One more chance to savor its greatness, one more chance to dance like a fool in the warm glow of its streetlights, one more chance to cast an adoring gaze on its magnificent skyline.
The affinity I have for New York didn't develop overnight—far from it.
I had no intention of falling for the city at all when I began exploring its grungy streets back in 2009; at the time, it was little more than an escape from a life I was quickly falling out of love with New Haven, Connecticut.
I fled to New York by train as often as I could that year, my trips increasing in frequency as time wore on.
In those early stages of the relationship it began to grow on me, its smutty charm snaking its way into my heart, utterly unbeknownst to me all the while.
The first realization that New York had become more than just a passing fancy came at the end of my year living in Connecticut—the announcement that I would be moving to Manhattan upon completion of my internship in New Haven shocked my friends and family.
Quite frankly, it shocked me as well.
My life plan (loose though it may be) had never involved living in the city that never sleeps.
Yet, there I was at 23, carefully unboxing the Ikea furniture that would all eventually fall apart in my cockroach-infested, five-story walk-up in Manhattan, eyes lit up like diamonds at the thought of the possibility that lay before me.
In spite of my naïve enthusiasm, that year would prove to be one of the most challenging of my life; yet somehow, I emerged from it with a deep connection to a city I'd never even cared to know.
These days, I know in my heart that New York City is not the place I want to be, but I carry with me a nostalgic bellyache that never truly subsides.
New York's idiosyncrasies never leave you, no matter how long you stay away.
You'll always remember the unmistakable smell of the subway, the sweltering heat of a summer day, or the way the city made you feel important.
You'll never rid your memory of the unexpected serenity found deep in the middle of Central Park, the enticing aroma of a hot toasted ‘everything' bagel, or the day you adopt the gait of a real New Yorker—confident, swift, surefooted.
I savor these happy memories and can't help but smile each time they resurface, but these alone are hardly enough to keep me coming back for more.
The true draw lies in the fact that the city is always in flux.
It ebbs and flows like the tides; day in and day out, New York is ever-changing, ever-evolving, ever surprising both visitors and residents.
You can be sure that no two visits to New York will be alike, and it is precisely this—the excitement of the unknown—that lures me back year after year.
What will I discover this time? What will I learn? Who will I meet?
And there is certainly no shortage of things to do. Broadway shows, concerts, art exhibitions, or just about anything you can imagine are all at your fingertips.
Tickets for upcoming events in New York are easy to snag in advance of your arrival, or you can simply let your days unfold as you go.
And whether you prefer your time to be action-packed or relaxed, you won't escape the city without learning a thing or two.
The most notable lessons learned during my most recent encounter?
Never get your heart set on visiting Central Park in the springtime, and don't expect to get anywhere fast in Chinatown.
This trip also found me exploring a neighborhood I'd spent little time in before, introduced me to hip new hangout spots, and even refreshed this wanderlusting world traveler's waning sense of patriotism.
Though I haven't lived there for nearly four years, New York City will always be one of the places I call home.
My ever-changing, ever-exciting, ever-surprising home.
Each time not knowing what I'm going to find, yet at the very same time knowing that it will be amazing—this is why I'll always come back.