I grew up wanting to live in Forest Hills.
Forest Hills was the nearest “cool place” to where I lived which was deeper out in Queens, 20 minutes further to the last train stop on the F line (and then a little further). Was it hip? No. Even today, nothing in Queens is “hip” – regardless of how badly they try to make Astoria or LIC “hip.” Or Ridgewood. Or whatever is the up and coming, read: gentrifying, neighborhood.
No. Forest Hills wasn’t cool, but it was definitely cooler than where I lived. There were restaurants clustered in a town center. There was a movie theater, a Chinese bakery, a diner, and a few bars. There was shopping that wasn’t all big box stores. Forest Hills Gardens had these big Tudor mansions on private streets and—
Looking at it now, from the distance of 20 years past being in the middle of high school, it wasn’t all that much. But, to 15 year old me, Forest Hills was where I wanted to live, get a nice junior one bedroom some day, join the West Side Tennis Club, and, well—
Oddly enough, New York City, as in Manhattan, wasn’t arriving for me. That may sound strange because for most people, it’s Manhattan or Brooklyn. But, I grew up in NYC. I hung out in Greenwich Village and Meatpacking and UES. I did my time at JG Melon’s. I remember when Prospect Heights was just flat out dangerous and not a place to go. (Bushwick still sort of is). I was alive when the Crown Heights riots happened.
I had just started my freshman year of college in “the city” when 9/11 happened.
But, despite all the places that were officially “cool” then and now, there is something about Forest Hills that still resonated somewhere underneath my heart and to the right. In that hollow.
Today, one of my closest friends was finishing her move out of her apartment in Forest Hills, the neighborhood she grew up in, and I came to hang out with her. As I stood there on her balcony, taking all of it in, I also breathed it all out. Wanting to “grow up” to live in Forest Hills was me wanting live in a world larger than how most of the people in my life operated.
It represented “more.” It represented freedom to me. It represented finding my place in the world.
And as of today I can easily say that I don’t need it anymore.
I’m not sad. The view I had today of Forest Hills is one I likely will never have again. I’m okay with that knowledge. If you hold onto the past, you cannot get to your future. Before I moved to The District, I had nearly slipped into that past, slipped into just moving into Forest Hills and “fulfilling” that high school dream. But even then, I knew that person was not who I was anymore. That little girl, wanting, was finally at peace.
While growing up, Forest Hills was enough to keep me moving and to keep my eyes open. Now, I have bigger dreams and hopes – some of them I’m already living and some drawing ever closer each day. I’m excited to get there and to keep going, to keep running forward. I already have my place in the world; I’ve always had it!
Now, it’s up to me to just keep living it.