HARLINGEN — “I-I-I love New Yorrrrrrrk! I-I-I love New Yorrrrk.”

Joy Gathright is singing that song loud and clear as she enjoys the power and frenetic beauty of New York City, where she has lived since June. The former Harlingen High School cheerleader can’t get enough of it.

“The aura is beautiful,” said Joy, 24.

“You feel the sense of ‘anything can happen,’” she said with a smile as she waited Tuesday for her flight back to the Big Apple. She’d just spent the holidays back in Harlingen with her parents, Gerald and Hilda Gathright, and the rest of her family. But she wanted to return to NYC in time to see the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop at midnight.

“I’ve seen it on TV only, and so I’m really, really excited to see how many people are actually there,” she said. “I won’t be there too long. I just want to go see and get a taste of the energy there.”

Joy has been feeling that energy her whole life.

“I think as a kid I romanticized the city because I saw a lot of TV shows take place there, a lot of movies,” she said.

Beginning in high school she had the opportunity to visit New York City several times, including one year when she performed with the Cardinal cheerleaders in the Macy’s Day Parade.

Each time, the city grew on her.

“The energy was palpable and it made you want to hustle more, do more and be inspired and inspire others,” she said. “I just felt really captivated by the energy there and wanted to experience that full time.”

And so she did. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications from Texas State University in San Marcos, she first gained employment — and some work experience — in Austin. Then she headed east. Northeast, to be exact.

She now works for a company called Sarah Flint, a luxury shoe designer. Residency and employment gives her the chance to know the city she adores more intimately than a temporary visitor could ever have.

“I’m kind of her right hand woman and help with just the day to day operations of the business and making sure she’s set up to be successful,” she said.

And when she walks to work, what does she see and hear — and feel? The energy, the energy, the energy …

“I hear five different languages,” she said. “So you have all of these varying individuals coming to this central location (NYC) and experiencing life differently there. People just think differently about the world. There are so many cultures, and you get exposed to so much more than you would even just in Texas as a whole.”

When she’s not walking to work, she’s exploring.

“I’ve been to a couple of Broadway shows that have been really fun,” she said. “Honestly just exploring the city is interesting enough in itself. You don’t need a tour guide. You just kind of walk the streets and get lost in the different places. I feel totally safe.”

She knows she’ll eventually return to Texas as it is her home, but for now she’s just exploring her dream and absorbing the experience in all its nuances and complexities. Her future is secure, whatever it may be.

“I’ve peaked in terms of my personal goals and dreams which was to move to New York City,” she said. “What comes next is really up in the air and I’m not putting too much pressure on myself or on what’s to come. I’ve made it this far. Anywhere else I go is really just the cherry on top of what I’ve already done.”

So how is the reality of New York City different from what she imagined as a child?

“It’s even better than I romanticized,” she said with a refreshing winter smile.

Joy Gathright File

WHAT: Former HHS cheerleader now living in the Big Apple

AGE: 24

PARENTS: Gerald and Hilda Gathright

EDUCATION: 2013 Graduate of Harlingen High School

Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication from Texas State University in San Marcos