The City So Great They Named it Twice

I have been living in one of the most extravagant, beautiful, and incidentally also expensive cities in the world for over a year now and contrary to what many people predicted, I am still alive and have yet to succumb to homelessness, though there were a few close calls sometime around the holidays. My time here has been one reality check after another.

Sometimes these realizations come in the form of lugging furniture from one end of the city all the way back to my apartment, having to go up and down multiple sets of stairs, taking more than one subway, and running into countless animate and inanimate objects on the way all to avoid spending $14.99 on same-day shipping. Other times these realizations strike me when I learn that even remotely healthy food will always, without a doubt, be 35% more expensive than the shit food sold next door. This then forces me to eat chick peas from a can in hopes of not going broke and/or dying of a heart attack. Other times the reality/struggle that is this city strikes me when it’s 3a.m and my subway train has stopped running, for no apparent reason. Or when a schizophrenic homeless person screams at me from across the platform, again, for no apparent reason.

Usually, however, these realizations come to me when I am persistently reminded of the fact that this city can be incredibly lonely in it’s own right, regardless of how many people you actually have in your life or even physically sleep next to at night. The people of New York, New Yorkers if you will, are not rude, they are occupied and I think that is what makes this city so lonely. Before my dream of moving to this city ever became a reality, a close friend warmed me that this city is one of the loneliest. The idea that any place that is so over-inhabited, a place where the lights are never turned off, a place where people parade around the darkest alleys at any time of the day and night…the idea that a place like New York being lonely struck me as unbelievable to say the least. But, this city is lonely and without being comfortable with the company of your own thoughts and a few good people, it can become unbearable.

I don’t make eye-contact with strangers on the subway for fear that they will either A) think I am sexually pursuing them or B) trying to kill/insult them. How can a city that almost promotes a lack of human interaction not be considered lonely? It baffles me that I can sit next to someone on a park bench for three hours and never exchange words but I experience it every day.

As humans, we are innately social. We are supposed to travel in groups and create relations to others. We are programmed to share and experience life together. That fact has almost become archaic, leaving us to do everything alone and to find contentness in that. People want to share, they just need to be provoked. The homeless woman begging for money outside of the 6 train, the young man on Wall Street with the lonely eyes, the couple sitting together but not speaking, they all want to share. The problem is that we have all become so comfortable with the idea of being lonely that we don’t see a reason to reach out and thus the cycle of perpetual aloneness continues.

On a lighter note, I’ve learned first hand that you can, in fact, live off of coffee for a surprising amount of time. I don’t suggest attempting this unless you’re in the mood for heart palpitations and body shakes, but it is sustainable (kind of). I’ve also come to appreciate tourists. Most New Yorkers will laugh at that which is alright. But to me, tourists are a kind reminder that I live somewhere that other people pay tons of money to visit. If you appreciate this city and appreciate living here, you should appreciate that as well.

Something else has to be said about people (specifically men) in this city. Apparently all of them are either coked out or looking for it. I don’t know when it became socially acceptable to offer a woman cocaine instead of a drink. It has happened so often that one could only conclude two things. 1. I am too boring to be handled sans stimulants. 2. New York is too boring to be handled sans stimulants. Either way, I’ve learned to pick out said man out of crowd; sweaty, usually jumping up and down, eyes focusing in different directions, twitching, etc. And while on the topic of dating- what. has. happened? In order to accurately convey my confusion here- I’m going to share a few pointers that I may or may not have gathered from personal experience:

  • If you are going to chase a girl down on the subway, on the street, or any other place that she be occupying, only to ask for her number and then to ask her out, you should make sure that you have enough money to at least pay for one of her drinks and her cover. I’m not talking the whole night, I’m not talking bottle service and cab rides. At least one round. And her cover. Simple.
  • Do not make her wait.
  • Do not ask her existential questions within 5 minutes of sitting down. Questions like: “how happy are you in your life right now?” and “do you believe in a higher power?” are not 1st date questions unless they are warranted, which they are usually not.
  • Don’t get weird and jealous when someone else talks to her. It’s a bar. If she looks bored- others will notice.
  • PAY FOR HER COVER instead of walking her to an ATM to get said cover money. That is more embarrassing for you than it is for her.
  • If you insist on “showing off” your dance moves on the dance floor, keep it calm. You’re not auditioning for America’s Got Talent, so the flailing of limbs, excessive and loud clapping, and the weird grunting/sound effects are not needed nor are they appreciated.
  • When she goes to the bathroom to stage an emergency S.O.S with her best friend in order to leave, let her leave.
  • Do not force a kiss when a kiss is clearly not happening. If you grab her face and upon approaching her lips you see that her face resembles that of a terrified child, stop, drop, and roll. Or just stop.
  • Don’t ask her to do drugs with you in the bathroom of the shit bar that you invited her to.
  • At least walk her out of the bar.

Although the experiences above might imply otherwise, I will say that there is a great deal of love in this place. It’s literally everywhere. At every corner there is a couple embracing. Walking to work I see countless couples holding hands, gazing at each other, laughing together. I saw a homeless man cuddled with a homeless woman near a door on 2nd St. the other day. They looked genuinely happy and it was so refreshing. Last night in the pouring rain I saw a man holding an umbrella over a woman who he didn’t know and the chemistry was definitely palpable. It was amazing.

Cocaine addictions and homelessness aside, I have completely and utterly fallen in love with this city. I’ve learned to love the fact that the pavement is always uneven (literally and metaphorically). I have learned to appreciate the uphill struggle that it always is and the fact that the subway system often (always) doesn’t make any sense. I’ve improved on my ability to read a map, largely because when you are lost in a sketchy area you have no choice. I’ve also learned to perhaps not trust everyone who “has kind eyes”.

In conclusion, I leave you with this:

Some of my favorite things/places/faces/etc.

  • Washington Square Park, seated on the steps that lead down to the fountain – this is where you can find me on weekend afternoons, contemplating what kind of night I’m going to have/reading a strange book/drawing something equally strange.
  • 5th Avenue near Central Park, nothing says glamour more than walking past each and every expensive store all at once, even if you can’t afford to even window shop.
  • Experiencing twilight while walking towards the west side from the east, getting a glimpse of the sunset in all of it’s glory.
  • Looking at the moon/stars/universe/galaxy from a roof (it has to be high enough otherwise you will have a hard time locating both the moon and the stars).
  • Laying in bed with windows open, listening to all the hustle bustle on the streets below you, creating story lines in your head.
  • The Bean Cafe on 2nd Ave. – their cold brew iced coffee is a magical, magical thing.
  • Fresco Gelateria also on 2nd Ave. – the gelato selection is weird but in the best way possible.
  • Bond Street – grab a cup of coffee from La Colombe and walk down Bond on a Saturday morning, it’s good coffee and an even better stroll.
  • Strand Bookstore for all your desires – stationary, book bags, books (obviously), pencil cases, pencils, life advice, happiness, serenity, everything else.
  • Bike riding through Central Park (and stopping to look at all the little sail boats in the lake).
  • Mark’s Place on Friday night, strictly to people watch- don’t think you’re going to get anything out of it other than a few laughs and confusion about the human race.
  • The steps of the MET.
  • Anyway Cafe- weird, dark, but cool.
  • Lafayette Bakery – for the adorable waiters, the excellent lattés and everything in and around their bakery.

The Transparency Project:

1. I have a mildly unhealthy obsession with supermodels.
2. I could live off of brussels sprouts and coconut shavings.
3. Savory trumps sweet any day of the week.
4. I eat a lot of fruit.
5. I am anal retentive about grammar and spelling.
6. English is not my first language.
8. I hate water.
9. Privacy is very important to me.
10. So is solitude.
11. I am terrified of marriage/permanence/commitment.
12. I have the soul of a city girl but my heart belongs to the Mediterranean.
13. I’m secretly 87 years old and loving it.
14. I don’t own a TV and prefer it that way.
15. Art. Art. Art.
16. I don’t like suburbs, white picket fences, station wagons, or the real housewives of any state/county/country/etc.
17. I despise judgemental humans.
18. I pride myself on my tolerance.
19. I’m embarrassed of my coffee addiction.
20. I am, without a doubt or any consideration, blessed.
21. Simple is always better.

Reminders. For yourself, to yourself, from yourself.

1. You are young. And young by every sense of the word. Age is simply a number. You are young because you have yet to experience what the word “life” means. Let that resonate. You are so young, it can be argued that you haven’t lived yet.

2. Your time will come. Comparison is the 8th deadliest sin, in my opinion. How dare you commit it. Move at your own pace.

3. Recognize that you have no idea what will happen tomorrow. What a shame it would be to live a life worrying about that. Tomorrow and everyday thereafter is ever-changing. Today, right now, is all you can do.

4. You are human. Not only human. You are a creation that can morph and the options of what you can morph into are endless. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are “only” human. It is a lot to human. It is no small feat trying to live up to that title.

5. The places that consume the travel-bug in you are not going anywhere. The travel bug might though. With that said, you must go. And you must go now.

6. It is ok to have bad days. It is ok to be sad sometimes. This does not make you unappreciative of the life and luxuries you have been afforded. You do not need to feel guilty for this.

7. You also do not, and should not, feel guilty for your own happiness and successes. It is your right to make a life for yourself that not only keeps you content, but excites you and thrills the people who are lucky to be a part of it. Humility is a necessity but pity is not. You are doing no one any favors by shielding your own happiness for fear of exposing someone else’s unhappiness. You do you.

8. It is ok to be lonely.

9. Not everything is your responsibility. If you haven’t learned yet, spending hours upon hours worrying and obsessing for others’ well-being often goes unnoticed and is under-appreciated. You are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness and no one is responsible for yours.

10. Things change and so do people. Nostalgia can kill. Cherish your memories but do not carry them with you with heavy arms. You need to create room in your heart and mind for new experiences, new people, new culture. Your past and the people you once knew have changed. Over and onward with it all.

11. The size of your breasts, waist, derriere, and thighs do not define you. Work hard at being happy. Whether that be a size 00 or a size 16. Work hard for you. Not for the magazines. Not for running into ex-boyfriends at your local brunch spot. And not for the Facebook photos you’re going to get tagged in at that wedding next week. For you.

12. Mind your own business.

13. Do not let people handle you. You are not an object that requires manipulating. You are capable of making your own decisions. You are not a child nor are you an idiot.

14. It is ok to be passionate and to be utterly in love with the idea of fairy tales.

15. Everything is temporary.

16. Appreciate, nourish, care for and work on a good thing if you are lucky enough to have it. Good things take work.

17. Your phone is not a crystal ball. It is not harboring the world’s secrets. And, contrary to what Apple will tell you, it is not the eighth wonder of the world. Put it down. It should terrify you that you’re missing massive aspects of your life because you’re too busy staring at glass admiring other people’s lives. Take an hour, at the very least, everyday to smell the flowers and to take in your view. Somethings in life are priceless, and to be present in it is one of those things.

18. Remain open-minded and tolerant, always.

19. Develop healthy habits. Take a yoga class, ride your bike to work, learn to play guitar. Put down your cigarettes, your bowl, your sixth bag of chips, and your over-priced alcoholic drinks. Do something new.

20. Stop taking yourself so seriously. It is ok to make mistakes and it is also ok to be silly. Learn to laugh at everything, including and especially yourself. Life becomes a lot less dreary when you find the humor in it; and there is plenty of that.

21. Money is not everything. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, it is ok. As long as you have your head on straight enough to make rent and pay the bills, you are alright. Ramen four nights a week and cheap wine on the weekends is part of life. You don’t need to live like a socialite.

22. Make time your friend. Time will pass whether you like it or not and it will pass so quickly you won’t know what to do with yourself. Just put your hands up, and let that wave overcome you. Don’t fight, don’t fall apart, just float.

10003.

I am currently living in the city that I have been wanting to move to since I was nine years old. The same city that consists of insurmountable amounts of sadness, chaos, loneliness, and culture. Ironically, I’ve never had to spend so much time in the company of my own self before living in this over-populated city and here are the truths that I have dealt with thus far. The real, nitty-gritty truths of life that we often seem to forget.
1. Asymmetry is just as perfectly beautiful as its opponent. Realize that imperfection is charming and everyone loves it. You should too.
2. Love will make you sick. That is that. So, decide what level of masochism you want in your life.
3. The way that milk rises from the bottom of a cup of coffee is blissful. Morning, noon, and night. All the time. It’s always blissful and never gets old. Watch it happen in all of its glory.
4. The way that the sun kisses exposed skin is just as stunning as the way the moon hugs the sea.
5. The passion that motions into love is equally as powerful as the passion that drives hate. This is something to feel both proud and weary of.
6. Wrinkles are signs of experience, not age. Experience is beautiful and age is just a number.
7. The landscapes the skies create on foggy days are eery and under-appreciated.
8. Tears, smiles, and frowns. All perfect emotions radiating from our skin onto our faces that are universally understood. How is that not incredible?
9. The little mountains and valleys that sit on window sills after a snow storm will always take me back to Christmas claymation movies and I am okay with that.
10. The way the sun’s light permeates through even the thickest of curtains is a reminder that time does progress, no matter what you try to do and it will find you. That reality is just as exquisite as it is terrifying.
11. A flower blooms and a flower dies. That’s the truth for us all. But the way that said flower kneels over, saying goodbye, and sheds what makes it so beautiful is somehow warming.
12. The hard work, exhaustion, and utter silence hidden behind a mother’s bags that inconveniently rest under her eyes are beautiful, intense pockets of love and devotion that is often misunderstood by modern society. It is not something to conceal.
13. Bed is a wonderful place. To be in bed alone is wonderful. To be in bed with another is wonderful. It is all wonderful.
14. Rainbows. Rainbows exist. Repeat that. Streaks of pastel colors flood the sky after a storm and they are so beautiful, that even after years of experiencing them…we still feel breathless. Rainbows exist and that is amazing.
15. For every person who is lonely, devastated, and on the edge of a major meltdown, there is another person with a smile who could, potentially, change that loner’s way. The mere fact that one person could change another person’s entire perspective is remarkable and, some pessimists would say, unbelievable. Trust me though, it could happen and it often does.
16. Helplessness, suffering, and a lack of faith is what life consists of. That is reality. What is also reality is the sun rises and sets everyday, giving the moon its chance to shine. That is a miracle.
17. The fact that we, as lonely, distraught and disheveled humans have the capacity to fall into a painful, earth-shattering love with another equally lonely, distraught and disheveled human, ultimately alleviating at least a bit of that loneliness, is mind-blowing. Really. Of all the people on this planet, you will meet one who will quite quickly change your life forever. This is exciting. Take advantage.
18. Your life is probably not shitty, your attitude is. And the world is not all, 100% shitty either, your perspective is.
19. Laughter is the most natural antidepressant you could never really get your hands on.
20. To do anything less than think of how not-so-awful your circumstances are is wasteful, immensely sad, and unforgivable.

What They Don’t Tell You

My blogging habits have been pushed to the back burner recently. I am not proud of that. But, as a lot of my life has been swept up in a contagious wave of change, I feel compelled to express what was simply not expressed to me.

As a senior in college, I was so utterly and painfully consumed with mixed emotions, I essentially just ignored them all and had the best time of my life instead (A surplus of feelings can really hinder fun-having). When May rolled around, it became real, terrifyingly real. The hunt for a job that was considered “legitimate” enough was tangible and the fear of what was to come was like being deep, deep in the sea and looking down to see dark water. That’s what it was; dark and unknown.

What they don’t tell you when you graduate college is that you are going to be so excited on the actual day that you graduate. You and your closest friends who you’d shared college with applaud yourselves for making it. You move out of apartments that have seen far too much; but oh if those walls had ears. You pack all of your experiences into cardboard boxes and hope to not forget anything; no toiletries, no shoes; no memories.

You make all of these seemingly realistic promises with your friends to see each other every week, to go to the beach and have bottomless brunches. Scarcity. That’s what happens. The weeklies become biweeklies which inevitably become monthlies until it’s July and you don’t know what happened. You let your summer disappear while you had your head buried in your mac. Indeed? Monster? LinkedIn? You’ll be all too familiar with these sites come August. You’ll also become familiar with the anxiety, the stress, the buying of “business casual” clothes for interviews that will somehow always lead to empty hope. Checking your email somehow replaced all those fun plans you had. You look back on it and realize you never visited your friends, you never went to the beach, your didn’t see your family enough. But it’s ok because you need that job. It’s what you want. You want to tell everyone that you’re moving out of your shit town and you want your parents to reach capacity with pride.

So, that’s eventually what happens. You land that “dream job” only to figure out that you didn’t dream of it at all…you were too busy looking for any job to stop and think about what you really wanted. You instinctively accept an average offer just to say that you did, and there you have it…all your problems are solved.(?). Enough determination leads to success, says all the workout blogs. It applies to the non-atheletic folk too.

Before you know it your life is blasting off. Your past becomes a skeleton of what your life is now. Memories from college of you being “free-spiritied” are suddenly replaced with corporate America. You move out, you get that job, and then suddenly time stands still. A wave called reality will take you to a place you’ve never been. Is it regret? Is it fear? Is it pure sadness? You’re suddenly financially independent but have never felt more dependent. You realize all of that sunshine from the summer is gone. You notice that your chances have escaped you. You’ve traded it all in for a job that you hate and a cocktail made of bills and rent. You passed on those opportunities to spend time with your family, your friends, yourself. There is no worse feeling than the feeling of loss. Not just any loss. A loss of time, a loss of memories, a loss of what could have been amazing. Hold on.

In an effort to salvage what you can, you’re friendships with some become stronger and your relationships with others fall apart, completely and dramatically fall apart. Effortless is easiness; and no relationship post-college is “easy”. Another loss; friendships. Some will be jealous at your new found success (Success? If only they knew how much shittier a job is than sitting at home). Others will just distance themselves. A lack of common ground.

What they don’t tell you about post-college life can be said in one simple, clichéd warning; be careful what you wish for.

Now, this is not to say that anyone should or can make you feel like shit for doing what you wanted at one point. Only you can make yourself feel like shit, and come to terms with the fact that this will happen. In moments of change, it is important to remember that a lifetime of experiences is birthing from under you. You will hate everything. You will cry. You will want to quit your job on day 2. But that hatred will become love for the new city you live in. Those tears will become smiles and behind those smiles will lie new memories. And that attitude will become changed. (Disclaimer- there is a chance you will still want to quit your job at day 100. If this continues into day 365…I say you’ve earned the right to actually do it.) You’ll take a lot. You’ll get coffees, get blamed for anything that goes wrong, get frustrated with your bosses but feel constrained in your words, but you’ll stick it out an feel goddamn proud when you do. Your grades are useless, by the way. They don’t tell you that in college either.

The best part- you will realize who you were meant to spend your life with. Not necessarily romantically. Your family and friends (who inevitably become family) will become a part of you and they will be the sole reason you stay sane in the ever-changing cycle of experience. They will coach you. They will push you. And they will support you.

The fear will never escape you because you’ve suddenly dived head first into adulthood. But you’ll become used to it. You could say…you become an adult (externally, anyway).

It is important to remember that you are only 21/22. You are not expected to have a job right away. You’re not expected to be able to pay $1,500 in rent all while maintaining a decent social life and devouring four venti lattés a day. These expectations are as realistic as The Little Mermaid’s hair. Sure, a shit ton of money and effort will get you there…but who has time for that? Just hold on. Hold on to your summer and hold on to your fall. Hang on to your winter and your spring too. Don’t rush. Employment won’t really get any worse than it is right now so stand in the sun, avoid your email, physically dive head first into a wave that could eat you alive. Hug your mom while you’re living at home, you’ll miss this when you decide to leave. And be with your friends. Constantly putting yourself first is only acceptable when it will be worth it.

I was pissed when all of this became my life. I was cursing whatever mentor or professor or advisor I had who failed to mention all of this to me and then I realized, what good is a movie when you already know the ups and downs?