Tell me one last thing. Tell me why New York. You could be anywhere with what you’re trying to do – find your place – but why NYC? L.A., Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, these would all work just as well. So tell me what it is about New York that you love. Why it speaks to YOU. Don’t give me a watered down Woody Allen script either.
I decided to write you about New York, strategically, in its absence. I’m not there now; in fact, I’m situated smack in what you may call its antithesis along a windy path bordering the Smokeys, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Here it seems like God is about to turn the seasonal switch, with time teetering gently between the late night shouts of children enjoying Summer’s last call and the swaying trees beckoning Fall’s cool breeze. It’s beautiful.
So, why New York?
Being somewhere else has forced me to recognize its intangible value. Let’s be real – nothing absolutely pertinent to my existence is strictly in New York. I can find anything I need in any other big metropolitan city (with the exception of a really good slice of pizza and the view from the Brooklyn Bridge) but even then, there are suitable (albeit sub-par) replacements.
So, the real question then becomes, why do I belong in New York? Because at the end of the day, all we really want in anything – a significant other, a friend, a career, a city – is a sense of belonging.
It boils down to a few things:
In NYC, I have two walking limbs – rusty and badly in need of a massage at the end of the day – but dependable. They’re just like the New York subway – slow, dirty, and always running late – but they get you where you need to be.
NYC is a city for walking simply because you can. If you really wanted, you could walk from the northern tip of Manhattan (Harlem) to the southern end (Wall Street) – all 16 miles – and be back in time for dinner. What a sight you’d see along the way! In New York, I have to place my feet on the pavement, feel the hard concrete beneath and the subway rumbling below. Jumping in a car is not an option, unless you’re rich and can afford a car or a hefty cab fare. In other cities, there’s the luxury of escape, A/C, silence. IN New York you walk because you have to, and it’s sometimes (actually, usually) really annoying because all you want is to sit and go for a drive and listen to your music in peace without all these barking wannabe comedians, pesky tourists, beggars, germs, not to mention the unmistakable smell of crap at the Chinatown subway stop…but you walk anyway.
In the griminess, you are forced to face an unfair world. There’s no easy drive to the gated community. Rich and poor, you see it all and with each pounding step, you hurt for the city. And so, you own it.
Better than the public transit system are the people you see on it. One night, near midnight, I was nodding off on the train when an odd-looking trio entered. They looked nothing short of the Circus Freaks from Big Fish: a morbidly obese woman, a dwarf, and a gangly man (who looked all the more gangly next to the dwarf) with a scruffy beard. Within minutes of stepping on the train, the man began to howl like a wolf (in fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised had he turned into one) while the woman sang like an opera singer and the dwarf awkwardly stood there. There were 2 other people on the train who didn’t even look up. I pinched myself to make sure it wasn’t a dream; the only other possibility was that I was going crazy. Eventually they got off, but it was one of the most bizarre things I ever witnessed.
I’m not saying that you should move to NYC to catch this midnight act. I’m sure there are similarly odd characters residing in other cities. But New York has a higher proportion of them. You’re bound to see an energizing and most interesting collision of cultures in the most densely packed American city.
Other memorable New York characters include the fashion-forward pink-haired women, the break dancers providing unsolicited stress relief on the N while crossing the Manhattan bridge, and the jovial Caribbean men spouting newspaper pickup lines. Seeing such off-the-wall characters means I cannot possibly be ashamed of my own weirdness because someone is sure to have already outdone me. Normalcy is relative; the city has seen it all. New York’s identity is neither classy Cambridge nor star-studded Hollywood; it’s all of the above, a hodgepodge of everything. I belong, simply by being me, a patch stitched next to the suited-up corporate executive overlaying the pink-haired fashionista sewn next to the Wolf Man. New York is a colorful quilt.
It’s what we crave. Brett Nelson sums it up best in 50 lessons he’s learned from living in New York.
Whatever shape the economy’s in, millions of people continue to pay an absurd premium to toil and escape in New York City. That’s because deep down—more than any specific satisfaction or vice—we all crave possibility. In that sense, NYC might be the world’s greatest brand: It makes you feel (goofy as it sounds) like anything can happen.
New York, Boston, L.A., Miami, Chicago – they are all stellar cities. Wherever you decide, you can’t go wrong, for your needs will be met. But my question to you – is life about meeting needs? Choose the city that makes you come alive. For me, it’s New York. I said it 2 years ago in this post, and I’ll say it again:
There has to be a reason I feel so happy every single time I come here. I feel alive. It’s not the same high I get when traveling; this feeling is more realistic, more sustainable. I still waver between feelings of sadness and exhilaration, exhaustion and caffeination, drunkenness and sobriety like a swinging pendulum. But I think the unpredictability is more manageable because my surroundings are….well, unpredictable. Walking through the streets, I skim through tongues, cuisines, and faces around the world; my stress dissipates in the bubble of anxious energy surrounding the city.
Now sitting in Chattanooga, things are calm and good. I can live here just fine. But this age does not call me to be just fine. When I’m back in New York I’ll fall in love all over again. That’s my NY.
…go on a run. Or if you’re like me, start running, stop after a block, and evaluate why you’re huffing and puffing like you’ve been running a marathon.
This is more than a story about being out of shape. It’s about dealing with obstacles that prevent you from reaching the finish line. Because when it rains, it pours, and in the aftermath of my most recent personal storm, I emerge completely bruised, battered, broken, and… blessed.
Over the past 90 days, a series of events had led me to believe the world was surely conspiring against me. In chronological order:
1. I was robbed in Providence,
2. I started experiencing hazy vision, due to scarring on my cornea,
3. My computer died,
4. I was averaging less than 5 hours of sleep/night,
5. I parted ways with my job.
Each of these sucked. The last was by far the hardest. There were several reasons for my dismissal from Venture for America, but the largest was that the company wasn’t a natural fit for me. We tried to make things work but ultimately discovered that it was unnatural to continue forcing myself in a position that just wasn’t cut to my shape.
Coming to this realization was difficult because I wanted so badly to contribute to the VFA mission. That was the plan. But when there lacks a natural, comfortable flow, something is probably off. I’ve learned that sometimes you must be willing to let go of what is planned, for the life that is truly right.
I can now focus on my health and peacefully take the time I need for surgery and recovery. I can now return to writing and exercising, which had all but disappeared when work took over. More importantly, I can now unapologetically be myself.
Last week, I whined to my friend about everything I’ve lost: my vision, my job, my health, even my cruddy old license which was stolen in Providence.
“I’ve been ripped of everything. What’s left?”, I cried.
“Family and friends. We remain.”, she said.
And that’s all I need. I was stripped of so many things associated with my ego to be reminded that none of that matters. What matters more than anything else is the love you have and the love you give, and I am blessed beyond belief to have an incredibly supportive network where all of that flows naturally.
For those dealing with similarly “catastrophic” events, remember that you aren’t possibly important enough for the world to plot against you. Think about what you do have and what is meant to emerge will do so naturally. If things aren’t working on a regular basis, perhaps you’re trying too hard to make two pieces of a different puzzle fit. Find another puzzle to solve.
Venture for America was a wonderful learning opportunity, and I am honored to have worked toward such a meaningful mission. Who knows what’s next. All I know is that however many more disasters it takes, I will eventually make it to the finish line.
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it”
I was at a networking event the other day, mostly for the tasty hors d’oeurves and the opportunity to imbibe free drinks, but figured I’d entertain some awkward conversation so my freeloading wouldn’t be so conspicuous. When someone approached me, I’d hurriedly finish my chewing (lest the silence be deafening) and begin talking mouth full with a load of quiche crumbs tumbling out. I’d chirpily extend my hand, “Hi my name is Lynne! Nice to meet you. What’s yours?!”
Nothing like an overly enthusiastic greeting that labels the “new girl on the block!” title square in the face.
So be it. I’m a Florida girl at heart and if my sunny disposition makes people squint, get some Ray Bans. Being from Florida in a cold city actually works to my advantage because it immediately creates an easy topic for conversation: weather. Inevitably, weather talk leads to the ultimate ‘elephant in the room’ question “What do you do?” which subsequently triggers an incessant chatter up in my prefrontal cortex on how to explain who I am, what I studied, and what on earth I think I’m doing here in the city. I panic, realizing I have no lucid way to introduce myself. So I usually start with, “Well, I drink a lot of wine…” (true story)
I’m not in any position to bestow wisdom on how to create your perfect elevator pitch and I’m not writing this post to pretend like I’m close to figuring it out. I probably won’t ever know how to describe myself in a witty one or two-liner and the day I can, my life will be officially pathetic. We are more complex (and interesting) than titles allow us to be.
That said, all this weather talk reminds me of another time not so long ago when I partook in a lot of chatty mingling, albeit in a less classy environment. Memories of a frenzied freshman year of college when I rushed to sign up for every organization offering community, value, and free food flood my guilty psyche. “You’ll find your best friends here!” “Make an impact!” Back then social situations were more beer pong and club meetings offering free pizza, less wine and cheese with keynote speakers from [insert reputable global organization].
I’m about 9 months out of the old stomping yard (college) and while it’s fair to say I’m no longer a college student, I still feel endowed with a somewhat privileged collegiate mindset. Perhaps even more than I did during my four lecture-sitting years.
I don’t roll out of bed and spring to class anymore, and I don’t bump into people I try to avoid every five minutes. Instead, I dress up, hopstop to work among suited up strangers, and carry a brown tote that looks slightly like an old man’s briefcase (it was the only one at the thrift store that could fit my dang laptop!). During my subway ride, I whip out my cranny nook and read up on design. Trust agents. The digital sphere. Or “how to get rid of that gut!”, which just conveniently happened to be on the latest cover of Shape.
After graduation, the learning doesn’t stop. My current line of work forces me to think digital, social media, and e-commerce while tasting new products and writing about them (which involves wine…what a bummer). It keeps me busy, but the knowledge appetite is still not satisfied. Curiosity widens like the mouth of a hungry child with a bottomless stomach. Now that I don’t have professors to direct my questions to (ironically whom, I barely spoke to when I was actually in college), I am more curious than ever.
As a newcomer to the city, I am still trying to determine the activities and people that are worth my limited time and energy. Of course, in order to play the game, you have to put up with some ‘small talk’. Slowly but surely, in this so very refined adult life, you whittle down the prospects to your truest, deepest interests, one glass – escargot – smooth talking schmooze-at a time.
Tomorrow I begin a wine tasting class called ‘Raise Your Wine IQ’. (Shameless plug- my boss is teaching and you can register here!) I’m also enrolled in a month-long online course called “How to launch your startup idea for less than $5000” which sounds gimmicky, but I’m getting information far more valuable than what I sat through in college without spending a penny. The class is being offered through the education startup Skillshare, a cool company that is trying to revolutionize education. I’m very interested to see how I can apply what I learn to a possible venture. Throw in my dance class and bible study, compounded with the professional life, and I have my own class schedule! I’ve never been more excited to learn in my life!
The Florida sunshine is probably blinding you but before you put on your blockers, keep this in mind:
“Your 20’s are your ‘selfish’ years. It’s a decade to immerse yourself in every single thing possible. Be selfish with your time, and all the aspects of you. Tinker with shit, travel, explore, love a lot, love a little, and never touch the ground.”
|Kyoko Escamilla (a.k.a Brain-Food)|
Even without a bell tower or quad, the collegiate mindset stays for however long you allow it. I am experimenting and exploring more now than the past four years. Do I regret not doing more of this when I was actually in college? Yes and no, but it’s never too late.
Idealism at its best, but it’s always important to set missions and goals.
1. I believe the next generation is charged with a challenge: to coalesce gracefully with a rapidly evolving world,
2. I believe the current status quo in institutional education does not equip us with relevant tools to meet this challenge, nor does it produce the best version of our selves,
3. I believe in devoting our technological resources toward empowering individuals to explore a wide array of interests, then providing opportunities to hone the skills deemed meaningful to each of us,
4. I believe in the need for a creation-based platform that displays our works as a learning package for others to follow,
5. I believe individuals should create their own curriculum: learning by consistently producing content that contributes to public discourse and education, and doing by connecting with the right people on collaborative projects,
6. I believe in using said platform to simultaneously craft our individual and shared biographies,
7. I believe that when we creatively express, discover, and collaborate among various disciplines, we can reach an unprecedented level of synergy in the world,
8.I believe that by creating this platform our generation will be more than able to meet the challenges presented,
9. And I believe the world will be a better place when we each find our bliss, beautifully giving to the world what it deserves of us.