How New York City Has Surprised Me

How New York City Has Surprised Me

It's not always the glitzy metropolis you see in the movies.

When I decided to go to school in New York City, my coworker told me I was going to experience culture shock. At the time, I didn’t believe her. Despite having lived in the suburbs my entire life, I had this idea of New York that I thought couldn’t be changed. To me, New York was the backdrop of a rom-com. It was picturesque family-owned bookstores, and ice skating in Rockefeller Center. It was the fountain in Washington Square Park and weekends spent at the Met. I half expected to end up with a designated booth at the local coffee shop, a laugh track playing in the background as my friends and I exchanged anecdotes about our exciting lives in the city.

The first night that I spent here, my roommate and I sat on our window sill, looking out at the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan. It was breathtaking. Looking at the lit up windows, it was hard to believe that we were actually there. For the first week of school, I walked through the streets with my neck craned backward. I liked to think about the people behind the windows of the skyscrapers I passed. It was hard to fathom that so many people could be going about their daily lives, unaware of each others’ problems. It was exciting to be surrounded by so much human activity. I felt like I was in a place where I could never run out of inspiration. I felt like I was home.

But my feelings swiftly changed that following weekend, when my friends and I found ourselves in the depths of Brooklyn, walking down a street lined with police cars and potholes. The lit-up skies so often associated with the city were far behind us. Now, I was trudging along in my too-tight heels. The road smelled like trash and broken pieces of glass bottles sat in the crabgrass that grew out of the sidewalk. We’d taken a forty-minute subway ride for this? I had pictured Great Gatsby parties in large hotels and bars lit up by flashing, neon lights. I hadn’t pictured stumbling through the cool, smoggy air for a frat party.

Next to me, a girl stumbled where the sidewalk crumbled into the road. I helped her up as her pepper spray rolled in the street. The others debated whether or not we should move forward, or turn back now before we got lost in the labyrinth that was a city unknown. The verdict, in the end, was that we go back home to the safety of the financial district. We took the J train home and, despite the fact that it went over the water, and we got a beautiful view of the skyline, I spent the majority of the ride preoccupied with my aching feet, and my diminishing idea of a perfect city.

After that night, and several more weekends spent walking through the city streets with the subway rats and roaches, it became clear that the city wasn’t the place I had thought New York would be. I became accustomed to the grime, and even began to appreciate it. After all, for all of the nights that my friends and I found ourselves in cute restaurants and model-strewn bars, we spent twice as many roaming through streets that smelt like cigarettes and urine. There was something about it that felt natural. The city wasn’t all glitz and glamour; it was the home of eight million people. It was only natural that sometimes it would stink.

As time went on, I became fascinated with the culture of the city, the way people dressed and spoke. I got a nose piercing, and a tattoo (something I would never have done living in the suburbs), and I found myself sitting on the stoop of the school watching the people that passed by, thinking about how different it all was from what I knew at home. I think that moving anywhere new kind of challenges your sense of belonging.

Suddenly, I felt like I had to choose between the home I’d grown up with and the home I’d chosen. When I came back to the suburbs, there were times where I felt almost disheartened by the cleanly-cut lawns and silent suburban streets. I had gotten used to the grimy, loud, busy cacophony that was New York, and I felt like, after months of assimilating to that culture, I couldn’t be a part of my hometown anymore.

When my friends from home visited the city, they crinkled their noses when the AC vents dripped on them and looked at me through startled eyes when we took the squealing, dirty subway instead of taxi cabs. I was surprised that they didn’t understand. Couldn’t they see? Couldn’t they understand the city was so much more than their romanticized dream?

But of course, it was silly for me to expect this. I had had the same premonitions about the city before living there, and why shouldn’t they be disgusted by the trash piled up on the side of Chipotle on a Wednesday night? Eventually, my infatuation with the city began to fade. There were days when the buildings just felt grey and overbearing. People were no longer stories that needed to be told, they were just people, walking with their shoulders hunched against the rain. It was times like these where I missed the place I’d come from. Living in the city makes you realize- trees are underrated.

So perhaps, I’d think to myself, on days when the city’s horns echoed especially loudly through the narrow streets, my coworker was right. New York has given me a culture shock. Perhaps I’d be better off living in the suburbs, maybe that’s what I was built for. But every time I felt this way, something would happen that would remind me of why I fell in love with New York in the first place. Sometimes it was the sunset at Battery Park, other times it was street fairs, or strangers helping one another out on the train. Sometimes it was people dancing in the middle of Washington Square Park, and other times it was helping a friend lug furniture into their tiny apartment in Brooklyn.

There’s a heartbeat in this city, and I feel it even when my head is tucked against the cold, and steam from the subway grate is crawling up my nose. I try to remind myself to look up at least once a day and take in the buildings that surround me. Just for a moment, I take in the immensity of them and the people that are working away behind those windows, unaware that I ever thought of them or even gave them a second glance.

When I look up at these windows I’m brought back to the first week of school, and I feel inspired and at peace just like I did then. So many things have changed since I started living in the city three years ago, but it still surprises me with its’ beauty. Three years later, I am still happy to call this place my second home.

Cover Image Credit: via Flickr

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The Night The Lights Went Out In Jacksonville

We must band together as a family and support our Home, JSU.

Monday, March 19 around 10 PM a tornado swept through the college campus I walk around 5 days a week. The damage was pretty much unknown until the daylight hours. Upon morning we established that the entire roof was ripped off several of the dormitories on campus as well as at least 5 of the academic buildings.

After damage assessment, it was determined that a dual touchdown tornado had struck the campus. The tornado was determined to have been an EF-3 rated tornado based on the damage.

The tornado has happened at this point, there is no way to reverse its effects.

Today began the first steps we took as a university to began resuming life as normal. President Beehler made a press conference at noon saying that the campus would reopen April 2, 2018. A statement was later released that saying the April 2nd date is fluid and is subject to change.

With lots to consider, many of the educators have announced they have no intentions of resuming classes until the displaced students are safely housed.

There was a press release today that mentioned the possibility of portable classrooms. Aith all there is to consider we cannot rush into opening this campus back up so soon.

President Beehler, a week and a half is no time to rebuild buildings or replace entire dormitory complexes. I myself am speaking too soon even. Where will we hold graduation? Where will we study for finals? What will become of the nursing majors with no place to learn?

We must band together as a family and support our Home, JSU. Help your neighbors out, help the displaced, and pray for those attempting to reconstruct the infrastructure.

Some Glad Day, When This Life Is O'er I'll Fly Away.

Cover Image Credit: Twitter

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Success Is Great, But Failure Is Better

Fail and fail often.

Don’t let success get to your head, but don’t let failure get to your heart. Know that things don’t always work out as planned, and that is OK!

For many millennials, it’s easiest to just give up when something doesn’t go your way. But take heart. Success is great, but failure is better. The reality is, you’re going to fail... a lot.

Failure does not mean your idea was not good or that your dream isn’t valid.

Failure means you have more to learn.

Failure is GOOD.

It shows you that you did something wrong and that you need to take a redirection. It’s an opportunity to come back stronger with a better attack plan. It’s a second chance.

Having failed many times in my life, there’s one thing for sure: failing sucks. It sucks being disappointed. It sucks not succeeding on the first try. However, you can learn to become a good failure.

Failing is inevitable, which is why it is important to learn from our mistakes. You’ll learn more from a single failure than a lifetime of success. Here’s what you can do when you mess up: accept what you can’t change, keep an open mind, maintain a positive attitude, and know that nothing will be perfect.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was on an engineering team at my school. I was extremely confident in our abilities as a team, so when we didn’t advance to the world finals, I was devastated. The next year, however, my team placed second at the national competition, and we advanced to the world finals. If I had allowed that initial failure to consume me, I wouldn’t have been successful the next year.

It was not easy to advance to the world finals, but because I took my previous failure as a learning opportunity, my team succeeded. I knew I couldn’t change the past, so I didn’t focus on it. I kept an open mind about the competition and did not allow my bitterness to harden me, thus maintaining a positive attitude. My team wasn’t perfect, and I knew that. But I knew if we worked hard, we would succeed. We did.

Every failure is feedback on how to improve. Nothing works unless you do, and nothing works exactly the way you want it to. Failure is life’s greatest teacher; it’s nothing to be scared of. If we are so focused on not failing, we will never succeed.

So fail, and fail often.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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