Let's talk about the NYC subway.
It has a bad reputation, but I want to romanticize the crap out of it and convince you that it both encapsulates the spirit of New York and is a metaphor for life. It's pure poetry, sometimes a breeze that cradles and carries you wherever you need to go, and sometimes it rips out your soul with no remorse.
It's not easy living in a big city
Especially the infamously cold and grumpy New York. Sometimes the worst part of my day is waiting thirty minutes for a train that finally arrives, jam-packed with a dysfunctional air conditioning. You can imagine what it's like feeling like a steamed vegetable with your head shoved into someone's smelly armpit, your body contorted in an unnatural way to maximize standing space for all the other people on the train. If you can't imagine it, you're better off.
The raw and untamed museum of culture
Yet sometimes, riding the subway is the best part of my day. The trains are the cultural tombs of New York, a perfectly condensed collection of New York's diversity, fashion, music, and spirit. I love to people watch, mesmerized by all the different lives we are living, all the different truths and powers we embody. For a moment, we are the same, zooming through underground tunnels with our destinations on our minds, hoping we can arrive as quickly as possible. The urgent impatience of New York keeps me tethered to this world, even when I'm zoned out and going through the robotic motions of travel, I'm calculating my next move and thinking about the people around me. We might hate most aspects of commuting but it's the perfect place to truly feel the buzzing life of NY.
Who doesn't like temporarily falling in love on public transit? Eye contact from across the car with an interestingly attractive stranger... do the rules of courtship apply underground? Then there's seeing someone do something stupid and eye rolling in solidarity with the person next to you. I'm fond of helping tourists or anyone else figure out which trains to take because it keeps me sharp and reminds me that New York is in my blood, the tunnels not unlike my veins bringing blood to my heart.
Freedom and Mobility
I grew up in a small mountain town where you need a car to get anywhere, I was so isolated from the real world and my freedom felt stifled. The New York subway gives me access to anywhere I want to go, I was intimidated by it at first but my New York family assured me that I would learn the subway very quickly. And I did. When there's a delay or a train stops running and you have to quickly change your route... it's annoying but when you automatically can say "Ok I'll take the 6 to Grand Central then hop on the 7" there's power in that, you know the tunnels by heart and there are so many routes and combinations you can take to get to the same place.
The art of travel is the art of life
It's a lot like life, the system works by you actively participating. Sometimes you have to take different paths and sometimes you get lost, but you're learning and growing in the process. Life, like the subway, is not all candy and puppies, sometimes it's shit. You have to learn to put on your boots and wade through the knee deep river of shit to get to the other side, if you learn from your experiences or not, you're still covered in crap and have to make sense of it. The power is mostly in your hands, you can choose your path and navigate however you please, with a destination or just exploration in mind. Do not fret your missteps, take another train, get off at another stop, walk around a bit. We all know the cliche adage "it's not about the destination, it's about the journey" so don't take your journey for granted, no matter how excruciating, hot, sweaty and slow it can be on certain days. Look for the beauty in it, look for the poetry. Look for me and I'll look for you.