I come from a small, rural town in South Carolina coined “the prettiest town in all of Dixie” by William Sherman himself. This itty-bitty farm land is called Cheraw and holds a big space in my heart, because after all, it is where I grew up. However, while growing up, I found myself writhing in frustration from the close-mindedness of the people around me and an undulating desire to escape from these rural confines to a place where all were accepted. Being an Indian female, a true rarity in this town, I always felt as if I had bigger dreams than this town could even hold. I always felt misunderstood and misplaced. My New York City fever all began when my parents and I decided to take a trip there when I was around ten years old. I am happy to report that I have been back six more times after that trip. It is an incredible feat, and not one that most of my fellow town people have achieved. What can I say, the city gives me true happiness that I genuinely do not feel anywhere else. I have compiled five reasons as to what I have learned from traversing the city and perhaps these can be reasons why it is my utopia, the happiest place on Earth for me.
1. You are a speck in a universe so grand
Walking through crowds upon crowds of people truly makes you feel insignificant and inferior to every soul walking past you. This marvelous feeling of your lack of importance is surely demeaning at first, but then you have an epiphany of the world’s grandeur. I somehow always relished the feeling of being small so no one would see me, but knowing that I could mean the world to the people around me. It gave a sense of freedom, which is discussed later. But just being between masses of people makes you realize how big the world really is, and how small we are in it. This can be rattling to the mind, but for me, it simply pushes me to be the best person I can be to the small sphere of people and the land around me.
2. Dreams do come true
Whenever I go down to Wall Street during lunch time, I get a good glimpse at what success looks like. I remember the first time I went down there, stricken with awe at the things I saw. I saw men and women in suits who were probably stock brokers, legal advisors, entrepreneurs, writers and highly esteemed people in general. Growing up, I’ve always been pushed to aim for excellence and thus I’ve always strived for success. Seeing how the fruits of my labor in education could pay off, first hand, was mesmerizing to me. As I walked through a popular lunch area, I could hear talks about their occupations, smell the alcohol through expensive pubs and feel the adrenaline and ambition that they all possessed. And so, the city gave me hope that maybe one day my dreams would come true too. That hope had been simply a whisper in the wind back home. People around me in the rural area often stayed in the low end of the economic ladder and I’d always hoped that I could achieve more.
3. There is so much beauty in this world
As we took a road trip to the city, I experienced the vastness of the country. We traveled across roads and fields and mountains to get to New York, and that in itself gave me a holistic idea of how wide the world is. Even the city itself seems humongous, although Manhattan is only 22.7 square miles around. There is a certain camaraderie there between the steel and the land as the skyscrapers loom above everyone’s head. It makes me just wonder how big the rest of the world may seem and grows my desire to travel the whole globe.
4. Use your energy to grow as a person, expand your mindset, embrace diversity
A person’s ideologies are a big part of their lives. Values and experiences are what shape a person in order to aid their actions and how they treat others. The close-mindedness that I mentioned earlier has stuck with me for a long period of time. When I get to the city, I feel a sense of openness and acceptance. As cliché as that sounds, it can’t help but be true. There are 200 languages spoken in New York City alone. How can people not be more accepting? Their neighbors, doctors, colleagues, teachers, and people who sit next to them on the subway often come from a different background as them. It’s almost like the city radiates love for others, even if it is not displayed with an elaborate show of affection. I feel as if everyone can take a lesson from New Yorkers to simply grow one’s mindset and embrace other humans who simply may have a little more melanin than you, but are, in the end, made of the same essence that you are.
5. In the end, people do indeed have good hearts
What I mean by this is that people simply do not care what you do. You can go dance in the streets and you may barely get a second glance. That feeling of freedom is what I soaked in, hoping to immortalize it and keep it forever. Coming from judgment and peering eyes around every corner, this freedom was almost liberating. I felt like I could do anything and be anything I wanted to. I could actually walk into a store without anyone knowing me. (Funny side note: whenever I go into Walmart in Cheraw, I NEVER leave without seeing at least one person I know) And so, I conclude by saying this: most people have good hearts. They may not care what you do, but they do have a sense of compassion in them, even if they do not know you. I was always scared of the stories I heard of how unkind people up North are. But those stories have been proven wrong again and again, because every time I go, I am met by compassion through simple exchanges with every day New Yorkers. If they have that huge capacity of kindness, then I have heaps of hope that the world is still all in all, good.