In the last 30 days since I moved to New York City, the concrete jungle has transformed before my eyes.
Nothing has changed physically… the subway is still a dante’s inferno-esqe labyrinth I will never quite understand, there is still a lack of oxygen and personal space provided on the overcrowded street corners, and the sirens and horns never cease, but something is indeed different. Maybe it’s the power of suggestion when you step off the busy street into an equally crowded grassy patch sprinkled with trees- that parks equal nature. Maybe it’s the fact that you turn a corner and you’re in Italy, China, or Israel.
Regardless, I have awoken on this cloudless Sunday morning and had a glimpse at what 8 million sets of eyes soak in and smile at. You may not see these smiles on the pavement or in the hard faces of the robotic transiters, but they are there- I promise. They are hidden in the hearts formed from diverse backgrounds with dreams, goals and deep seeded desires that escape when these faces let their guard down. They come in different expressions and accents, sometimes they escape with a wine-induced laugh, sometimes in a nod of acknowledgement by a passerby, sometimes by a chatty barista, or by a catcaller who calls you beautiful instead of “daaamn girl.” Regardless of how these connections reveal themselves, they remind us each that we are human.
I have traveled the world, explored cultures near and far, oppressive and free, in hot and cold climates, and I have ended up here in the city that summarizes it all. New York may not have my heart just yet, but I can finally appreciate it for what it is. It is the evolution of dreams and ideals and people who dared to be different. It is the keystone, keeping the world together and it is the hub for innovation and controversial movements. We may not understand eachother’s beliefs or lifestyles, but if New York City can teach us anything, it is that- it is possible to survive amongst and alongside our differences. We can in fact coexist. We find a niche and we develop it the best we can, we utilize the niches built by others and we collaborate to make a bigger group when it suits us, and avoid when it doesn’t. Just as a gazelle learns early on it must run fast to avoid demise by the lion, a New Yorker learns quickly that you must keep moving in order to ensure you don’t get swallowed by the city. To thrive, you must stay in your heard of gazelles that act like you. You may permit zebras and other like-minded individuals in, however you must always be conscious of hyenas and lions.
Wall street will continue to attract those bold enough to play the game, the homeless will continue to scavenge, artists will bare their souls on Broadway, teachers will try to inspire, cops will try to enforce, religions will spread, parades will march, drinks will be poured, and the ball will always drop at midnight.
There will always be those who will prey on you, and those who mock your stripes or long neck, but we know from science that each of those patterns and designs have a purpose. Whether it be to camouflage, to attract a mate, or to reach the tallest branches, our differences are indeed what connect us. If we all were made the same there would be no niches, no room for relationships to grow, and no progress. We each have our part to play, and we must be true to ourselves so that there is room for our differences to have purpose. Because who wants to live in a world full of gazelles without lions? If there is no fear or competition, then our successes would be meaningless, and our triumphs would be anticlimactic.
In an ideal world, we would be able to throw that utopian dinner party with all our neighbors of different origins, and everyone would mingle and have a good time. But we live in this world; where there is enough space to share, and lions and gazelles don’t need to be friends- they just need to acknowledge and respect one another. Maybe this isn’t the dream that our generation x parents envisioned in a cloud of smoke surrounded by their psychedelic wall posters, but hopefully it is a reality we can accept as a world currently shared by x, y and z.