I believe there is something to be said about the differences you see in movies and television than when you actually see the real thing. California has always constantly been seen as this glorious state with sun and celebrities and beach. In fact, this is not what it’s really like. It was pouring rain yesterday and has been for the past week. I’ve never even had the opportunity of meeting anyone famous, even if I’ve visited the Los Angeles area quite a lot.
There is something to be said about expectation and reality.
On a Wednesday morning, around nine thirty in the morning, I found myself (and twenty-two other kids my age) rousing from sleep as we flew over the Earth in an airplane. I was leaning around the cold plastic wall of the plane as I’d chosen the window seat. Our flight had been delayed to a two thirty a.m. flight instead of the original eleven p.m. flight. My friend Jen was passed out next to me, wrapped in the blanket she’d brought with her. The girl next to her, Allison, was returning from the bathroom.
In the night, I had closed the window. The plane was silent except for the low engine sounds. I had fallen asleep in the clouds.
Around me, everyone else was stirring awake because the time was getting near for descent from the sky. My neck ached vaguely and I felt a little chilly even in my jacket (which was admittedly a little thin). I pushed myself off the wall and looked around. I wondered vaguely how close exactly we were to landing.
Across the aisle, there were sounds of protest as my friend Carrie opened the window, blinding the two other girls in her compartment. The pair of us had looked forward to watching the sunrise in the plane the day before learning the flight had been delayed. It was like the entirety of the sun had poured itself into the plane when she opened it. I couldn’t see momentarily as my eyes adjusted painfully to the light. But she didn’t close the window.
I imitated her actions, but refused to just throw it open. I slid it slowly up, despite Jen making whining noises as I did so. Allison hissed at me to close it, but I didn’t.
As I did, clouds passed below us. I winced as I saw the blinding blue horizon, but continued on, stubborn and determined. I looked down, expecting to see the pointless squares of fields that were the Midwest. Instead, I was met with the city layout of the New York City.
It wasn’t my sunrise or my sunset or the city lights at night that I see in so many pictures and in so many variations of media. But I was so much more impressed by this.
I had never seen a thing like it. Not even the city of Los Angeles could compare to the presence of New York City on the ground. All my life, I’d lived with the landscape of flatness. What New York was impending and leveled. From where I was, nothing was even. The only word that came to mind was: helter-skelter.
This was my first time in a city in which I felt I was so small and yet so significant.
Entering the city was like entering another world. My little tiny hometown was never this imposing. In fact, there are huge fields of nothing surrounding it, grazing cows and all. Sure, about ten minutes from the place is a bigger town but it’s nothing like New York.
I have never been one for suburban lifestyles. I think it’s too confining, too dry, too boring, too dull, too uninspiring. There is nothing unique or different or helter-skelter about where I live. The same houses have been standing for twenty plus years, inhabited by nearly the same people for twenty-plus years. I have lived next to this damn Bel-Air my entire life that I don’t know how to shop at another grocery store. Nothing about this place has changed. And it’s very nearly killing me.
Everywhere I went in New York there was some sort of construction happening. It looked constantly like the city was evolving and changing and shaping itself into something new every year.
I visited the New York Times building on my second day of being in New York City. The building was designed by a man named Renzo Piano (there are many jokes made) and was finished in 2007. It was the first true addition to the New York cityscape in decades. The original spot for the NY Times was on 43rd Street and had served as the headquarters for 93 years. The NY Times always sought to be innovative and modern and its old, dank, original building had eventually become the opposite of their mission. So, they decided to change. They decided to evolve along with their paper. They moved to the Times Square neighborhood and now inhabit an award-winning building. If that isn’t changing, if that isn’t evolving, if that isn’t shaping itself into something new, something more functional, something more modern, then I do not what is.
I had also had the privilege of visiting the 9/11 Memorial site. Not only had they built the beautiful fountains in the spots the building originally were, they had started construction on several building surrounding it, including a new 1 World Trade Center, set to be 1,776 feet tall, the tallest building in New York City. At first, I thought that the construction of the new buildings were disrespectful, that the place should’ve been left alone with simply the fountains and it’s museum. Then I realized: This is what New York City was about. New York City was a place of getting past things. New York City was a place of moving forward. Because that is what you do. That is the strength inside that city. It has endured the years because it moved forward constantly. It evolved constantly.
New York City is truly the City That Never Sleeps. Had we kept the drapes open during the night the three girls in my room and I wouldn’t have sleep at all. The lights from Time Square would’ve simply acted as the sun and kept us up all night long. But, even though the sounds of sirens and people went off, I slept with the sounds of the city. It had, in fact, lulled me to sleep, if you can believe it. New York City is never really quiet. Not like it is in my hometown. After eleven, the place is dead silent. In New York, after three a.m., police sirens go off to respond to a call in the city. Silence cannot be found, but solace can.
Something opened inside of me when I entered that city which made me feel so small and yet so big. It made me think about how there was, essentially, so much packed into such a small area. There was so much life to a concentrated place. There was culture and acceptance and I wanted to be a part of every second of it.
It made me think about how little I had experienced in my own life.
It made me realize that I didn’t want to be stuck in some run-down, little nowhere of a place.
It made me recognize that I am not so small or so tiny or so insignificant. People had lived and done amazing things in New York City. New York City was the place where fantastic things happened, where adventure was around every street corner, where escapades could be exploited and no one was around to stop you.
I realized that this was the city for me. I had never felt such a strong attachment to any place in my whole entire lifetime. New York City and I connected on a level that only few people could comprehend.
My solace was not found in suburbia. My solace was in the loudest city in the world.
There is something to be said about expectation and reality. And I wanted my reality to be in a city across the country.