Then and Now – NYC
Every time I go to New York City, during the ride into the City from the airport I get that little flutter of awe and excitement as the skyline crests in the cab’s windshield.
As a kid, I knew what New York City was – and I knew what a “big city” felt like. I grew up about an hour from Boston and my family would venture there about once every six to eight weeks to go to the theatre, visit the Aquarium, the Science Museum, or just venture around Quincy Market.
By the time I was a senior in high school, I’d been to New York City twice, once in elementary school/ my younger years, and another time as a teenager. Both were family trips – on the first we went to Long Island, took a ferry, ventured around Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and went to Times Square; on the second we stayed in Koreatown, went to the Empire State Building, went to see Rent (it was still on Broadway then), and ventured around Midtown.
Perhaps it was my experiences in Boston and family trips to New York City that made city-life seem accessible and interesting. I really enjoy urban areas – delicious food, cultural venues, lots to see (often just people watching is entertaining/amusing), decent public transportation, and of course varied and awe-inspiring public spaces and architecture. But whatever it was, I’ve always felt more intrigued by big cities rather than intimidated by them.
In any event, did I have an inkling at age 9 or 16 that I’d one day live in New York City? Nope.
When my plans for graduate school started coalescing in 2008 and it looked like I’d be attending a Master’s program in NYC, did it seem real? Not so much.
Now looking back on the flight to NYC dragging my big black trunk, giant suitcase, and paperwork with the school dorm’s address around the airport and out to the row of yellow cabs, I remember how I was exhausted (luggage is heavy and I was flying from my parents’ place in Nevada to NYC – re: going across three time zones), anxious about school starting, and excited about the adventure of it all. Once I was settled in my dorm room, I walked out to a Duane Reade and bought a laminated folded walking map, and started venturing around Harlem, Morningside Heights, and the Upper West Side to get a sense of my new home. Sometimes it would occur to me that I lived in New York City along with Howard Stern, Rudy Giuliani, the Yankees (yes I know, blasphemy for a New Englander), and so many other prominent figures past and present. I didn’t have to wait for a vacation to check out a Broadway show, or venture around the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, or see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on a TV screen – I could live any number of activities any day I wanted. But usually I was just me, I just happened to live in New York City.
Fast forward a few years —
This past weekend I went to NYC for matters related to my personal injury lawsuit.
Unfortunately, a bunch of events combined to create a mostly stressful and exhausting experience.
My connecting flight from Washington DC was canceled, I had to reschedule the car service to take me to an appointment out in Medford (Long Island) from LaGuardia, I ate a muffin for lunch on the public bus en route to my second appointment on the Upper East Side, one of my closest friends shared a lovely dinner with me but we found we barely had enough time to really catch up after not having seen each other for months, I visited during Yom Kippur when another close friend of mine was unavailable due to holiday services, and while I was out of the office – we had an active project going on for a client which I wasn’t able to monitor as I needed to due to a lack of WiFi connectivity as a result of my harried travel schedule.
But despite all of that, I had a few moments to myself.
After the second appointment, I ventured into the Guggenheim and although a few floors were closed due to a new installation, I took in some beautiful and thought-provoking pieces, and got to experience the work of one of my favorite architects (Frank Lloyd Wright!). Before meeting my friend for dinner, I also spent some (relatively) quiet time in Central Park resting on the green grass and watching runners pass by.
And Saturday morning, before heading to the airport to return to Texas, I ate brunch at a place on Broadway I’d always wanted to try and enjoyed some delicious food with only my thoughts to keep me company.
My lawsuit has definitely colored New York City for me.
While I certainly enjoy seeing my friends and prior professors/colleagues, and visiting restaurants I love (Nussbaum and Wu) and sites I enjoy (the view of NJ from Riverside Dr.; Radio City and Rockefeller Center), now whenever I go to New York City, I have to don emotional armor I didn’t need before.
I take a deep breath when I walk past the site of the accident; I have to force myself not to flinch when a car stops just a little too close to the edge of the curb before I cross; I have to still my racing heart when I hear a horn honk or tires screech.
I also have to arm myself against the invasion of privacy which is the lawsuit itself. Now my life is open to critique, speculation and what feels like the constant eyes of others. Doctors and lawyers know every treatment and medication, my every activity, dream and desire.
The lawsuit has shown me that there is much out there that is out of my control; and that even justice is not as black and white as the dictionary makes it seem. And for me, New York City has been forever changed, just in those few minutes on a Wednesday afternoon in September 2009.
However, as I mentioned at the beginning, I like big cities. And for as much as New York City is no longer the place of wide-eyed optimism I visited on family vacations, or the place I went to grad school and began my true transition into an independent adulthood, it is still the place where I learned about the factors contributing to job satisfaction and employee motivation, got to experience the inner workings of Sirius Radio, met some of the most kind-hearted and intelligent people, ate my first black and white cookie, learned the ins and outs of the 1 train, went to a Knicks game, and saw the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
And most importantly, I still feel those tiny flutters of anticipation and awe when approaching the City- when I’m struck at how the human race has created something amazing, and I feel fortunate to be able to continue to experience it, even if my perspective has been altered.
Thanks for reading,