Recently , I read this wonderful article my friend Callie posted to Facebook. While it’s not required reading for this post or whatever it is suggested reading for life, btw. In case you’ve decided to forgo my sage, elderly wisdom, the article is essentially about how we, as a people, are using our mobile internet devices to distance ourselves from people, as a means to justify not interacting with people in person. That is a terrible summary. This is why I am not a professional summarizer, though I would one hundred percent be a professional summarizer because for real I need a job if anybody’s, uh, looking for a professional summarizer. But, I digress.
I think part of the reason I was so affected by the article was because it verbalized (textualized? Sexualized? Not sexualized) a lot of the things I had already been mulling over. I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately about the city that I live in – which happens to be New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do, let’s hear it for New York New York New YORK. Since I started my new internship, I’ve been commuting into Manhattan three days a week, which means I’ve been taking the subway an awful lot more. The 6 train has rapidly grown into my favorite place to observe and think. I generally ride at its most crowded hours, and find that being wedged between a bunch of fascinating, tired people lends itself greatly to looking closely at a bunch of fascinating, tired people.
My feelings for New York are probably the most fluctuating, unsteady feelings I’ve ever felt towards anything, or anyone. This time last year, I would have told you I was eager to pack my bags and get the HECK out of this cruel, urine-scented world in favor of the west coast. But then I started to do more. To explore more. To spend more time by myself. To spend more time with people. And then I started to warm up to New York. “Maybe I didn’t give you enough of a chance, NEW YORK!” I yelled, to myself, in a crowd of concerned onlookers. It was like that boy that you just don’t give the time of day, not because there’s anything wrong with him, but because you’re just so into yourself right now, and not ready to be with anyone, so you blame your problems on this one guy when REALLY you’ve got to you know work on yourself. It’s, uh, like that, sort of. The thing about New York, though, is that it’s a fickle lover, and sometimes it is, in fact, the problem. There are days when New York has made me feel so lonely and discouraged that I had to sit on a park bench and cry about it. But then, there are days when I walk by a man playing beautiful accordion music in front of a dirty Walgreen’s and everything seems infinite and possible.
But again, I digress. Though, in my defense, this digression is more relevant than the last one. You’ve probably all read that infamous, motivational “Wear Sunscreen” article that’s always floating around on tumblr in bits and pieces. One of the pieces of advice is something like, “live in New York, but leave before it makes you hard.” There are a lot of New York stereotypes – one of the most common being that we are all a bunch of dicks who will kick you when you’re down, after putting you down in the first place. The article I mentioned at the beginning of this post, coupled with my spending so much more time exploring and working in Manhattan these past few months got me to thinking – what is New York doing to me? What am I doing here? Do I like who I’m growing into in this city notorious for changing people?
In that article about technology, Jonathon Sanfran Foer, talks about how using our phones in a social situation creates this thought gap in us. Our instinct to react instantly to help someone is delayed and kind of muddled by our ability to use our phones or tablets, to distract ourselves from the situation long enough for it to end without our intervention. While my concerns aren’t really technology based (I mean, like, right now, for this blog post. My concerns are uh, pretty generally technology based tbh, but anyway), I have been thinking about how I react to things. Things are always happening around you wherever you are, but on a crowded downtown street, you can find yourself in a new potential situation with every few steps. Over the past few months in particular, I’ve noticed my reaction time quickening its pace, in good and bad situations. A few days ago, a lady was walking past me holding a bag of food, and the bottom gave out, and her napkins and receipts all started flying away, so I leapt – almost literally? – to help her out before she lost all of her paper products to the night wind. Last night, I was in Grand Central, and this drunk young guy was walking down the up escalator to be obnoxious, and then he started running up it, right as I was reaching the top. I said to him, “Okay, you need to CHILL OUT” to which he responded “Don’t fucking tell me to CHILL OUT” to which I responded “You’re running up a friggin’ ESCALATOR while I’m on it, it’s DANGEROUS” to which he huffed and puffed and moved his arms like a freshly harpooned octopus.
What I’m trying to say is, I’ve noticed this quickening, that I’m reacting when I want to react, instead of considering my options for so long that by the time I make up my mind that I should, in fact, be sassy, the situation, and my opportunity to sass, has passed. I’m not quite sure how to feel about it honestly. Sure, it’s a good thing that I’m my response to help people seems more immediate, but is it a good thing that my fuse can be short enough to get into an altercation with a drunk bro that I really should have just ignored? I’m tired of taking a backseat to things, tired of certain people feeling more obligated than other people to do what they want, but I think there’s a responsibility, a need for check, that comes along with this sort of following of gut feelings. Now, I don’t know how much of this is New York. This city is fast paced. This city has a tendency to be self-involved. I have lived in this city my whole life, but feel like this is the first year I’ve really been living in it, with it. I know that I feel myself changing, as I have every day for the past few years, but now that change feels directly linked to this city, that is, for now, my home.