I took a plane east last week, and landed for the first time in New York City. My backpack was filled with art supplies, several books that I stupidly thought I would get through, and my trusty notebook (Harriet the Spy anyone?)
It was my first time really traveling alone. I didn't know what to expect from New York. I was brimming with excitment to see such an iconic city, but at the same time utterly in knots because multiple people warned me to "stay out of allies" and "don't go out alone at night". Would I be safe traveling on my own? Was I going to get mugged... or worse?
But once I walked out my hotel the first morning and into the "fresh" air of Midtown, I felt my insides settle. It was exactly how I pictured it! Locals dressed in an unlikely combo of corporate work attire and bright nikes on their way to work. The markets on every corner had an array of the most interesting foods and plenty of vegan options to satisfy my breakfast rumblings. And the trees... the trees were all in bloom! I passed a couple parks on 5th avenue on my way toward Central Park, and I could feel that New York was going to treat me just fine.
I ate at vegan cafes and painted in every urban park I stumbled upon. I walked the highline, I stopped in the Chelsea market. I talked to some people playing chess about bullshit degrees that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I gawked at the designer window displayes like a kid in an 80's movie. I pretended I was a hippie, and pretended I was a New Yorker, then I pretended I knew where I was going, and I also let myself get lost. I preteneded I was Harriet the spy, writing down descriptions of Subway characters and rants I heard out on the street. But after all of this, I left New York for my humble apartment in Sunnyvale Calfiornia and felt the playful elation slip away.
It was non-stop bliss in New York, but when I came back I was forced to aknowledge everything I left behind for that week. I had errands to run, papers to fill out, bills to pay and work to do. I also had familiar questions about what I was doing with my spare time and where I was going. I was shaken up by noise and city lights, and now here I was, quiet and in the dark.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
That's what I've learned. New York sent me on a wild ride, and I'm still trying to shake off the dizziness. Getting out of your comfort zone is not easy, but it's necessary. I know this, and yet...
I keep telling myself the dizziness will pass. It's a contant push and pull inside. A fight between young and old, but my older self doesn't like to listen. Deep breaths and long walks are common around here, which isn't a bad thing....
I guess I'll have to travel alone more often ;)