I sat in my seat prepared for the hours ahead, as students names were called to cross the stage and receive their diploma. Some I knew, some I never knew and was realizing I would never meet. “This school showed me what my hometown, New York City, never gave me. A sense of community,” the selected alumni began her speech about how our school provided mentors, connections, and clubs all leading to this word “community”. I was ready to move on from my college. It was a small, private, liberal arts school that felt like a bubble over my time there.
I am thankful for my experiences and the people I had met, but I was ready to move on to somewhere I had always wanted to be- New York City. My plans and hopes were big and naturally, undefined. I wanted more, I wanted to move to NYC and be neighbors with the vast amount of opportunities, but I had no finite idea of what I wanted to do while there.
I am a people person, so as the day got closer to when my move was happening, I started to feel panicked. What am I doing? I thought. Staying at home, at least for the summer, would be SO much easier and comfortable (not to mention affordable- thanks mom and dad). I was afraid of the loneliness. That empty feeling after walking the crowded streets, exploring the city, and then returning, alone, to my apartment. I need a sense of connection, of community, to feel safe and, honestly, happy. Twenties are fun for the most part, but can also be so hauntingly lonely.
I’ve only been living in New York City for a short time now, but I have come to learn, so far, that the alumni from my graduation ceremony and I have had completely different experiences. I have felt a complete sense of community in New York, although not the same terms as one might find on a college campus. I hardly talk to the people I pass, but I always feel a connection, something about living here I guess. There’s dirtiness, grunginess, and the thirst to survive. The sense that we are all in this rat race (sometimes literally) together. That living here is far from easy, but something called us all here to these streets and these buildings.
Living here is packing way too many bodies into one subway car, to be pushed up against a stranger. Living here is laughing with strangers at the kids on the street or swooning over the dogs on leashes. Being cursed at for accidentally bumping into someone or for crossing the street at the last minute. We are all here navigating our lives, changing directions, or staying on a promising course. We are all here, a part of this vast amount of diversity and culture. We are all here as a community, in its own, unique meaning to this city.
I still have no concrete idea of what I am doing but I find comfort in knowing that a majority of people on the subway are probably in a similar position. Cycling through jobs as they move up the rank or dabble in a new field. Whenever that lonely feeling comes creeping in, it is comforting to know I can roam the streets of my neighborhood or open a window to let in the outside noise. Taking advantage of a new environment and all it has to offer is crucial in life, but noticing the people around you and their unique paths can be the saving grace to your journey.