When you move from a peaceful, quiet small town to the big city, everyone has an opinion to give and advice to share. They’ll tell you that New Yorkers are rude and brittle, the type of people who are self-centered and egotistical, raised with the mentality of cold, brutal urbanites. These city folk wouldn’t be kind and accepting like the South teaches, New York and its people would swallow me whole if I didn’t fight them every step of the way, proving that I belonged here, too.
I never really believed them though – I was always under the impression that New York gives you what you give it. If you expect disrespect, you’ll find it, if you’re fearful of crime and deception, you’ll face it, and if you think people are up to no good, then you’ll meet those people. But if you approach New York believing that there will always be goodness crossing your path and blessing your way, then you’ll find yourself happy and confident, living the way you could have never imagined.
Because really, being a bitter being is dependent of geography. There are cruel intentions inside of each of us, it’s just that most people allow the sun to shoo away the shadows. There will always be those who are oblivious to the luxuries they enjoy that most do not, and those who are profoundly thankful for all that they’ve earned. New York hasn’t been perfect, and of course there are dangers that loom and precautions you have to take to be safe. It’s not about where you’re located, it’s about being realistic and smart.
I’ve recently received a second wind of admiration for this place – it suddenly feels different. Or maybe I feel different. I’m starting a new amazing job soon, I’m enjoying the company of my friends, and soaking up all those life experiences I’ve always craved. I have an extra kick in my step, a better attitude and a stronger appreciation for all the luck that’s found me. The city seems fresh and new, but I don’t anymore. Instead, I feel like I finally belong. It’s not just a dream anymore, I’m living my reality. And best of all, I worked hard to create it without losing hope or faith in my abilities.
So I’m smiling more these days. I’m taking more time to inhale the buildings and the scene, as well as the characters who flood the streets. I take a stroll instead of rushing on the subway, I treat myself to afternoons sitting under an umbrella with a glass of wine and a new book, watching passerbys and being overly gracious to waiters. The summer will soon pass and then the fall will arrive with its bold colors and cool airs, making all the struggles I’ve faced lately dim memories, simple reflections of the path I picked for myself. But for now, before the next chapter unfolds in this brilliant waiting period, I’m learning to just be.
To take my mother’s advice and remember that I only have to take one step and then another, the rest will work itself out. She’s right – it always does, it always has, no matter how much I’ve thought it wouldn’t or simply couldn’t. It is in the darkness after all, when you’re worried that everything everyone said about New York may in fact be true, that you learn how to let your light shine. You figure out how to keep it flickering and more important, how to breathe new life into it when the old wick isn’t applicable anymore.
And there are always people there to remind you – like today, when I took the uptown train after a glorious breakfast at Ciprani on Fifth and boarded with a group of fellas harmonizing their rustic voices to “This Little Light of Mine.” After the song was over and they were starting to exit, an old man when a crinkled face and sunglasses on, bent over and said, “You have a beautiful day, gorgeous,” and unlike I ever do, I actually thanked him.
Because he recognized, just like I have recently, that after much delay and much hesitation, I’m letting my little light shine. And ya know what? It’s shinin’ mighty fine.