Monday, January 3, 2011

skylines, sidewalks, and subways

it's 2011. my name is liz. i'm twenty six years old, and i'm moving to new york city this year (at least, that's the plan). speaking of, i don't plan to be brilliant at this blog-writing venture. mostly i just need a way to get my feelings out, to document my journey in a way i'll be able to easily search later. since this is my first post in a new journal, i think i'd like to talk about firsts.

in my adolescence, i was a small-town girl with an affinity for skylines. standing in the footprint of a skyscrapers in medium-sized southern cities, i felt small and insignificant -- not a part of, but apart from the world. as i struggled to find my place, cities made frequent appearances in the poetry and lyrics i wrote. i met a boy during college who took me walking downtown and made me fall in love with it (and him). something about the tall buildings and winds whipping soothed us both, gave us a place that we made our own. we often sought solace in these downtown walks, and dreamed of visiting new york together (why there, i can't recall). we eventually fell apart, hard, and our somewhat childish dream was too painful for me to consider alone. months passed, and unexpected motivation came in a passing conversation -- a one-shot deal for a weekend trip. before the day was over, tickets were purchased, friends who lived close offered accommodations, and plans were made. we would fly out in less than two weeks.

here's an excerpt from a journal i wrote on the day we booked our flight:

"you know, for a while, i thought my enthusiasm for new york had faded. it was a plan i'd made with someone i'd held very dear, someone i've since lost, maybe irreparably. it's something i sincerely wanted to share with someone i love, and the loss of that had kind of dashed my hopes against this huge rock wall. now, though, with new york steadily looming on the horizon, i've come to realize this: the excitement i had for going to new york never really left."

i'm always on the wrong side of the airplane, the side that gets clouds and colored sky when we bank for a turn. we flew in near nightfall, so my unfortunate luck meant missing the new york skyline in all its glory. then came changing into warmer clothes in a stainless-steel airport bathroom, and a hurried car ride from newark to hoboken. at the time, i didn't even realize that hoboken was NOT new york. i just knew we were heading for the city. oh, how naive that sounds, in retrospect.

i first entered new york via PATH from hoboken on january 26th, 2007, three amazing friends at my side. i already had a giant maddening crush on the idea of new york, but the proximity was even more intoxicating. i fell head-over-heels for every tiny detail -- the rush of force when the light rail train pushed into the station, the crush of people heading up the stairs for a night in the city. emerging onto the sidewalk, i had no clue where i was going and nothing was familiar, and i loved it. i slipped my arm into the arm of a friend i knew so well (and so little) and stepped out into the streets with tiny bits of confidence i didn't know i possessed. i breathed in the biting air, and new york raced into me. it hasn't since left.

this first new york was, in my eyes, small. i didn't have the whole picture, didn't understand the concept, couldn't grasp the enormity of the city. it dissolved into moments for me, moments that i can only now go back and analyze with clarity (knowing now that we were near rockefeller center, or in the village). i had no idea that i was standing on an island with millions of other people. i had no clue how to navigate, a flailing baby bird in the nest. luckily, no one was pushing me out of it -- that, i would have to do myself.

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