October 06, 2009

New York State of Mind

New York and I have a very odd relationship thus far. Everything about it can be summed up in lyrical form, but I'll try to use my words as much as possible.

Coming into New York, I was so incredibly excited. I knew I would love the city, and I couldn't wait to learn more about it. It was the city of endless pavement, endless opportunities. It was the city so nice they just had to name it twice. Still high from my amazing summer in Arkansas, I took on the city head-on. As much pavement as I covered, I felt as if my feet never touched the ground. My program started, and I met all of my new colleagues and friends. I just simply fell in love with the idea (and the reality) of New York City and City Year.
At The Today Show.
With any new relationship there are pitfalls. The city seems to have a very manic energy, and a very strong energy. There will be days that I will leave my house with the sun shining, music blasting from every stoop, and people dancing on the sidewalks. A few hours later I'll emerge from the subway and it will be a completely different atmosphere; all it takes is one cool, harrowing breeze to turn the singing into yelling. Being a sensitive soul, there is no way I can escape the force, the energy of 8 million people.

The morning after a 24-hour night out. The City can do crazy things to people.
So far everything has still been simply an idea to me. I've been living in the city, but it never really set in. I hadn't yet realized that I couldn't simply drive to a field and look at the stars whenever I pleased. I hadn't yet realized the scope of work I would be doing this year. I hadn't yet realized how expensive the city really is. So when all of this set in, it was a bit rough. And as they say, when it rains, it pours.
Sick and tired after a 12 hour day.
I've learned that I'm very much a doer. Several people in CY are, but most seem to be visionaries. This is probably my biggest frustration, as I am sincerely growing tired of discussing our methods and plans instead of doing them. My team has caught onto this, and has done their best to accommodate. Still, the stress added up pretty quickly. I also had an issue with the Department of Education, as they said I was ineligible to work in the schools. It turned out they had simply transposed the numbers in my SSN, but it was extremely discouraging and frustrating to have to sit out of work, not knowing if all of my training, my planning, my dreaming had been in vain. I also lost a bit of my affection for my neighborhood, as I had a bag stolen from me on the trek home from the train one evening. It wasn't too terrifying, and I feel completely safe now. I'm just disheartened that my friends and family elsewhere now have their stereotypes and preconceptions of Harlem confirmed by one isolated event. I can sense it every time I talk to my parents now- they want to know where I am, where I'm headed, who I'll be with.

Luckily they don't have to worry. I recently received a box of luck from Rolla, and in it contained a fortune: Do not worry. Your every need will be provided. The blue ink on that little slip of paper couldn't have been more true. I was feeling down, and my family at JHS 13 came through. Staff members comforted me and gave me advice. My teammates went above and beyond by giving me company and even feeding me some food. I was feeling a little stressed out at school, and I was able to work on a corporate service day in my neighborhood. I was running low on cash, and found out I did indeed land that second job. I just couldn't feel more blessed right now.

I have started to miss Arkansas and the people I knew there, but I realize that I was lucky enough to have that home for 6 months. {It was so easy living day by day,
out of touch with the rhythm and blues. But now I need a little give and take The New York Times, The Daily News} As cynical as I thought I grew last year, I feel like the optimist in me is thriving in this city. Maybe it's because a random smile is such a treasure here, but I'm finding myself becoming more and more optimistic about life. I just finished a nearly 70-hour work week, but I'm feeling great. I'm worn out, but happy.
{In New York,
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There's nothing you can't do,
Now you're in New York,
These streets will make you feel brand new,
Big lights will inspire you,
Let's hear it for New York}
I think I just needed a few days to process the past three months.

As far as work, everything is going swimmingly. I'll post about the school soon. (It really deserves its own spotlight.) Staples is interesting. Yes, I'm once again at Staples as one of their weekend cashiers. It's funny how very much the same it is while still being completely different. It's a bit busy, and my co-workers are very different than the ones in Rolla. The customers are still just as funny and personable, already making up nicknames for me. (I apparently resemble Nancy Drew.) The store is much more lax, as one of my Nigerian co-workers was eating a cheeseburger at the register, but they still take their jobs very seriously.

East Coast men are like no other, though. That is the one thing I can't get used to. In the Midwest and South, men just dance around the subject, taking their time to show their interest in you. Here, the men have no shame. If they're not catcalling you on the sidewalk, they're slipping you a card or stealing your phone to input their number. You can try to be a nice lass and turn them down gently, but they mostly just don't get it. I've never had to work so hard to turn somebody down before. It's almost exhausting, really.

I'm off enjoy my heated mattress pad and new sheets. Thanks, Mom.