Before Thanksgiving break, my friend and I decided we would take care of our service learning and go volunteer. My friend contacted the organization and signed us up to go help serve Thanksgiving meals at the Boys Club of Flushing, New York. When we first arrived, the building was filled with boys starting from a young age and continuing up through high school. Most of the younger boys had a parent or two present for the special event. As we were escorted into the gymnasium, we stood behind a long table and jumped into the food service assembly line. They had divided up the meals into three separate times for elementary, middle, and high school students. Throughout the night, the club had one of the staff members act as a MC and play Thanksgiving Jeopardy and introduce the Boys Club’s Step Team. The atmosphere in the room never dulled, not even for a second. All of the volunteers were welcoming and supportive to both the boys and their parents as we served them a helping of turkey, mashed potatoes, salad, or other Thanksgiving favorites. I’ve always loved volunteering and organizations such as The Boys Club are exactly the reason why. When people are genuinely happy to make the world a more positive place, the positivity becomes infectious.
I’m no stranger to graffiti. How could I be? I live in New York. I’ve always viewed it as a form of self-expression and thought it to be under-appreciated and intriguing. It’s easy for one to frown upon artwork such as graffiti simply because it is so unique and diverse. Yet, if you simply take the time to contemplate the message that the artist may have been trying to convey, a new perspective suddenly becomes inevitable. After touring 5 Ptz, I suddenly gained a whole new perspective on this urban artwork. Although having always appreciated it, I had never fully experienced its beauty until I became trapped within a maze of social, comical, moral, and ethical propaganda. The amazing attention to detail and bold colors are rarely found in graffiti in other areas of New York where the art seems more carefree and rushed. 5 Ptz. is an intricate web of messages that force its viewers to take a step back and truly think about what they are seeing rather than just ignoring it or deeming it a symbol of an indecent neighborhood. Regardless of anyone’s opinion on graffiti, after visiting 5 Ptz., their minds are guaranteed to change.
One cannot be in New York and not be immediately overwhelmed with a sense of hustle, noise, and most importantly, a lack of privacy. With the number of people in the city and it’s intricate design that encourages building vertically rather than horizontally, it is a rarity to walk a block or two without having someone brush against you or say, “Excuse me”.
The other day I went to the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Rockefeller Center, or at least I tried to go. Before even leaving Queens, the bus from St. Johns to Kew Gardens was so packed that a few others and myself had to stand. Normally standing on a bus isn’t unusual in New York. However, this bus was one of the school shuttles and a luxury size travel bus. Once we finally got to subway, my friends and I were constantly being pushed or weaving in and out of people hoping that their paths didn’t collide with ours. These experiences hadn’t dampened our spirits in the least however because we have grown used to not having any personal space seeing as how we live in dorms with roommates on top of living in one of the busiest cities on earth.
Yet, after grabbing a quick bite, we tried to find our way towards the back of Radio City Music Hall in order to witness the lighting ceremony. This was nearly impossible to do. While being shoved and pushed into people, we were also at a stand still somehow because of the gates the NYPD had placed around the sidewalks to help control sidewalk traffic. Although this did control the sidewalk traffic, it didn’t control the ignorance and attitudes of the people all being crammed within a three and a half foot wide walkway. Along with screaming children and obnoxious complaints, everyone grew overly anxious to see the tree. I would have never thought that the Christmas Spirit could become so aggressive.
An hour passed and my friends and I were growing cold and tired. We decided to just take pictures by the tree lights across the street, get Starbucks, and head back to campus. Even a plan as simple as this quickly became increasingly complex due to the lack of public space and the overwhelming number of people partaking in the holiday activities. We all knew that it was going to be crowded before we left our dorm rooms. When is New York not crowded? The one thing we didn’t take into account however was the attitudes of the people that we would be stuck next to.
The lack of space in New York can be bearable. However, because of the various personalities, the lack of patience and empathy isn’t. If you have a wish of being packed like sardines next to a grumpy grandmother and a sticky, chocolate-covered child, then you will never have an issue living in New York City.
Prior to my move to New York, I had grown accustom to visiting the city at least once a month in order to visit my acting coach’s studio for a lesson. During my first few trips, I was simultaneously appalled and mesmerized by the wide range of cultures, religions, and personalities I encountered. This opinion of mine remained even after my move.
I’m from a somewhat small town in Maryland called Severn. In Severn one doesn’t regularly see a large variety between people. Personally, I never found a place for me to “fit in” at home. Here in New York however, I find myself emerged in a sea of unique people who seem to have never found a place to fit in either. Take the man I ran into on the subway the other day, he simply asked me for the time. However, he asked in another language. After asking for a translation, I replied to him and continued to the platform where I noticed a young boy singing his heart out. Then I realized that he didn’t have any headphones in or music playing and was actually singing to a pole. As I passed by him, I moved out of the way for a middle-aged Hispanic woman who had just gotten off of work and was pushing her daughter in a stroller. Someone, not one of these experiences caught me off-guard. That is the beauty of New York. You learn to adapt and accept things you wouldn’t even have the opportunity to experience in other places. If for whatever reason you choose to not accept certain scenarios, you begin to strengthen your own, individual morals and way of thinking. For example, my best friend and I got off of the subway at the wrong stop. When we walked up from the subway station, she and I noticed a police car and we began to cross the street to ask the officers for directions. As we neared them, the car drove away and honked at us as officers lowered their windows and craned their necks out of the car to look at us and yell catcalls. By no means would I have ever experienced something like this at home in Severn. And although I was in shock and appalled by what had just taken place, I remember saying to myself “This is where I “fit in”.” Not because I like to be hit on by police officers because that was one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve ever experienced. New York is where I fit in because I learn through experiences.
The city is a place filled with experiences just as unique as the individuals that make up the one of a kind population. People in New York are people who crave a sense of individuality. They long for insight to anything new or different. New Yorkers can satisfy their cravings simply by opening their eyes when they walk out of their front door. With so many people all living so closely, it’s nearly impossible to walk one block and not see someone of a different race or hear a different language. After all of the encounters I have had with citizens of the city thus far, my love for New York increases with every foreign phrase, unique face, and distinct dialect.