When I first moved to New York, I had a hard time keeping my eyes on the sidewalks in front of me. This was dangerous for a number of reasons (not the least of which were the surprise dog sh*t piles), but—like any 20-something ingénue who listened to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” too many times—I just couldn’t stop staring up at the skyscrapers.
I mean, staring up at skyscrapers wasn’t necessarily included in that song, but I like to think the whole “living just to find emotion” is open to interpretation. For my first year in New York, there was no better rush of emotion than taking off down a busy street at night—and gazing up, up, up. You can’t actually see the stars in the city, but the glittering windows in the buildings above seemed to burn twice as bright anyway.
Except at some point in the last six months, I forgot about looking up.
Ironically, it took a few recent weekends outside of the city to remember why I fell in love with New York in the first place. Being away made me realize how much I missed it, and how I still missed it even when I was here. I’ve spent the past few months chasing after trains and deadlines, cramming every last free night, morning, and afternoon with as many events as possible. I became so dependent on measuring up each moment, making sure it lived up to the potential I felt when I first stared up at those skyscrapers, that I lost sight of them entirely.
Pacing those sidewalks early on mattered to me—because back then, it felt like it was just me, and the city. I was entirely dependent on myself to find my place in this sparkling, sprawling, completely scary island, and staring up at those buildings, knowing it was all on me to determine what happened next, was the most empowering feeling in the world.
I realized recently that it had been months since I struck out on my own in my neighborhood, for no reason than to be in it.
So I took a walk the other night. And I paced a short ways from the Lower East Side to East Village, finding myself at the coffee shop I used to frequent when I was freelancing during my first summer here. I sat there and wrote for four and a half hours on a Saturday night, and it was the most exhilarated and awake I’d felt in a while.
This is a reminder to myself to make room for those moments, because it will always turn out that they were not just moments. These are the times that you’re lucky enough to share with yourself (and perhaps the rest of the internet), where you might just stumble upon a part of yourself that was waiting for you to look up this whole time.