I think part of the reason why I’m drawn to New York is ancestral. In 1902, my great great grandmother immigrated from Ireland to Ellis Island. Parts of my extended family, of many I do not know, still live in the state of New York. Aside from my genetics “calling me” home, I’m a natural fast paced walker (definitely something I picked up from my mom after trying to keep up with her for the first half of my life) who walks with immense purpose. The energy of New York City screams purpose. No matter what district or neighborhood you’re in, that vitality is directional. And just like the towering buildings glittering with glassy exteriors, the energy goes upwards. Unlike the stagnant, horizontal energy of suburban American life, New York City is not confined to white picket fences.
No thanks to disposable income and space, New Yorkers themselves must be more interesting than what they own and the size of their home. There are no fountains in the courtyard or Ferraris in the garage that give the perception of grandeur to visitors. Of course there are exceptions, with A-list celebrities, wealthy individuals living in The Village, and brave souls who don’t mind paying for parking (in addition to not being scared of vandalism or theft…), but you get my point. More money rents you less space. Less space results in a decrease of possessions (unless you don’t mind living with a pile of doom in your place) and such is minimalism.
I am quickly becoming attracted to the idea of living more with less and practicing substitution rather than addition with my possessions. New York City seems like the perfect playground for experimenting with this lifestyle. Conceivably, in the last few months, I have donated an immense amount of excessive possessions that are on their way to being used by someone who has a need for them. It’s just unreasonable to accumulate piles of stuff. Not everything that comes into your home can bring you joy. No matter how forcefully advertisers may tell you it will, in most cases a lot of it won’t. Purchases induce a temporary high and if you aren’t careful, you may be whipping out your wallet to spend money on something you don’t need and in most cases, that doesn’t bring you joy. Just like the energy of New York, purchases should serve a purpose. Life, in all aspects of its splendor, is a balancing act of fluidity and takes practice, something I’m learning to do at this point in my life.
Quite frankly, not everything in life can be rigidly confined and fool proof. If we think of New York, the structures are well… structural. They are set, fixed (in most cases), and provide constraints as to where people can walk through the city and where to place sidewalks. This infrastructure is a framework but the paths of the people walking those bordering sidewalks are limitless. The combinations of people, their backgrounds, their purpose, are all infinite. On days when I visit, I add a new temporary path, one that is not repeated, as I do not live or work there… yet. The addition of my path creates a new set of combinations for the day and thus an infinite amount of opportunities and occurrences can happen, not just for me but for the people whose paths I intersect. Although the same mentality is true for other American cities, suburbs, and rural areas, the volume of intersections is much lower. In those moments of intersection, two strangers (or not) share life together. They are on the planet at the same time, in the same place, alive. Something either comes from that intersection or not, but regardless, the buzz of the occasion has the strength to leave you breathless.
Only a few months ago, I stumbled upon the word “sonder”, which according to The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (?) is a noun that means: “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.” After a little bit of research, I found that the word sonder doesn’t appear in any scholarly dictionaries. I poked through a few articles and found a really awesome blog post titled The Curious Case of the Word ‘Sonder’ that explains that the official source of the english definition is, in fact, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, which turns out to be a Tumblr blog: http://www.dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com. Although I won’t summarize the extent of the post here, I will place a link in the text for you to explore on your own (http://nieldlr.com/2013/06/curious-case-word-sonder/). The author does a really good of job of summing up the concept of “there is no such thing as a real word” and it’s worth the read. Concerning the word itself, I think it thoroughly captures the phenomena of urban life that I describe here. It describes the collusion of individual universes (of which there are infinite combinations) on planet earth which is part of a galaxy in the larger universe. The idea gives a ethereal solidarity to our worldly and often incomprehensible lives.
So if you see me in NYC (or anywhere for that matter), say hello. Our paths cross and the infinite possibilities of opportunity and rerouting unfold. “An apple a day” may be a cliché but here it has a certain charm about it. I’ll try to update this blog once a day but if I don’t, don’t grill me okay? I’m a college student with a busy schedule and limited energy. Although this blog is about my journey to New York, the topics are not likely to be focused solely on the city. As a native born Pennsylvanian, there are many experiences to have and plans to make before I go north. Until then, this is my story and this is its direction.