To put my experiences into a bullet point list really does not relay the lessons I’ve garnered. They are embedded into my mind and most are feelings, not actions. Feelings are the emotions that surface when you see big buildings (awe), or when you’re riding on the wrong subway train (fear), or when you realize you are standing amongst thousands of strangers in Times Square, and you feel peace (happiness). Actions can be put into words: I walked here, or I ate there. Feelings are felt and registered, and not easy to word.
After spending many years in Minnesota, it felt that I was beginning to miss certain feelings. My life was compromised of a rollercoaster of stress and happiness, and there was little room for adventure. My world has since been cracked open and poured out —everything is spilling in front of me, and I’m again gathering what is important, in addition to the things I’m picking up here. I have let go of things—a car, a closet full of clothes, a big bed and all the creature comforts. Everything has been replaced, if not with something new, then with something scarier. To me, it only seems necessary in order to drain the greatest fears from my heart.
I’ve mentioned this story before years ago, but I often revisit the thought. I was alone on a walk one day in England, strolling through the streets of Oxford, when I was approached by a young man. He had a great big afro and by all means looked quite threatening. He began talking to me, and sensing my fear of him, engaged in a great conversation.
He asked my why I was scared. I have no recollection of my response, but he continued talking as we walked. He talked about God and life and his experiences. I remember none of it, except one thing that he told me: You can’t live your life in fear.
I have since been very aware of this. Life is filled with really scary things: people, places, and any combination of a scary person in a scary place. I am simply learning to weed through what is actually scary, versus what is a figment of fear in my head. The thought of moving to a new place, especially somewhere as big as New York, is initially frightening. Every day I am faced with hundreds of little worries that I’ve rarely experienced. Is that man on the corner going to snatch me up? Am I going to get hit by a crazy taxi driver? How do I get out of this shady neighborhood? Is someone going to mug me? When will I find a job? How am I supposed to find my way around this huge city? Do I belong here?
The truth is, there is not a lot of substance to these worries, and I am merely going through a cultural adjustment that evokes panic. I would never intentionally put myself in a situation that I felt at serious risk, but I will recognize that being here is a risk in itself.
The risk is this: embracing the unfamiliar as a welcomed challenge. It is about being lost, being scared, and realizing that I am actually always where I need to be. It is remembering that no matter what, I am going to have a warm bed to sleep away the day’s missteps and to dream about the experiences I’m having. It’s about a beautiful balance of adventure and safety, and going out of my way to take steps on new ground. And it is always, always about growth — about personal reflection, and about my connection to other people and the world.
Now before I get emotional, I will say this: New York has made me feel immensely sensitive towards mankind. It brings to light people that are struggling, and people that are getting by and people that are all around enjoying life. To me, it is the world within a city. It has heightened every sense, of sound, of sight, of taste. It has opened up my life to acceptance of so many types that I would never cross paths with otherwise.
It has been a wonderful month — and not all wonderful in happiness, but wonderful in challenge and adjustment. In retrospect, it was one of the toughest months for me, but the silver lining is all the fear I’ve alleviated, and the little everyday obstacles that I’ve prevailed against.
There is so much left to understand, and to see; the city is truly my oyster. It’s all very exciting.