The City of Lights

“WHAT IS A POST ABOUT NEW YORK DOING IN THE NATURE SECTION, KATY!?” You ask, somewhat violently amidst  your perplexion.

Fear not, dear reader. You will soon either realize that my mind makes zero sense, or that perhaps cities have a lot to do with nature.

I recently traveled to New York City on a trip that was half-based around the identity journey of being in my mid-20’s and wholly-based on networking interviews with publishers. At one point in my life, working as an editor at a prestigious publishing company sounded like a dream-job. I pictured myself bustling around the streets of Soho, grabbing sushi for lunch before returning to work–helping authors perfect the worlds I lost myself in in as a child, and perhaps eventually creating one of those worlds myself. Ultimately and idealistically I would be pushing the importance of engaging literacy and experiences to children and teenagers. Sadly something that is becoming more difficult with the way English is handled in common core curriculum. Happily, it is the reason I am pursuing education.Image

However, I began to discover that my idea of my dream-job wasn’t what I thought it would be. I suppose a better way of phrasing it…. I wasn’t who I thought I would be. Experience and dreams, after all, are two entirely different beasts.

I love New York City. I love Brooklyn. I love taking taking the Subway and being able to explore and wander and see all of the amazing things humanity has to offer in all of its vibrancy, history, and diversity. It’s beautiful. Also Nom Wah dim sum. And food in general. And the best people watching.

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One day when I was walking out of one of my interviews in Tribeca… I just paused and stood on the corner, watching the city in awe as it functioned in pure silence. Cars rushed by. Shop owners salted the sidewalks. People were yelling, hailing cabs. Yet not a sound was made amongst the graceful falling powder. It was in this moment that I gained a massive respect for people who have made it in this city. It’s overwhelming in the most amazing way possible.

But, with that said, in some ways I don’t know if it is for me, at least to live in for a long period of time. Between friends and culture it’s a place that I will always hold near and dear to my heart. But it is also a place that made me feel enclosed. And this is where the idea of nature comes into play.

I grew up in a relatively small town just north of Atlanta, so I was lucky to experience the best of two worlds. The city was never far off, but the country… the open air, hiking, and horseback riding… that was in my backyard. Hiking up a few of the local mountains nearby, you could get a solid view of the city… covered in an incessant cloud of smog regardless of how sunny it was. But that was okay, because we didn’t have to be in the cloud all of the time.

In New York I was staying in Park Slope, a neighborhood in Brooklyn not even a block away from the lovely Prospect Park. Spanning over 500 acres, Prospect Park became an area of escape for me when I began to feel overwhelmed by the city. It reminded me a lot of the parks in London, where there is such a beauty in the contrast between city and green.

I also got chased by Swans, which is a thing in London as well. Always exciting.

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To bring all of this stream of consciousness together, this is why I have fallen in love with cities on the west coast. Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego all seem to have locations that balance out their own concrete jungles with massive forests, hills, valleys and mountains. In Seattle, walking back from a long week of PAX, I looked across the lake to see a whale surfacing with the earthy tone of the forest not more than a few miles away from where I was standing. In San Francisco, it takes about 10 minutes to drive to the Tennessee Valley, which resembles something of out the Lord of the Rings. It felt easier to find my own balance in those places. I felt more at home, grounded in the sense of realism that life exists outside of boundaries. Though part of me will always feel at home in New York as well because there is no better place to observe the diversity and beauty of humanity. It’s the best for people watching. It is the ultimate showcase of what makes us human, both the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.

In the end both nature and cities become part of our identity. We interact with them in ways we both realize and don’t. They become a part of our perspective. They become part of how we choose what we love and need and want. I never thought of this until now.

This is not to say that i’d say no to New York. With her glimmering eyes and richness it would be nearly impossible not to. But perhaps it’s more than publishing isn’t for me now.  I learned more about myself and how I can apply my skills in different fields, like teaching, writing, and journalism. Ultimately, I gained a confidence in who I am. Traveling is awesome that way. Perspective changes so much about how we think of ourselves and others. And it’s funny, because it seems like we are always so driven towards one path… when living one path is almost impossible.

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2 thoughts on “The City of Lights

  1. I haven’t visited nearly as many places as you have, but I know exactly what you mean. Though I lived outside Chicago, anytime I went into the city, I felt that same disconnect. I was surrounded by buildings and excitement, things to do and places to see. As amazing as that often was, quickly I focused in on a single part of that last sentence: that I was surrounded.

    Growing up, I wandered around the woods behind my house. While I don’t mind exploring an urban jungle and could probably handle living in one, needing a bit of open air is just who I am.

    Which can be an issue because apparently it is difficult to balance a need for high levels of culture, places to see, social excitement, different restaurants, AND not smothering oneself with a forest of giant buildings all around!

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