Editorial Notebook

What I see in NYC

For a person who has spent their entire life living in the Northeast, many people are surprised by the fact that I have never visited New York City. Or rather, I had never been to the city until a few weeks ago, when I went along with five fellow staff members of The Polytechnic, to the College Media Association’s Spring convention.

I spent the first 12 years of my life in upstate New York, but my occasional adventures away from home often brought me further north, to the abundant campgrounds around Lake Ontario and the water crashing down at Niagra Falls. While I found that these remote locations brought their own sense of serenity and peace, NYC brought both the opposite and the exact same.

From the buildings towering around me to the people bustling about, the city always seemed to have something going on. But beneath the chaos, noise, and questionable scents, everyone had a sense of purpose. While being in nature offered me a chance to escape normal life, the city brought that same opportunity in a different light. I watched as many others followed a routine they maintained on the daily. As the bustle of the city created a cacophony worth experiencing at least once in one’s lifetime, I stood on the outskirts, both going about my plans and sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the native city-goers.

The thing is, no one was particularly looking for an outsider. On the exterior, I was another person headed to a certain destination, another body in someone else’s way as they tried to go about their day. It was strangely comforting to know that, for all intents and purposes, no one was looking for me. Now, I don’t mean looking for someone in a creepy stalkerish way, merely that idea of daily responsibility—needing to follow a schedule, be in class, or answer texts from friends. Instead, I was amongst a flood of people who reminded me of sonder—the realization that every passerby one encounters has a life as complex as their own.

Though amongst the chaos this city did contain its own silence—all one has to do is explore what the high rises of NYC have to offer. Story by story, the honking horns and bustling bodies sank away, and that familiar sense of peace returned. While the flashing lights of billboards and complex modern designs of skyscrapers starkly contrasted the pleasant greenery of northern New York State, they brought the same sense of peace—not alone necessarily—simply watching from afar. Where in nature the animals and plants stirred around me, in NYC all those different people on the streets kept me company.

The ironic thing is that I went to NYC to study journalism which depends on communication through words and language. Yet, the stark majority of this city’s beauty was communicated to me through the lack thereof. I’d always heard that cities like NYC were also living entities with entirely different atmospheres from the day to the night. In cities like Boston where I’ve lived for the past six years, the swarming streets become vastly different at night, as people travel to their homes in the suburbs and businesses gradually close their doors. On the other hand, New York stayed alive into the night. With equally full streets lit up by the artificial lights of billboards and buildings, the city’s daytime scenery of metal buildings amongst blue skies transformed into a peaceful sea of darkness, full of twinkling lights as far as the eye can see.

So, I guess I’ve realized that in order to touch grass you don’t really need any grass. All you need is somewhere that blocks out the noise and brings you far away from the responsibilities of your everyday life, whether that be the relaxing part of your home, your favorite hangout spot with friends, or maybe the endless commotion of downtown NYC.