by Sara H
The story of how I learned to stop worrying so much about my life.
|"we're anything brighter than even the sun
(we're everything greater
we're everyanything more than believe
(with a spin
alive we're alive)
we're wonderful one times one."
- E. E. Cummings
When I first moved to New York, I was utterly terrified.The city rushed by in a huge, loud, chaotic swirl of discarded newspapers and old candy wrappers; it was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before.
The stench of sewer water clung to everything, dirty and smelly and hot, like a fish market in the middle of an August heat wave. The people were rude; they walked right by me without a second glance, their expressions a perfect mask of cool, indifferent determination, plugged into iPods and cell phones and Bluetooths and stock market reports. Times square was a hassle, the subway was a hassle, the job market was a hassle. And most people in my fashion school classes were unbelievably focused and driven and competitive, almost, it seemed, to the point of psychosis. It was like the stories you hear about Harvard law students stealing books out of the library so others can't get to the research. Except this was worse, because instead of books, they were hiding bolts of material in lofty fabric stores already the size of a small warehouse.
It wasn't long before I became kind of jaded. It was a complete culture shock, a loss of innocence. When I stripped away all the glitz and glamour of sparkling runways and fairy lights twinkling in Bryant Park tents in the late September night, I realized that this wasn't quite the magical world that I had pictured in my head. Maybe the cut throat, label whoring, high-heel pounding world of New York fashion just wasn't for me.
But I quickly realized that there was more to New York than just my small, ten block radius of school buildings and design studios and boutiques. There was a whole world right outside my front door; it was exhilarating. As soon as I started to explore, I realized that it was everything and nothing that I had expected all at the same time, and it took me about three weeks to figure out that I could do anything I wanted.
I was suddenly on top of the world. The city could belong to me if I could be brave enough to take it. I could roam the streets of the Village at two in the morning for no reason, talking emphatically about pretentious art films that I'd only recently fallen in love with. I was allowed to drink coffee in dark cafés late into the night, the acrid burn of cigarette smoke curling in a thick cloud around my head as I discussed Ginsburg and Keats and Cummings with all the sage wisdom that an eighteen year old kid from suburban Kansas can muster. I could drink fifteen dollar pitchers of sangria, sweet and heady, in the little Tapas bar a few blocks from my apartment, the faint buzz of alcohol thrumming under my skin like a million tiny bongo drums marching away.
And I did all those things. I had come to New York expecting "The Devil Wears Prada" but what I got instead was completely, wildly different from that. My introduction to the adult world, to "the real world" was more like something out of a Kerouac novel, all muted colors and emotions felt too deeply and sleepy, half-drunk things muttered into the night like a whispered prayer to some forgotten god. I wanted to preserve those days in glass, tie them up in a neat little bow and keep them close to me for the rest of my life. But you can't do that with real life. You have to keep moving forward. And even though I know that part of my life is over, I learned something from it. No matter where you go or what you do, there'll always be some struggle to overcome, some insurmountable obstacle to get past. It'll seem Herculean and impossible, but you'll make it through, and you just might find something incredible when you hit rock bottom.