I know it’s not a big deal. Returning to the city you voluntarily choose to live in for a good amount of time already. But this had been my first time I had left the Big Apple for longer than a week. After more than two weeks, I had already forgotten about some things here. How to use the metro vending machine, for example. How to be patient when talking to JFK employees who are rude to you. Or how to deal with those insane stares these strange men give young girls on a crowded subway.
I’m sure you have gotten the gist of my general opinion from previous writings already. Despite many advantages and cultural events this city has to offer there are some major problems I was hesitating to deal with and which have poked out even more when coming back in September. Don’t get me wrong. I love New York. But I also despise certain aspects. While I had really thought Germany would give me a culture shock when it didn’t, I wouldn’t have imagined it would take me more than one week to adjust back to Manhattan and Brooklyn. I didn’t understand many things when I got off the plane and went through customs. For example, I took the subway, not a cab. On the subway there were these two black girls who were checking each other out and, I felt, competing with each other for something I couldn’t see. All of a sudden their loud attitude, exaggerated demeanor in pushing their way through and their looks made perfect sense to me. I don’t think I had seen two individuals who were more self-conscious than them in a while. And I also got tired of it. All the times I had to deal with these people being rude to me or showing me attitude because they feel bad about themselves. All those many times I had gotten angry about people in the train who were impolite and had almost let them ruin a perfect morning or afternoon to me, all those times I should have seen that the only problem they have is with themselves.
The way the people dress here really got to me, too. I’m not anyone who follows Fashion Week or the latest trend too closely. But Europe and Europeans seem to be well-dressed for a fact, so seeing the difference in attire after only two weeks of abstinence was hurtful. Slung-over baggie pants, torn, stained shirts – some of the clothes people walk around in here who aren’t even homeless. Where is the fashion sense? I feel that you can certainly find the best-dressed folks here but also the worst-dressed, only which one overtakes the general impression is the question.
People are more selfish here than anywhere else, I believe. My first day, jetlagged, tired, and just wanting to get back home, was filled with thoughts on people I had surrounded myself with throughout the past one and a half years and who I consider not worthy my attention anymore. After being home in Germany, encountering friends who are actually HAPPY to see me and who greeted me in such a warm manner that I couldn’t help but blink my tears away, I sort of expected a different welcome here. I’m starting to wonder not only which path to take but who to take it with.
Only half a year ago, after not being around sane people for a while, I was increasingly blaming myself for these impressions and I had a hard time dealing with the disappointment of never being able to form close friendships here and never being able to trust someone 100 percent other than myself. But in this first week I was back, I saw it all too clear. I saw the dirt of this city, I saw the hideousness of the people’s personality, I saw the way they interact with each other because they consider themselves not worthy. Their projections of this onto yet another person who is supposed to become angry just to satisfy the deeper needs of their inner sadist.
I don’t know. I guess I don’t have too many good things to say about my first impressions in New York. To me, a city is about its people. Now New York might have many opportunities no other place in this world might have, but it can be a very lonely stay here if you decide to take on those opportunities. It’s a constant competition with everything and everyone around you.
And yet, underneath all of the confusion of a culture shock and readjustment to something I should be used to, underneath all of the pre-judgment, these harsh feelings and disappointed thoughts, underneath this all, I do have hope. A glimmer pushing itself through the darkness and desperation towards the surface. I see people being nice to me for now reason. I see people with a heart and a soul when standing in line at Trader Joes. I see the magic of New York’s random encounters when going out at night. I see the beauty of being able to do whatever you want to do. I see the ultimate freedom you can achieve in a city like this.
And so the overall phrase proves to be true once again: New York has the best of people, New York has the worst of people. Time to make my selections of who I want to surround myself with.