Each year, thousands of people move to New York City. A recent poll suggested that about 45% of youths in America have a desire to live in New York. They travel fresh out of high school and college, seeking something, sometimes anything different from what they have in their small towns; many are artists, dancers, musicians, actors, and singers. Others come for education, or in search of a career in finance or journalism. They come for a piece of the pie – their impossible dream.
Earlier this week, I was heading back home from 14th and Eighth Avenue on the 1 train. I am always surprised at the subway crowd during mid-day rather than rush hour. The riders are more diverse, and I usually spot someone or something to inspire me.
Somewhere in midtown, either at 34th Street or 42nd Street, a young, bright-eyed gentleman boarded the train with a huge suitcase. He struggled with his oversized bag, but he managed and sat next to me. He was obviously coming to New York for an extended stay, perhaps moving indefinitely, at least it appeared that way based on the size of his luggage. Probably in his twenties, he had blond hair and glasses. It was a humid day in Manhattan. Not the best weather for jeans and a long-sleeved plaid shirt.
This guy seemed like a fish out of water, but yet he belonged at the same time. Was this his first visit? I wanted to talk to him – ask if he needed directions. I know how confusing the trains in New York can be when you don’t know how to use them. Then I glanced down and saw a piece of 8.5 X 11 looseleaf paper in his hand. He was staring at it, and soon so was I. It read, “Elton’s apartment—502 West 122nd Street between Amsterdam and Broadway,” and a phone number. He had a destination, and luckily he was riding the correct train.
My imagination immediately took over. He was in Manhattan to stay in someone’s tiny walk-up apartment to make a go of it. Maybe he was a musician and going for classes at the Manhattan School of Music? Or perhaps he was planning to attend Columbia? Whatever the reason, it really didn’t matter at that point. It brought back memories for me.
Remembering when I packed a suitcase about the same size to start my life in New York in 1985, I returned home the next day completely devastated due to the filthy apartment where I couldn’t stay. My dream had fallen apart. I was hoping that his outcome would be better than mine.
The blond-haired boy heading to Elton’s apartment is no different from me, or anyone else who makes the move to New York City. We are all looking for that something that will not only fulfill us, but define us, and create the life we dream about.
Tomorrow another newcomer will arrive in New York and ride the same train – and the next day, another. They will sublet small, cluttered apartments in dilapidated buildings with little cash in their pockets, and roam around the city in awe, staring at the metal-filled sky. They may fit in, or they may not. They might recognize the endless possibilities, or choose not to.
I realized that this young man going to Elton’s apartment was just one in thousands who come to this city like I did so many years ago, and again just four years ago–in search of that something. I wonder how long he will stay, and if he will find it. Just the same way I wonder how long I will stay, and if I will find it.
|The city where dreams are made–via Wikipedia|