Saturday, November 22, 2014

What is so special about New York?

By Yixin Zhao
Student: Columbia University

It’s often said that people from all over the world are either in New York, or on their way here. This city incorporates so many possibilities and dreams, in which people weep but find something to smile about, where they’re figuring out their lives but continue to be greatly inspired, frustrated but still filled with the desire to make a difference in the world.
Experience in a new place is like getting to known a person for the first time. Unfortunately, New York and I started off on the wrong foot. I lived too close to Times Square for the two weeks when I first moved here. During this time, I was caught in the rapid flow of people rushing into the subway every morning and was overwhelmed by the freakishly tall buildings that surrounded me. The evenings were full of bright lights from screens that playing commercials and the crowds continued to fill every spot in the area. Even though I have lived in a city my entire life, New York made me feel lonely and a bit scared at the beginning. But gradually I realized that New York is not one of those cities you fall in love with instantly. It takes a while to put each other’s guard down, and once you see the true color of this magical place you will probably be mesmerized by it like I was and continue to be. And, here are some reasons why I love this city. 

Art Encounters

New York makes me believe that art is for everyone. Before coming here, I had heard people describe the city as a heaven for artists as well as for art lovers. Not only are there many museums, galleries and theatres which frequently host a variety of exhibitions and shows all year long, but there are also live street arts like underground music, live painting at Times Square, graffiti in Brooklyn etc. But whether it is an academy or free style art, an exhibition in MOMA (Modern Museum of Art) or an afternoon stroll in Williamsburg, I find them inspiring, touching and occasionally even amusing.

Art to me is more of an unorthodox and creative way of expression and communication. For starters the freedom that art provides is contagious from artists to the audience who view their art. This is also one of the reasons that I took a painting class last semester in which I was able to observe and explore my artistic preferences and visual style. As a result, I found that I had a “third eye” to look at and feel things that I once took for granted. Furthermore, in the art world, there are no right answers and never any lack of perspectives. It is all about being distinctive. Each artist, each painting can be one piece of the puzzle and the beauty of the art to me is that every now and then I get to see this world and think through a whole new perspective and as a result my life is somehow broadened by it. Most importantly, art puts me at peace, no matter if I’m appreciating it or creating it. In the midst of my ordinary life, the living art in the city is like a constant reminder that how wonderful this world can be.

Big City but Small World

As big as New York is, I found myself frequently bumping into someone I know when least expected. An example of this is that time I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art alone and after leaving the museum, I waited by the road. I didn’t know whether it was the cold weather or the fact that I was alone but I began to feel homesick. But right at that very moment, a musician started playing the saxophone and the melody he played was from a song that I enjoyed as a child. Right then, I felt a warm flow into my heart and right at that moment, it felt like home again.

Truth is that New York is a place which can soon be called “home”. There are lots of Chinese people in the city as well as many Chinese restaurants which take me back home with just a single bite; the people I met have beenvery kind and friendly to me. Interacting and getting to know people from all over the world has helped me learn so much about their cultures so that communicating with them always seems to be a very magical thing. It occurred to me that we can be so similar despite our differences. “We are all nomads”, Josh, my American friend once said. Indeed, living in this big city and struggling to achieve our dreams can be a collective experience in which I‘ve somehow found a sense of belonging.

Effortless Confidence

Even though the word “New Yorker” is one that is thrown around frequently, the diversity of people here makes the word a bit challenging to define. In my dictionary, I call people who currently live in New York as New Yorkers and it is the diversity that creates the inclusive spirit of the New Yorkers and the city.

You can easily feel the freedom of walking on the streets without feeling judged. Especially the women in the city, their manners and styles are constantly redefining beauty. It doesn’t matter if it’s the cover-girl running for a shoot or a working-lady going to the office, young and older women, skinny or a curvy, they present themselves in an appropriate, fashionable, and comfortable way. On top of that, their positive, healthy, and elegant way of living has influenced me greatly. From a smile that is present even after a weary day, to the running along the Hudson River, the quietness of reading a book in the noisy subway, or the elegance in lifting cup of coffee, I realize that beauty can be seen in all parts of our lives in such an effortless manner.

Inspired and encouraged by such spirit, I found myself gaining the courage to embrace every part of me just as it is. And as it turns out, I grew more confident and determined to do what I wanted to do and be who I wanted to be.

Sometimes, during weekends, I like going to places that are quiet and at a distance to get away from the chaos of the city. Watching the city from afar, those blurry lines and sparkly points look as if thousands of molecules are activating and transforming every few seconds. But after taking a deep breath, the city seems peaceful again. Living in New York has taught me the complexity as well as simplicity of life, but what benefited me the most is that it’s important to never lose your state of mind and your own perspective.
Yixin is a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University, majoring in Communication and Education. She previously studied Communication in Beijing Jiaotong University. In the pursuit of becoming a storyteller in media industry, she is currently an intern in SinoVision English Channel.

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