For two weeks, I lived in the fabulous, furious and overly polluted city of New York. I attended the School of the New York Times, and, while I learned the tools of journalistic trade, I also felt the need to live like a real New Yorker. The only downside? According to my summer camp’s safety seminar, I need to act rude to become a New Yorker. It was going to be a long week…
“Keep your hands in your pockets, your eyes both on the ground and all around. Don’t accept anything from everyone. Don’t donate. Mind your own business and you will survive,” our honest safety instructor says.
New York proved much kinder than depicted in the safety seminar. Some homeless people ask for money on the streets, but people help them and give them food. You hear police sirens 24/7, but the immediate response shows care in the midst of chaos. Loud and brutal New York may not be for everyone, however, for me, it felt like home.
One of the most impactful moments during my New York experience was my Central Park visit. The middle of the craziest city in the world held a green, calm, wonderland. When I laid in the cool grass I felt free. With the constant stress of school, it’s hard to feel relinquished from anxiety.
According to the Atlantic, high school students in two elite east coast schools were diagnosed with depression four times more than the national average. The Center for Discovery even expressed that around 20 percent of modern teens experience depression before their adult life. With AP courses, extracurriculars and a hectic home life, teens today often have more to stress about than ever. Additionally, today’s teens have to worry about their social media presence. If they plan on running for office or trying to stay relevant as an activist or influencer, the stakes rise. Stupid mistakes are out of style and Ivy League-bound students push to limits previously unheard of.
Everyone stresses in silence until you enter Central Park. Stress does not exist in Central Park. People strum guitars on the benches, play ultimate frisbee in the grass, walk their dogs on the sidewalk and climb the mysterious group of rocks. If you close your eyes, then the whole world disappears in that one moment. In Central Park, AP test scores and old responsibilities do not matter anymore. You just exist.
After experiencing the simple life in Central Park, I went to Jackson Heights, Queens. This borough, or county, is the most diverse and second most populated in New York. A person from nearly every country resides in Jackson Heights. Everytime you turn a street corner, someone speaks a different language. In one walk around the block, you can find ten different cultures. Flags hung around stores like badges of pride and, even though everyone announced their differences, they still remain united. Jackson Heights depicts beauty. Even though not everyone can communicate or understand each other’s languages, the community still looks out for each other. The New York Police Department (NYPD) found crime decreased by 34 percent in Jackson Heights from 2001 to 2017. The residents explained that most cases were car parking tickets, not murders or robberies. Jackson Heights surprised me after I miscast New York as a disconnected and rude place.
A million other adventures ensued while I stayed in New York but the verdict does not differ. New York changed me. For the first time in my life I felt free and at home. Now I can only count down the days until I go back.