Editor’s note: Cassi Niedziela graduated in May as the valedictorian of the Glen Rose High School Class of 2017. She is attending New York University majoring in global public health and sociology, with a minor in social and public policy. She is writing for the Glen Rose Reporter about her experiences in New York.
NEW YORK - New York City and its inhabitants are no strangers to stereotypes. It’s the city that never sleeps, and the constant hum of the subways is frequently interrupted by the honking of taxis and the shouting of locals. Many people are drawn to the magnetic energy of the ever-shining lights, the world-famous pizza and bagels, the over-priced coffee shops, and the resilience of New Yorkers in general.
I am drawn to the aura of confidence, the utter liveliness of the streets, the overall dynamism, and, I must admit, the over-priced coffee calls my name rather frequently.
From my experience so far, the stereotypes are certainly true to some extent, but the city truly has so much more to offer than just Broadway and Wall Street.
Sometimes, living in Manhattan can be reminiscent of being in a movie. Every day as I walk to class or explore the city, I find cinematic parallels.
For example, one day I was walking to one of the aforementioned over-priced coffee shops with a friend, and, since it was raining, we were holding umbrellas. Since umbrellas are not exactly the most compact tools, we had to walk far apart from each other, which resulted in me walking closer to the curb than I would have preferred.
Then, out of nowhere, a taxi sped past us, drove through a giant puddle, and splashed me with dirty street water. I was entirely covered from the waist down, and didn’t even have time to process the situation before the cab had hastily driven away. The “kindness” of strangers in New York has never ceased to amaze me, especially as I stood covered in filthy puddle water on the corner as pedestrians passed by without a glance in my direction.
On the other hand, sometimes living in Manhattan actually causes me to accidentally stumble onto movie sets on my walks to class. I have strolled through many a movie set and in front of many a camera without realizing it, so maybe one day you’ll see me on the big screen looking horribly confused in the background of a film.
My friends and I have also wandered into protests and marches without realizing what was happening until we were chanting along about whatever political blunder happened that week.
I have additionally found myself adopting the traits of a quintessential New Yorker. I jaywalk on almost every street I cross, yet somehow find myself becoming annoyed and somewhat angry when cars almost hit me. I am clearly in the wrong for jaywalking, but I can’t help but feel irritated that the cars have little regard for my arrogant street-crossing strategies.
Occasionally, cars will ignore stop signs entirely as I am crossing the street, and, oddly enough, I have no fear. A few shouts and a stern glare take the place of fright.
I guess you could say that New Yorkers are desensitized to everything that happens in the city. No one really cares if you’re crying on the subway or singing in the park because everyone has their own agendas to worry about.
Keep walking, don’t make eye contact, and don’t respond when people talk to you.
This was very tricky for me at first because I used to always smile at people on the streets, but then I would either get sucked into 20 minute conversations about someone’s life story, or I would get catcalled. I learned the hard way that you just can’t stop for everyone. The fact that no one in particular is “special” in New York is what makes it so special.
You are one face in a large crowd, but that allows you to be anything you want to be.
Idiosyncrasies are celebrated, and when the people of New York come together, they’re unstoppable. It is truly empowering to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and joining together with some of the most dynamic people in the world is amazing.
Even just walking down the streets makes people step a little quicker, talk a little louder, and live a little larger.