Consciousness is defined as: the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself.
This week, week one of my 100 day journey to rediscovering the city and myself, I have been the utmost conscious.
I have walked through the streets of New York with my eyes wide open and the effect that just one week has had on me...well, it makes me quite grateful.
When I was trying to figure out how this project would work and how I would kick it off, I had a little trouble settling on a theme for the first week. I knew I wanted to go to Grand Central Station and take a pictures because not only is that particular location incredibly iconic but there is so much life there past and present.
So I took a boat load of pictures. And none of them did justice to the feeling that you get when you are standing in the middle of the main court. And like every other person bustling through the station...I was in a rush. So I decided I would make do with what I had and maybe something would come to me. So I put my phone away and headed downstairs to the 4 train and waited to go to work.
While I waited for the train my mind started to race.
I started to think about my bank account. I got anxious.
I started to think about how I was running late to work because I was taking pictures. I got even more anxious.
I started to wonder why I was even doing this project, whether or not it was even remotely going to make a difference in my life or anyone else's for that matter. Anxious.
So much wondering and anxiety and as the speakers above announced that my train was approaching I glanced down and saw "Step Aside" imprinted onto the platform.
So I quickly whipped out my phone and snapped a picture.
If you travel by subway in this city chances are you see these signs almost everyday. Chances are that when you see those signs you think about how much it would suck to fall onto the tracks when a train approaches.
Because it would suck. You know...getting hit by a train.
But when I glanced down and saw that sign on that day, I read it with a new perspective.
I read it not as a warning...but as a reminder.
A reminder to not let myself get in the way of my own happiness maybe?
A reminder that "Stressed Out Colleen" loves to hog the covers in the proverbial bed in my mind. And "Stressed Out Colleen" is a real bitch. She keeps me from seeing clearly. From breathing. From enjoying the fact that I am embarking on an important process for myself and hopefully those around me.
And as the train approached and I stepped on...I knew what the first week's theme was.
So the next day I kept my eyes open and I searched for little signs...little reminders and if you are looking...the streets of NYC are FULL of signs, markings and scribbles left by strangers. Strangers whom you've never seen and probably will never meet, but strangers who want to express an idea or thought to you.
So the days that followed were like a little scavenger hunt. What was the city going to say to me? What will I learn from these strangers?
Well I learned that there are a lot of people "IN PURSUIT OF MAGIC." Almost every single day walking through the streets you will see maybe 5 or 6 of these little spray painted signs reminding you to pursue your own personal magic. Every single time I see these signs now I smile and remember the moments of magic this city has provided me. I've experienced the magic of creating effective artistic work. I have experienced the magic of meeting people who have changed my life. I have experienced the magic of bravery. And I am grateful.
The next day I found a marking that simply said "I will miss..." with a big heart drawn below it. I was leaving work when I found this one and on the train ride home I thought of all of the things and people I miss.
I miss my family. I miss hearing my nieces laugh. I miss flying remote controlled helicopters with my dad. I miss watching my sister glow when she is playing with my nieces. I miss going to out to eat with my mom and dissecting life's ups and downs with her. I miss wandering through Target with my stepmom and buying supplies for the family and friend gatherings that she always so thoughtfully plans out for me and everyone else. I miss my favorites sack of fur and love ChloeBear. I miss having dance parties in the parking lots of drugstores with Laura. I miss watching Law and Order and eating ice cream with Taylor. I miss having a battle of wits with Aidan. I miss getting hugs from Gretchen. I miss the way my stomach hurts when I laugh with Melissa.
And just as I started to feel overwhelmed by how much I miss...I realized that I have so many people in my life that have made me who I am and they believe in me. And oh man...do I love them. I also realized that if I were back home with all of the people I miss...I would have an equally long list of the people that I love in NYC that I would miss dearly. And some of the people that I miss most live in NYC right along with me. But life is life and if you are lucky... no matter what you do...you will always have a long list of amazing people that you miss...who are far and near because of the love you feel for them...that's beautiful.
My following sign came to me by way of Houston Street. I was running about 15 minutes late to a rehearsal and trying to get to a damn train and I was cold, tired and pissed off by how slowly people were walking. And as I was waiting to cross the street I saw a sticker sitting boldly on a red fire hydrant in the distance.
These streets knew I was ready to scream and burst into tears when it so simply asked me to stop and love where I am. And even though I was running late I told myself, "Colleen stop...find three things you love RIGHT NOW. You're already late. You need this."
1. I loved when a seemingly wealthy and snobby business man saw an old woman drop a glove and picked it up and ran after her to return it.
2. I loved the way the city glowed as the sun set.
3. I loved that when I stopped and stepped to the side (call back to sign one ya'll +5 pts) I saw at least one hundred different people from a million different places in the world and country.
I was super late...but who cares? I did indeed need that.
The Upper East Side gave me a gift on Friday. There I was at work, walking hand in hand with the coolest 5 year old in New York City when he shouted out "BECOME YOUR DREAM!" At first I looked at the little guy perplexed at his random yet infinite wisdom and then he told me to look at the little gray box we had just passed. And there it was...
"BECOME YOUR DREAM"
Naturally, I snapped a picture.
I've heard this phrase before. I've read this phrase on many people's status updates but after I dropped my little Buddha off to his mom I went back again to this sign and I read it again and I found that the word "become" stood out to me.
To become something is a process. It takes time. It takes work. It takes persistence. And I realized that many moons ago I dreamed of being an artist in New York City. I realized that I am an artist in New York City and now I am dreaming of how to be the best artist that I can possibly be here...and slowly but surely I am becoming that dream. A kind reminder from a stranger, to be kind to oneself and one's dreams. Yes...yes indeed.
So that leads us to my final picture of the first week. This sign is a sign that I walk past almost every single day. When I first saw it I thought "how urban" and I never really comprehended the sign. "TAKE THE BRICKS YOUR ENEMIES THROW AT YOU AND BUILD YOUR CASTLE" and below it says "IT'S BETTER TO LOSE A MINUTE OF YOUR LIFE THAN YOUR LIFE IN A MINUTE." It's a two for one.
As with all signs, it can be interpreted in anyway depending on where you are at in life when you see it. At first I thought of it as a piece of graffiti that added to the ambiance that is Queens but today when I read it I was coming back from a concert that the kids I have the pleasure of teaching put on this morning. These kids are by and large some of the most special humans I have had the pleasure of working with. Today they all performed songs that they have written in front of a sold out house at the famous Joe's Pub. Most of their songs were about self acceptance, loving the world and those in it. It was moving. I spent our lunch break chatting with one little boy in particular who opened up to me about how he had recently been bullied at school and how writing songs helps him deal with the pain that causes him. His song...it made me cry. He hit me right in the heart when he sang the phrase...
"Open your eyes, see what's around you...I bet the bad things will disappear if you think more clear."
This kid has quite literally taken the bricks that his bullies threw at him and he has created a beautiful song with a profound and ageless message. As you can imagine...he brought the house down.
When I read this sign, I read it with him in mind. When I read the second part of the sign (IT'S BETTER TO LOSE A MINUTE OF YOUR LIFE THAN YOU'RE LIFE IN A MINUTE) I was thankful to be on this journey. I've slowed down and opened my eyes. I have given myself a week of much needed consciousnesss and when I put my head down on the pillow tonight I won't be thinking about how many times I was late to something this week or how stressed and rushed this city made me feel...
... but instead I will be thinking about how I stepped aside, pursued a little magic of my own, thought fondly on everyone I miss, how I loved the colors and characters of this city, how I got a step closer to becoming my dream and how many castles are being built everyday by those who are making the most of their precious minutes.
You did me good this week New York.
Onto week 2!