03 September 2010


I land in JFK. It feels cold because the pilot's been blasting AC into the cabin since we took off this morning. Once again I failed to make conversation with the people sitting next to me. I've probably watched too many movies, but I often have high hopes going into airplanes or buses of meeting some incredibly interesting person sitting next to me and gaining a new perspective in life during the much too often unpleasant trip. This time was with a lady with a neon pink Ipod and celebrity magazines to my left, and an older man to my right with voice like Morgan Freeman. He perhaps could've shined some light of wisdom my way. And I'd be lying if I said it was because I didn't want the lady to give me the awkward "why aren't you talking to me" glare, because I sure as hell didn't think she'd have anything insightful to say. But I ended up not saying anything; I'm just too shy sometimes.

I pick up my small suitcase from the conveyor belt, and the first thing I do is take out my pocket knife from the front zipper and slip it into my pocket. It's not like I'd know how to handle one in a real situation anyway, but I like to do it anyway. It's the closest thing to a safety blanket or teddy bear when I'm out on my own. I just don't hold it to sleep.

The step-by-step instructions of how to get to Monticello is written in my notebook, but I have a pretty good memory so I'm not looking up and down from my hands to the signs like a tourist. I hate that. Last time I got lost in New York, I was so wary of seeming lost that I just kept walking really fast until I recognized something.

Monticello is about two hours north of New York City. I'm going to Monticello because a farmer is picking me up at that bus station and driving me to his farm for a two months internship. I graduated about a year ago and haven't been "on track" since. Last summer I took a 6-week trip to Europe. Came back in late August and finally had my post-graduation freakout/depression/reality check. It hit me that my whole life had been planned up to that point. Moving from China to the States, one school after another, this whole time I'd been under the illusion that naturally something would come up for me after graduation. And when it didn't, I didn't know what to do. I studied photojournalism, but after three years I wasn't even sure if I wanted to do that anymore. Lost somewhere between not wanting a career yet and unable to find a real job, I started working at Starbucks in October. Yeah, that really helped me find direction.

What started out as a brilliant year ended on a terrible note. I was barely making rent serving coffee to ambitious college kids, nowhere close to finding a real job, and to top it all off, my boyfriend split up with me. I wanted to leave town, to escape it all. And so I did. My impulse took me to Iceland in the coldest month of the year. But that story's for another time.

August is almost over now and I'm now in the massive underground web of the concrete jungle (Jay-Z reference, only appropriate). I take a train to the subway, and I'm supposed to take line E to Port Authority, which will give me a bus to Monticello. Except when I get on line E, I don't see Port Authority as a stop. Of course I should've known that it's at 42nd Street … yeah, never take directions from a New Yorker about New York. Luckily I looked up just before the train's doors closed and jumped out at the Port Authority sign.

The New York public transit system is really quite impressive. I must've traveled quite some miles from the airport to the bus station without ever having to be actually outside. I could've even made it to Monticello that way! Except I walked outside for a moment at the station. But I only made it to the stop light before I turned around. I decided that I'd rather go hide amongst the travelers inside than disappear in a crowd of bustling New Yorkers on 41st Street. Everything in this city reminds me of some ephemeral scene from a movie. Everyone I see is a stereotype of New York … the businessman dozing off in the subway, the young mother with jeans too tight, the homeless man eating fast food from the garbage … and everyone's got the same apathetic face. It's all been filmed and photographed to the teeth and again that I can no longer tell if it was sad and beautiful to begin with, or it just feels that way because my memory tells me so.

I used to love NYC. I was one of those kids who dreamed of making it in the big apple. Of course it'd be rough at first. Constantly broke and barely surviving the winters, but I'd make it through. I was going to be that tough girl artist who followed her dream and made it in the City. My major in college was perfect for it too. I knew a lot of photographers who went to New York and succeeded. But then somewhere along the way, I stopped wanting it. Perhaps I got scared of not making it, or perhaps I just didn't think it was worth the fight anymore. I started to crave the countryside instead, and that's why I'm headed straight out of the city to a farm up north.

No comments: