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NEW YORK—New York is New York. That is, the entire world compressed into a little box, a special kind of concentrated chaos.
I’m interning at a small magazine and the offices are temporarily in the editor’s living room, while the staff prepares for a move to Manhattan. It works, though, because almost all of the work is done remotely. Us four interns are only really in the workspace three days a week, and do most of our editing and writing work in our apartments, or coffee shops, or whatever other relatively quiet spaces we can find amid the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.
I don’t know many people here, so after the social intensity of the school year I’ve had to put some serious work into the project of finding ways to be alone without being lonely. I keep occupied by setting myself small tasks and spacing them out over the week. This Monday was grocery shopping, today was laundry, and Thursday will be an excursion to Chinatown to buy tofu and green tea, because it’s cheaper there, and better anyway. And then, of course, there is the frequent search for coffee shops, the process of picking out a neighborhood and the compilation of a small list of cafes that have wi-fi and outlets. And then the purchase of my cup of coffee and five or so hours of editing and writing, and the trip home on the subway again to eat leftovers. I have not eaten out once since I’ve been here. The rent is too damn high, and I just don’t have the money.
For a very long while the isolation and the relative monotony affected me deeply, and I felt frustrated and lonely. And on top of the ironies of feeling isolated in a city of eight million and not having spending money in the one place one can buy everything, there was the culture shock. For the first couple of weeks, I didn’t go a day without calling my mother and telling her some story about the way New York had been rude to me or had harassed me or had just been too damn big. Boston makes its own sort of sense, I would say, but this place just feels like a giant jumble, a crazy amalgam of everything all at once from which there is no escape.
But gradually, quietly, we reconciled ourselves with one another, New York and I. Somewhere between my trips to the Met to see the impressionists and my lunchbox dinners in Central Park and my two-mile walk to the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens (I got off at the wrong subway stop), I found a rhythm. I would probably never quite feel like I had a grasp on this place, but that was okay. It was okay to feel lost, to drift a bit, to let myself wander through life for a while. And it was a beautiful opportunity when contrasted with my life at college, where I only ever had time to follow maps meticulously.
So I sleep, and I eat, and I edit, and I cook, and I drink coffee at an increasingly long list of cafes in the East Village.
And for now, that’s enough.
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