I’ve officially been in New York for over a month. It’s hard to believe time has flown by so quickly. Am I just getting older (time moves faster they say) or have I just been having too much fun? The answer — both. The second answer surprises me most, however.“Having fun” and “New York” have never been synonymous for me. Sure, prior to this trip I’d flown out for fun shoots, but New York, in general, has always felt overwhelming, gigantic, disappointing and unwelcoming. The only memories I’d had in this city were ones of rejection (minus the occasional shoots). 

However, this time the big, overwhelming city of concrete feels…fun. Light. Small. Green and blooming. Happy. Inviting. No-biggie. It’d be more of a humble statement to say that the shift is because I came mid-spring, with sunshine and flowers in abundance, but the truth is that I’ve already come here in the spring. Something else has changed. That something is me.

Sure, I’ve grown since my 17-year-old self last came to the city. That’s to be expected. But sometimes the amount of overall growth we go through is relatively unrecognized or is so minuscule (not any less important though) that we don’t actively see the growth and change happening within us. That is until we are put to the test. Until we are put into situations we wouldn’t have been able to process in the same way we are able to now. It is then that our growth becomes apparent; we clearly see the contrast between who we were and who we are now. And that is nothing short of beautiful. In fact, it is a miracle. To grow. To learn. To bloom.

And so, for the past month, in between a few shoots (two with Anthropologie!), castings, discovering my surroundings, catching up with friends and meeting new ones, I’ve been enjoying myself. I am so proud of how strong and grown I feel (and am!) that simply existing happily in the city is a wild success in my eyes. If New York City, a city that once meant painful, embarrassing and daunting rejection, now feels bright, small, approachable and friendly — I can do anything. There is not much more that frightens me. (I wrote an article a few months back here about why signing in NYC is so meaningful to me, if you’re curious!)

This whole experience has been another life lesson for me about the power of our thoughts and how much control they have over our lives. To think that all this time, most of my fears were man-made, in my head, taking up space where courage and faith could have. That’s not to undermine my own experience, because the hurt and pain I felt was valid. However, I held that pain and fear with me for much longer than I needed to. In the end, the world becomes what we think of it. Sometimes, that means pushing the fear out, giving life benefit of the doubt, thinking less (I mean the type of thinking that is non-constructive, like building assumptive scenarios; something I often do), do more, trust more and GO FOR IT! Most of the time, things aren’t ever as scary in the doing as they seem in the thinking.  This realization is HUGE!

As I’ve overcome this huge fear of mine, I’ve been able to focus on the beauty, detail and life-magic that makes my soul thrive. Here are some curious, wonderful, new views and funny scenes of the New York I’ve come to know now:

  • If you have the chance to come to New York in the springtime, it is absolutely beautiful. Colorful tulips, purple lilac trees, and pink roses are exploding throughout the city. Because much of the city is concrete and buildings, the contrast of man-made hardness with nature’s softness is beautiful. The flowers shine that much more. Of course…

     

  • Unlike L.A., New York’s weather is much more…normal (I was going to say unstable, but I think Cali weather is more strange compared to the rest of the world, haha!). It may be almost summertime, but there have been many days of rain and stormy weather. I’ll admit that the California-girl in me suffered through this dark phase for a few days, but I will say this — when you’re caught in the rain, splashed by a speeding car going through a puddle or tired of the crap weather — you aren’t EVER suffering alone. There is a sense of humanity and togetherness that this people-filled city brings. There may be crap moments, but you’ll never be alone in them. And that, frankly, is an uplifting thought.
  • This carries over to buses running late! The transportation in New York City is incredible (like it is in France). Every bus and metro seems to arrive on the dot. No more waiting in traffic, trying to find a parking spot and sitting for hours on end (like in L.A.). However, recently I experienced my first late bus (which frankly, for a month being here, is pretty good). I was a little ticked at this bus being 10 minutes late because I was then late to a class I’d paid for. I felt alone in my struggle and disappointed in myself for arriving late. But then I looked around me and ten other people were huffing and puffing, worried that they were most-definitely late, too. And I thought, “Well, shiz happens I guess! Some days life hands you a late bus, and that’s OK”. I felt comforted and understood in a way I never feel when I’m running late in L.A. United. Connected to my community.
  • Let’s get back to the transportation talk. Can I shout from the rooftops how wonderful it feels to be able to walk all over the city? This is what I’ve always missed about living in Paris and France. The transportation system in L.A. is so haphazard that using a car is an absolute necessity…which leads to hours of driving each day. Hours of sitting. We drive to work, see friends, workout, get our groceries. In New York we walk, take the metro and the bus, both of which require walking. Aside from the obvious logistical practicality of this, my body actually feels healthier. More balanced. More energetic and fluid. All because of walking and a system that supports walking. My dream is to have an L.A. with more transportation, openness to walking (without being looked at like a sad child that doesn’t own a car), bike lanes, etc. Walking!
  • Speaking of transportation (last point, I swear!), I wasn’t aware of just how easy it would be to travel outside of the city. Take a train or bus for an hour or two and you could be in Jersey, Philly or especially, the BEACH! Scott and I had to shoot swimwear, which gave us an excuse to make a day trip out of it and head towards the ocean. It was lovely to get away for a day and freeing to know that we could simply hop on transportation for an hour or so to find quiet at any time. Love.
  • The people. Prior to coming to New York, many hinted to me that New Yorkers were less gracious, soft, kind. As a hyper-sensitive person, this terrified me. Would I be able to handle blunt attitudes 24/7? Would it be worth my well-being? I prepared for the worst. Turns out, having low expectations was a great thing after all. I’ve been pleasantly surprised and in love with the people here. I have yet to come across one grumpy, blunt person. Everyone has been so kind, eager to help, genuine and…wonderful. The people might not be flashing Hollywood smiles all of the time, but their words feel genuine. There is a sense of community. Maybe the constant rubbing of shoulders, connecting of eyes, human contact (think crowded subways, buses, streets), causes for more empathy and human connection. L.A. can be a lonely place if we aren’t actively outgoing; our days are certainly filled with less connection than they are here in the city. As an introvert (but someone that LOVES deep connection), this is my dream. Give me all the understanding nods, eye connections, little moments of empathy.

—And now, a few lighter observations and joys:

  • The ambulance and police SIRENS. Can a New Yorker please explain these to me? They are hilarious to listen to, completely random and off-kilter. Instead of a traditional “wee-woo-wee-woo” it’s more of a “wee-woo-woo-woooooop-woo-wee-wee-woooooo-oo-ee”. Of course, the causes for these sirens ringing aren’t funny, but their unusual sounds definitely are head-scratching and, yes, funny.
  • The food here is, indeed, delicious. I don’t think I’ve had one bad meal! From French to American, to Chinese, to Japanese; it’s all been delicious, flavorful and most of all — of quality. My friend Lucy told me it’s because restaurant businesses don’t have a choice BUT to be amazing. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be able to afford to operate in the city. 
  • Affording life in the city (as I post photos of delicious food…haha)…another topic that really reminds me of my humanity. In L.A., you know you’re successful if you bought a home. In New York, unless you’re a multi-millionaire, it’s virtually impossible. Which means more unity with the people; we’re all throwing our money away into rent together — yay!
  • Walking throughout the city allows for many funny and sweet moments to be caught. An angry rain-soaked pigeon, a dog with rain boots on, a food truck called, “Good morning Alex,” a child proudly pushing around a huge shopping cart, a gorgeous community garden contest (so sweet), a hidden street of cute coffee shops and restaurants, a proud and excited shop owners turning on the first lights of their new store, couples having picnics in the park, a giant squirrel saying hello…– the list goes on!
  • I keep telling Scott that living in this city feels like living in a Playmobil city. A child-book toy-city of wonders and mini stories happening all at once within a tiny space. It’s very fun and stimulating!My three city-living difficulties? It’s been difficult to concentrate and work creatively, as there seems to be less quiet time. I didn’t know just how valuable quiet time was, as an artist, before having much of that quiet space taken from my day-to-day. With a mind that struggles to concentrate and sit still, adjusting has been…interesting. Some days are better than others. Second, city-wear attire. I’m not sure sandals, whites, and flowy dresses are ideal for the city life, but if I can even call that a difficulty, all is well. Last and most importantly, I do miss home in L.A. I miss our bed, our lifestyle, our daily habits (though I will say, getting out of them has been good; there are a few things I’d like to change upon my arrival back home). Most of all though, I miss our sweet Oliver boy. He’s been having the time of his life with our sweet, smart, beautiful friends Monika and Erin, which is wonderful and reassuring. Even if we’ve been having the time of our lives here in NY, there’s just nothing quite like home. 🙂 

Voila! I’m sure I’m missing something, but so far, I’ve been loving discovering New York. I am so grateful to be able to do what I love while being surrounded by people I love. Including my wonderful, beautiful (inside and out), talented, kind, smart husband, Scott. Him being here with me has been a gift. His presence is grounding, his words reaffirming, his eyes gentle and heart full of love. If my experience here has been lovely, it is no doubt in large part because he has been by my side. In addition, if my one success here in New York is feeling joyful and light while existing here, I have succeeded. I feel peace.

Yay for growth. Learning. Blooming.

XX

Alex