We’re responsive creatures, always yearning for some kind of carnal or spiritual fulfillment. So many of our conversations are dedicated to that one question: What makes us feel alive? For me it’s neither people nor adventures. It’s the shapes and colors that make up a city I love.
When I took a semester off in Cali, all I could think about was how much I missed NYC and how exciting it would be to blog about college life there. But four months after I returned to NYU I’ve only written four posts on my adventures here in the Big Apple. Ostensibly it’s because I just haven’t had the time. In reality it’s because I’ve kind of lost confidence in my writing. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good a writer as I would like to be, and I certainly don’t think I’m good enough to capture the sense of wonder I feel every time I step out onto the streets.
I’ve experienced no shortage of epiphanies walking on the same blocks, seeing the same things in different ways. Paradoxes run riot: tattoo parlors next to corporate banks, museums sandwiched by takeouts, apartments stacked atop liquor stores, and chains of buildings in alternating colors – black, tan, maroon – adorned by staircases twisting like rusty vines. It’s homogeneous yet dynamic, indifferent yet inviting. None of it makes any sense yet it all feels so right.
It’s a convoluted maze with a constellation of neon lights and no exit. Horizontal and vertical lines converge to make intersections that look exactly the same whether you’re in FiDi or Dumbo. You’re lost every time you’re out, but you never feel more at home. Last night I was strolling through Washington Square Park in the nicest weather in a long, long time, and I see the arch–silver silhouette inked against the black sky–illuminating the fountain and everyone around it. It was just so liberating. In that moment I actually felt so blessed to be alive. And I just couldn’t help wondering: Why then? I’ve seen that sight countless times in the past year and a half, and I’ve walked through the park in every weather, every hour. But that moment last night was the only time I’ve felt that kind of relief, the only time that those random bursts of sadness and rage I experience everyday felt so far away.
Despite the incurable bleakness of life and the shittiness of human nature, the world itself is still as sublime a vision as you will ever imagine. That vision alone is worth the effort of waking up every morning with a smile. It’s far more beautiful than life is ugly. It’s far more sincere than people are fake. Loving a place is far more satisfying than hating everything else.
Live with hope and live with love, if only for your surroundings. Find somewhere you love. See as much as you can before it’s too late.
I was actually planning to blog about something totally different today, but about five minutes ago I saw a picture of Neil Patrick Harris on Instagram, which reminded me of How I Met Your Mother…which pissed me off at first (because THE FINALE) but then brought me back to that episode in which Marshall’s dad died of a heart attack. Yep, out of all the hilarious and hilariously awful episodes, that’s the one that I remembered. I’m sorry, my mind just goes off on a thousand tangents at the smallest things. But anyway, in the episode following his father’s death, Marshall struggles to find and accept the final words his father said to him. He thought it was a spoken conversation at first, then it turned out to be a phone call, and then it ended up being a voice mail message. That’s not really the point, though. What’s important was that Marshall kept believing that his father’s last words must have been something particularly poignant. And in the end, it’s not. It’s just him saying something about a video game (or was it a pizza?). So Marshall goes through this sorta cathartic experience of learning that one’s last words don’t really define one’s legacy. It’s probably the only truly somber episode in all nine seasons of HIMYM.
So that got me thinking about death. How cheerful, I know. But really, I think it’s fascinating that we’re so preoccupied with the idea of last words and legacy and returning back to the dirt with a big fucking bang. On the one hand, death is so scary and final that we don’t really wanna think or talk about. But on the other hand, it’s hard not to wonder how we would leave this earth and who would actually remember or miss us. I think we’re less scared about dying than the idea of dying alone and unremembered, which basically indicates that our existence didn’t mean jack shit. John Green talks a lot about this whole dying/existence thing in The Fault in Our Stars, which I beg you to read if you haven’t already.
Anyway, I don’t think we’re being fair on ourselves my putting so much emphasis on the end. I always find it bizarre when people get moved to tears by those cheesy endings to melodramatic movies: when the abusive dad who mistreated his son his entire life lies on his death bed and says some bullshit like, “I should have treated you better,” and then cries a ton and dies. Somehow that makes everything okay and changes his child’s impression of him. Instead of a selfish, violent alcoholic, his dad is now a compassionate, misunderstood man who has always loved his poor kid. The fuck? I just think there’s something so fundamentally fucked up about that logic, about the idea that our last seconds can change an image we spent our entire lives building.
Maybe that’s pop culture’s way of giving us what we they think we deserve – a happy ending in which everyone wins. But I think we deserve better. I think we deserve to know that the lives we lead are meaningful enough that they can’t be undone by a sentence on the death bed. If you’ve been a shitty person your entire fucking life then one final regretful apology is far from enough. If you’ve been an awesome person your whole life then leaving anonymously shouldn’t be a shame at all. Of course it would be fucking legendary (or just fucking morbid) to say, “I want to be choked to death by a goat,” and then actually die like that an hour later. But how many of us actually get to predict our deaths? Movies and books glorify final moments so much that we’re made to believe that our ends are more important than our beginnings and our peaks. I’m not sure that’s the right way to live life.