27 Years, and Tonight Was One of the Nights I was Most Proud to Be a NYer

Day 11 of 31.

10pm. D train.

There’s always crazies on the train.

Just 15 feet away from me, an older man dressed in a ratty orange sweater caked with dirt started shouting at a young girl sitting in the corner by herself. She must have been 15, a baby rabbit doing its best not to shiver. Suddenly, he aggressively got up and sat down next to her as if to make a point.

The second this man got up to sit, the 6 people (males and females ) sitting directly around me turned. Simultaneously, we became an army of strangers ready to defend this girl if need be.

The man was crazy, but just as soon as he got up he went and sat back in his seat within 30 seconds.

We all looked at each other and breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing binds New Yorkers more than some crazy shit happening on the MTA. The three of us sitting directly next to one another were a diverse bunch, a young white male, me (Asian woman), and a young black woman.

The three of us started to talk about the homeless problem in NYC and how shelters and mental health programs have been slashed repeatedly.

We spoke about gentrification, soaring rents and how tax breaks on massive luxury condominiums have pushed out locals.

We spoke about how we were all local Brooklynites,and had seen so many changes in our short lifetimes. It was one of the most in depth conversations I’d had with other locals in NYC.

Even though we were all from Brooklyn, we all had such different experiences. The woman described a Labor Day Parade in Park Slope where gangs came out to fight one another – she recalled looking out the window to see West Side Story minus the dancing and singing but all the bloodbath.

There are more layers to each city than the top 10 sites and bars. By glossing over issues and people like these, were drowning out a whole set of voices that are asking to be heard.

The 15 minute conversation I had with two strangers on the train today was the first time that I heard these feelings, these experiences, these real situations from the actual people living them and not a filtered newspaper. When we read about these issues, I guarantee it’s not about Christian, Chau and Christina who met on a train one night, it’s about how «those people» are affected.

This morning my mentor told me that I needed to focus more. He said my mind was filled with ideas and that I reminded him of someone going to Penn Station and riding on a different train everyday.

What I needed to do, was ride on a single train and decide if I needed to make some stops along the way after, but I had to focus and hone in on one train.

All day I prepared for my presentation but got nothing done. I was scared of getting stuck in a cycle and becoming that train hopper. Its happened to me many times before and I fear it will happen again this time.

But when I got off the train before, I felt as if that conversation was exactly what I needed. It redefined the goals that I have always wanted to accomplish for this magazine – which is to give locals a voice. A chance for us to hear what is really happening. A chance for us all to connect with one another.

NYC is so much more than the Empire State Building, we should have writing to reflect the people who live in its shadows and till its land.

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