I feel like I’ve only ever been good at beginnings.
I mean a couple different things by this. One, I love the idea of something new, but the feeling wears off quickly, and so I’ve barely started something before I’ve already moved on. Two, endings really just suck, objectively. No one likes them! It is hard opening yourself up to the vulnerability of completion, of putting the period on something and knowing that this is the culmination of all your hard work, whether it’s what you expected or not.
As I come to the end of my time at NYU, it’s hard to wrap my head around what it means to be heading out into the world as a so-called “adult.” So instead of dwelling on that, I’ll offer two stories from my start at this university.
The first is about meeting someone. On move-in day, I said ‘hello’ to one of the kids who would be my suitemate for the year. He seemed nice, we chatted it up and hung out a couple times that week. Grabbed a slice of pizza together after a Welcome Week event. Mom, Dad, I made a friend!
Then, after just a couple weeks, he disappeared. Left everything in his room but didn’t come around anymore. About a month into the semester, I asked my other suitemate what had transpired with our departed friend. Turns out, his parents bought him a League of Legends team and he had taken some time off school for “managerial” duties. His dorm room became his storage unit for the year. So it goes. There’s no moral to this story; I just think it’s funny, and if that’s not representative of NYU then I don’t know what is.
My second story is about walking into a room. For some reason, this starry-eyed young first-year had dreams of being a journalist, and so there I was during that first week in the city, in a real live newspaper office with kids slightly older than me who were doing real, live journalism! This is the place for me, I told myself. I felt like I didn’t quite belong at first, but something still tugged at me, suggesting this could become my home.
Little did I know the number of sleepless nights that lay ahead, the frantic phone calls, the angry subjects, the incomprehensible recordings, the bags under eyes and that oh-so-ever-present feeling that there was just something I was forgetting (there usually was). Sure, we broke the news, but a lot of times it felt like the other way around.
But there were other things that lay ahead too. There were inside jokes, feelings of ambition, feelings of pride, friendships won, friendships lost, new adventures, inside scoops, the feeling like you were doing something that mattered. In the process, I learned a lot about myself (including the fact that yes, there probably is such a thing as too much coffee).
Sure, there was always that nagging feeling that suggested we could have done something more. Nothing ever really feels finished, even after you leave it behind. You always want to write one more story, take one more class, meet one more person, learn one more thing.
And yet at some point you come to terms with the fact that this is what you did, and this is who you are, and now you take all that and you try and make something new again. I don’t mean this to be sappy; it’s more just to comfort myself in the knowledge that it’s really too late to do anything differently anyway. Might as well roll with it from here.
I won’t lie, I still feel a small burst of pride when I go back to California and watch people’s eyes light up as I tell them I go (or, shortly, “went”) to NYU. “Wow, you live in New York City! What’s that like?” “I can’t wait to come and visit!” “Do you love it? Is it everything you ever dreamed of?”
I never really have the heart to tell them that on most days you’ll feel alone, and the city smells like garbage in the summer and resentment in the winter, and you’ll never get to where you need to be on time, and have fun watching your measly paycheck slowly evaporate with every overpriced cup of coffee and there’s always the crushing burden that you’re not doing enough. Did I mention how alone this city makes you feel?
But if I can’t tell them the whole truth, I can at least say that the city has a peculiar charm to it that you can’t find anywhere else, and it makes you want to get out of bed most mornings, and that you’ll cherish the moments when you actually have nothing to do and can just listen to the hum of life and its contradictions all around you. I can tell them that eventually you find your place, even though it’s probably not where you thought it would be. Sure, some days the city breaks you, but some days it’s just breaking you in. So if it’s not everything you ever dreamed of, at least it’s something close, in a completely different way than you could have ever imagined. And even on the worst days, that’s a start.
Read more from Washington Square News’ “While You Were Here” Issue.