Video Created by Caitlyn Phu
I had recently spent a week in the heart of New York City-- a change of pace from my life in Southern California.
Well, that is an understatement.
My arrival was greeted with flooding noises of honking and shouting, the heavy scent of halal carts, and 40 degree weather, which, I feel compelled to note, is 20 degrees less than what we would consider “cold” where I live.
And, when I say that my trip to New York City was a “change of pace”, I mean that in the most literal way possible. In NYC, everyone is constantly in a rush. Everyone has somewhere to go or a place to be. In moving through the walls of people crowding the streets of New York, the physical pressure of NYC natives pushing past you and everyone’s indifference towards each other was jolting to say the least. However, I later found some unfamiliar comfort in it all.
Everyone had their own determination to get somewhere, and, while their apathy towards those around them may be considered rude in most other places, I learned to perceive it differently. I was now assimilating into a community of people who were so comfortable with each other that you didn’t need to say, “Sorry!” after you bumped into them, and people were content with that (for the most part.) People accepted each other in one of the largest cities in the world, and everyone had some kind of place in this city, as long as you stayed out of other people’s places. On one subway venture, I witnessed a 10 year old girl riding by herself to 42nd, and no one was fazed, because being a part of New York’s culture came with no judgment. Little girls riding the metro alone? What’s new?
But, if you turn your head slightly above the waves of people, you can see skylines made up of massive towers. The tallest buildings I had ever seen filled the cities, and it felt like the city could never be empty. The buildings filled the empty spaces left by detached crowds of New Yorkers and had forged an environment where innovation can be found at everyone’s fingertips.
When I looked at those impossible buildings on those streets, I saw some part of myself. I saw an extension of my own mind visualized by these skyscrapers that were reaching for the heavens and towers that were practically screaming, “The sky isn’t the limit!” Mixed with a brisk Spring breeze and some of the greatest man-made creations surrounding you, the city blends together a cocktail of inspiration for creators, served in a concrete glass. In a place where the Rockefeller Center is a short walk away from the Empire State Building, you can’t help but ask yourself, “Is anything impossible here?”
Unlike my home, New York never feels empty. In Southern California, you can find that the occasional car honk and the leveled dialogue of pedestrians will only occasionally interrupt the deafening silence that occupies our city in place of the New York-style crowds and skyscrapers. While I am extremely lucky to live in such a beautiful and calming city like mine, my visit to New York showed me that sometimes you need to flood your ears with street noise to finally be able to think.
In re-evaluating the song “Empire State of Mind” following my trip, I think Alicia Keys may have been onto something.
About the Author
Caitlyn Phu, currently a junior in high school, is a filmmaker, writer, and artist based in Huntington Beach. She is a member of the Academy of the Performing Arts’ MMET Media program, which specializes in filmmaking and live TV production, and the founder/president of the Heart2Art Project. Caitlyn plans to pursue a career in screenwriting and filmmaking after high school and aims to use her passion for the arts to both educate and make an impact on the world. Additionally, she is a writer for Free to Dream Magazine, a member of Model United Nations, and sometimes considered “pretty funny.” That last one depends on the crowd, though.
Instagram: @caityphu @theartofemotion