Life in the big city – Day Six

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Well, I’ve had quite the adventure. Six days, alone, in New York City, my first vacation in several years and my first time in the city since the early 2000s. I visited four museums, attended three operas, and saw just about every major sight in the city. All told, it was a very successful trip with few snags. I love New York!

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I imagine the thought of being alone in New York is terrifying to some. Actually, I didn’t feel afraid once. I had no negative encounters. This isn’t to say they don’t happen, but if you’re careful  where you wander, no one bothers you. I didn’t see any bad apples anywhere I went (and I covered a lot of turf). There are other tourists and regular folk everywhere, and more cops available than you see at home. There are moms and kids walking the street and riding the subway, even at night.

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So did I get to do everything on my list? Almost. In some cases the weather didn’t cooperate, in others, my energy level fizzled. I did a lot of walking. Living here is wonderful exercise, even though public transportation will get you anywhere (except the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For that, you have to wander Central Park for several hours). I didn’t get to the top of Rockefeller Center to see the city at night from above; I didn’t do the night time boat ride around the tip of Manhattan. I didn’t go to the Bronx Zoo.

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Standout moments? Seeing the Statue of Liberty’s face up close. Mimi’s death in La Boheme. The memorials to the dead at the 9/11 Museum. Standing on the Brooklyn Bridge, looking out over the city, while listening to Neil Diamond’s poetic reminisces about it in Brooklyn Roads. Seeing my friend Michael again.

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I didn’t even spend much money here. Many of the attractions are free, I ate cheaply, and a few things I paid for in advance. The best deals in New York? The Statue of Liberty (boat ride, pedestal and museum access, and Ellis Island museum for $18) and the subway (I rode it all week, and all over, on a 7-day MetroPass for $30. I didnt take a cab once).

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So now it’s back to my mundane, everyday life. Jarring as it will be after this magical week of sights and sounds and stimulation, it’s a welcome return. The conveniences of home have their own special attraction, and life becomes stale no matter where you live. That’s why we need to get out of our elements periodically, to get a fresh perspective on life. We return a little bit changed, a little more knowing, a little more open to possibilities. Mind you, I haven’t been taking this advice lately. My life is extremely routine, but I broke free for a week and it was wonderful.

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My NYC breakfast spot, and a description of me in the summer?

Charlie Squarepants

Ahhh, vacation. A chance to see what life would be like if I didn’t have to work for a living – staying up late (it’s 2 am now), sleeping in, and doing things I never have energy for while on the treadmill called working class America. Maybe it’s a vestige of owning a 24-hour business for so many years, but I was never good at turning off work-mode, at adjusting from a work mindset to one of leisure. Even days off are sometimes spent with that nagging awareness that I have to work the next day, preventing me from enjoying the present one.

Not so this past week. I knew the vacation was coming, that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and this changed my outlook entirely. My midweek day off was very leisurely and enjoyable, even though I had to work the next day.  It’s all in my head! It’s a problem of getting stuck in dreary work mode. Do others suffer from this, I wondered? I bet they do! (well, depends on how they feel about their jobs). Our work life can prey on our consciousness, tempering leisure hours with reminders of our forced servitude. It’s like being Cinderella at the ball, with one eye on her glorious surroundings and the other on the clock. At midnight, it’s all over. We may physically leave work, but mentally we can still be there.

I’m reminded of a Charlie Brown cartoon that was stuck to the wall of my bedroom as a kid: “I’ve developed a new philosophy on life. I only dread one day at a time.” I definitely adopted that mentality early in life, and it’s probably no accident that I put that cartoon up. I had to chuckle recently when I saw a similar sentiment on a soda can cooler: “I barely survived yesterday and it’s already today!” These attitudes view life as a burden, something to be endured and struggled through. According to your belief, so be it unto you.

We get what we believe about ourselves and about life, good or bad, and unhealthy habitual thought patterns can insidiously silence our loftier ideals. We can get stuck seeing life a certain way, and that is what becomes our reality – even though it’s not the reality. Case in point: I’ve always disliked mornings. I am not an early riser unless forced to, and have often said that the only thing I’ll get out of bed for at 5 am is surgery. Do you know what other Charlie Brown cartoon I had on the wall of my bedroom? “I think I’m allergic to mornings.” Whether he was creating, affirming, or reinforcing my beliefs, that Charlie Brown sure is a Negative Nellie. He could take a few lessons from Spongebob, who definitely is a better role model.

So here I am with a week of freedom to maybe change my outlook a bit, to give me a fresh perspective, mostly where my career is concerned. The only limitations I have in life are the ones I place on myself. One of my favorite quotes, paraphrased from the Bible, is “All things are possible to him that believeth.” Time to believeth in more positive outcomes than that bunk Charlie Brown was dishing out years ago. He’s a blockhead, and I’d rather have squarepants.

An Introvert’s Idea of a Good Time – Or, What I Did on my Summer Vacation

“What did you do on your vacation?” they may ask when I return to work next week. Let’s see . . . I laid a floor in my kitchen, painted the living room and hall, installed a ceiling fan, replaced the clunky ventilation fan in the bath, arranged my furniture, finished unpacking, and installed a new sink. “But didn’t you have any fun?” they’ll ask. Yes, I did. I thoroughly enjoyed having the time to do these lingering projects. I bought my house three months ago and have been living in rooms filled with scattered furniture and unpacked boxes ever since. But even if that weren’t the case, I’d have spent the time mostly at home, reading or listening to music or watching movies. Yes, that’s my idea of a good time, even if alone. I know that sounds bizarre to many extroverts, who can’t imagine the horror of such a vacation for more than a moment. But true introverts thrive on having the time and space to just be – with themselves, with their surroundings, with life.

Too much of this can become overwhelming, to be sure, and some contact is desirable. This can be as simple as a trip to a store, where I am around people but don’t have to interact too much with them, or going out to dinner with family and old friends I hadn’t seen in years, which was most enjoyable. Yes, I can savor such occasions quite easily – so long as I’m not already burned out by excessive contact such as a long day at work. It’s all about social energy levels, which need recharging after use. We introverts are like NiCad cell-phone batteries that need constant recharging, whereas extroverts are the Energizer bunny – they just keep going and going and going.

Vacations recharge all of us, introvert and extrovert alike. I found it difficult to find the energy for all these home projects while I was in the midst of working full time, but the time off fixed that. Now my house is in order, and I’m ready to go back to work – at least until my second vacation next month.