In this episode of In The Know: Walks of Life, a 16-year-old born and bred New Yorker from Queens reflects on how growing up in The Big Apple has influenced his personal growth, his personality, and outlook on the city. As he gets older, he can recognize these changes more easily, and while his perception of New York City may evolve over time, one thing he knows for sure is that he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Having grown up in Queens, the subject shares that he only started venturing out to Manhattan by himself in the last year or so. Prior to that, he would go with his family for special occasions, and always viewed Manhattan as a glamorous place “because it was what Queens wasn’t,” he explains. “It was vibrant, it was exciting. It was new, it was fresh. It was an environment that I wasn’t in often.”
When he started going to Manhattan by himself, this “glamorous” view of the city started to fade because he no longer had his parents to shield certain things from him. For example, while on the subway by himself, he encountered someone asking for money. “When I saw this, I was almost shocked,” he admits. “I knew that was a thing, I knew people did that in New York City. I was aware of that, but it was what I would call a culture shock to say the least.”
Eventually, he started to have experiences while alone that revealed a “darker side” of New York City to him. For example, after attending a vibrant and “welcoming” Pride celebration in Greenwich Village, the subject decided to take a train to a park in Upper Manhattan. While sitting on a bench at the park, the subject witnessed a police officer use a taser on a man.
“I had never seen anyone get tased,” says the subject. “My attention was just wholly captivated by that. I was shocked by it.” This experience contributed to a new perception of New York City, and the contrast of the Pride celebration with the experience at the park opened his eyes to all the vastly different moments that coexist in the city.
Similarly, he reflects on the first time he saw people openly selling drugs at Washington Square Park. “For me that was surprising, like, ‘Wow, people are just selling weed just out in the open,’” he admits. “That was somewhat shocking to me, more than it is now. I knew what drugs were. I wasn’t a stranger to their existence. And at that point the only real interaction I’d had with them was that I had seen people who were impacted by them on the street. I had seen things like that before, but I had never seen someone selling them up-close.”
The subject shares that he now feels unfazed when faced with things like drugs. “That is really something that is a testament to how my perspective as an individual has changed,” shares the subject. “I would say a good part of that is because I was alone.”
He feels that being exposed to such a wide spectrum of people and experiences has shaped who he is for the better, and has fostered a sense of community between him and other New Yorkers. “You’re really able to just sort of go out there and see all these different kinds of people, all these different kinds of places, these environments,” he explains. “You can see what you like, what you don’t like. Where you’re comfortable, where you’re not comfortable. You can explore, you can do all these things, and that is really what I’ve enjoyed so much about growing up in New York City. I love the sense of camaraderie that unites the people of New York.”
Now, looking back on the past year, during which he spent a lot of time venturing out to the city by himself, he realizes how the city’s endless options for exploration have impacted him. “I’m really glad that I’m able to look back on all that’s changed and how I’ve become much more open to certain things,” he shares. “I’ve learned so much about myself as an individual, my personality, and how I’ve grown as a product of that. And that’s what I love about New York City. It’s an amazing place to live and I wouldn’t wanna live anywhere else.”
“In The Know: Walks of Life” is available on all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Stitcher.
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