Dalya Arussy's Writing New York Blog

Journal Entry 30
December 2, 2010, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

1. My experiences in relation to themes:

The theme of the ‘other’ and isolation is one that is clearly reflected in my experiences in NY. As the large population that makes up the city seems to rush back and forth on the streets of NY, I am left to referencing my subway map for a way to navigate the grid layout. This sort of consistent experience makes me feel isolated as no one else seems to share that sensation. With this lacking sense of direction, comes the lacking sense of belonging that once again these passersby seem to embody. Because I am still learning to navigate and learning the social codes and norms, I feel like there is no community for me in NYC to which I can belong. I don’t even know enough about the communities in NY to search for one. Through Whitehead’s “Brooklyn Bridge” I have discovered that others feel this isolation when standing in this great metropolis. Furthermore, as E.B. White expands, in order to belong and remove yourself from the isolation, you have to find a community which is readily available as NYC is home to a great deal of diversity.

I have also felt the sense of ‘other’ in that way. I am not yet used to the attitude of New Yorkers and therefore instinctively apologize for bumping into people on the street which inevitably happens. I am the ‘other’ in that way as not many NYC residents do the same. In addition, I constantly refer to my subway map, something no proper New Yorker would do as they contain that built-in GPS I am so clearly lacking. I am the ‘other’ in the sense that I do not yet know the social norms and codes that define NY residents or embody that instinctive sense of direction.

2. Think of a personal issue:

I have moved around a lot. Not just houses, but cities, states and even countries, so I have not found a place where I really belong. I have always felt like the ‘other’ everywhere I am, whether it is in a new school, new community, etc. Therefore, it is no surprise that I feel like an ‘other’ in NYC, where I have never actually lived. At the beginning of the semester, during my first days living in NYC, I was absolutely terrified. This physically large area that makes up the great metropolis and the vast number of people that populate it was just overwhelming. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing, where they were going, and how to get there. I on the other hand carried around a subway map which I took out at least once per train ride, and continue to do so even on routes I have taken several times before. Even once I got off the train, as I walked along streets and avenues, I consistently looked up at the street signs to make sure the numbers were still going up and would calculate in my head “Yes 56 is less than 57.”

Despite this, I tried to put a ‘game face’ on, to give the appearance that I knew where I was going. It still amazes me how people can climb out of the subway station and just walk. They cross streets, turn corners, and get to their destinations without seemingly paying attention to their surroundings. I have not lived in any one community long enough to have that sense of direction, so navigating NYC simply scared me, and quite frankly it still does. When everyone else has that built-in GPS and I don’t, I feel isolated, I feel lost, I feel like the ‘other’. I feel intimidated by the mad rush of people passing by, constantly in motion, and feel the need to act the same. So while I walk around pretending to fit in, my inner feelings reflect a far different experience, a more lonely one.

Through my experience not only attempting to navigate this great metropolis, but also discussing various ‘other’ accounts in class, I start to see past walkers’ ‘game faces’. With accounts such as Judith’s in Crossing the BLVD, I am both discouraged by the fact that I have not yet found myself like she has, but also encourage that there is potential. I recognize this isolation that immigrants and other newcomers feel in their initial days in the city. Through their writings and that of Whitehead and E.B. White together I also have learned that the key to surviving in this great metropolis is to find a community in which you belong, a place to which you can disappear. As I have gotten better at navigation and relating to New Yorkers, I still sort of feel a sense of the ‘other’ as I have not yet found my community to which to belong. It is both discomforting and comforting to know that in such a densely populated area, so many feel alone.

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