Here’s a thought. Take it as you will.
Life is not all sunshine and rainbows. The world is drowsy and draining. It’s uncertain. It’s cold. It’s lonely. Sometimes less so and sometimes more. But it’s always somewhere in between. Anyone who tells you otherwise is delusional.
Since the beginning of March, I have been staying at generous family friend in Passaic, New Jersey – with Chesed (selfless giving) the likes of which I could not even have imagined existed until I was the recipient of it myself. All the adjectives you can think of to describe such this experience – it has been that.
At times it has been hard, and at times I’ve felt like the luckiest man alive. At times I’ve cried, at times I’ve jumped for joy. At times I’ve been down and out. And at times I’ve fought with vigor for just one more Blad, one more mile, or the space for one more burger patty (proudest of the third).
I came to New York for New York. For its city lights, its rude cab drivers, its snowy winters and its blistering summer heat. I came here for Yankee Stadium, for the subway on a Tuesday afternoon at rush hour. I came here for Yiddishkeit in all shapes, forms, colors and sizes. I came here for diversity, for promise, for opportunity. For the ability to prove my abilities, for the promise that I made myself when I worked and worked and worked throughout high school telling myself it would pay off.
And it did. I got 18 months of hustle. Buses and coaches, trains and planes. Dirty subways, dirtier city squares. The dirtiest but tastiest kosher restaurants you’ve ever seen. 12 miles of madness on a 200-block island. 18 months of mayhem living in my wildest dream.
When we used to walk in the City, my friends always used to tell me – even until a few weeks ago – “you have the excitement of a tourist”. I would reply, “yes, because I feel like one!” I don’t think I ever understood the profundity of their compliment (if we can call it that), or the lack of sense in my reply. I had lived here nearly two years already!! But they were right. I did feel like a tourist. I still do. Being a tourist is so exciting!
But tourism isn’t a feeling. It’s an attitude. It’s the understanding that you are treading un-treaded waters with a foreign accent and an even more foreign perspective of life. It’s the acceptance that things will not go your way – definitionally – but that that’s what you signed up for. It’s the ability to run around the streets of Manhattan – literally, run around – because you feel like it. And it’s the acknowledgement that you entered this journey with a rough itinerary sketched on the back of a napkin (which was then called a ‘serviette’), a patched-up, roughed-up sleeping bag, and a resilient knack of fighting the cold. Not always beating it, but always fighting it.
Tourism – open-eyed, open-minded adventurousness – is what brought me here – and it is what has kept me here – psychologically – through this mess. It is the realistic shrug of the shoulders when you realize, “yeah, it’s cloudy out, we just can’t hike this morning. Next time”. It’s the exuberance and thrill when you realize, “Wow!! We started all the way down there!?!?” And it’s the courageous push, the fighting battle cry that comes from within, when you look at the peak, see how little you’ve actually accomplished since you started, pull your cap towards your face, and keep marching. It is all of those and more.
In the end – the voices that brought me to New York have carried me while I sit here in a basement in New Jersey. That voice that said, “keep fighting, keep going, keep working, you’ve got this ”, rings louder in my ear than ever before and perhaps louder than it ever will.
“Harness your strength”, it says. “Appreciate the moment, know that this too will pass, and hustle on.”
Always hustle on.