I ride the subway every day to work.
I wake up, brush my teeth, pick out some ‘business casual’ and am out the door. I walk the two blocks to the station and squeeze into the car closest to the stairs because I always seem to almost miss the train. I sit or stand depending on how crowded it is that day. I open up my book, or I put in my headphones, and I am lost to the world. I am transcendent in that place between sleep and reality, where I hear and see everything around me but it feels a thousand miles away.
The doors open and I get off at my stop.
I feel this way for much of my life, like I am swimming through the air, except that the air is actually thick, greasy oil that hugs you and sticks to your skin and constricts you to ultra-slow steps in a world that is always moving a million miles an hour.
I get caught up in this million miles an hour thing too. I am swept up in it the second I arrive at any job I’ve ever had; my attention is split eighty-two ways and I am kicking ass and I am solving problems and asking the right questions and I understand why people let their jobs become their whole lives, because it gives me purpose. It gives me a place among many. Whereas most times, I am among many, but I have no place.
I often find it difficult to explain living in New York City as an introvert. I feel the assumption is that introverts are doormats, that we’re loners, that we get panicky when surrounded by people and if New York has a population of 8.5 million then New York is an introvert’s hell. But I get excited when I walk outside, when I feel the energy that is constantly pulsing through the air here, and I almost know this energy infiltrates my dreams and gives them a pulse, gives them a beat, gives them time.
Non-city folk say that the city makes them feel like they have no time. I say that the city gives me just the right amount.
There are people here speaking countless languages, working countless jobs, doing countless things in their spare time; so countless, in fact, that I feel that no matter what I do, it can’t be not enough, or too much, because someone is always doing more or doing less than me. And in previous lifetimes, that would have bothered me. But here, it just… doesn’t.
Here, I can just swim, at whatever pace suits me.
Living in other places, I would get caught in the current and end up so ahead that all of a sudden I’m… behind. How did I get behind? If I was swimming faster than everyone, then why am I behind?
Why am I alone?
I get back on the subway. I take a breath. I wait for my heart to slow down. I read.
I’m not behind, I’m not alone, I am swimming, and I am swimming at a pace that suits me.
I am moving through the oil for however long it takes, and I am also moving at a million miles an hour. I am pulling ahead but I am falling behind.
I wake up, I brush my teeth. I ride the subway every day to work.
And I hope, I hope for all the introverted creative types out there like me who are feeling more alone in the world than they can articulate, that this feeling will last. That I will continue to get up every morning, get swept up by the current, and get pulled into the madness that is the city.