From the Desk
Tip 1: Never repeat those words in New York City.
Tip 2: If you even have those words in your vocabulary, maybe you should think twice about visiting.
I wish someone would have given me this advice before I departed this weekend for three days surrounded by people that don’t quite understand southern charm.
It wasn’t that the city dwellers weren’t nice. On the contrary, people were generally welcoming and willing to help us country bumpkins standing on the corner scratching our heads. Within the first fifteen minutes of wandering the streets, a businessman approached us to assure us we weren’t in a third world country and pointed us in the direction of Rockefeller Center for food. Without his kindness, we most likely would have starved or ended up in Chinatown eating a kabob of unknown meat from a lady whispering “Prada, Coach, Chanel” in our ear.
The problem was the way I felt after pushing my way through crowds, flagging down taxi drives who didn’t enjoy speaking and watching the homeless man walk by with no shoes in twenty degree weather as I enjoyed a cup of coffee inside a warm diner.
I felt hardened.
I didn’t realize this until I landed back in Charlotte and a woman smiled at me on the shuttle bus back to my car. It was such a simple gesture, but it was one that I hadn’t experienced all weekend. No one smiled. No one spoke unless spoken to. People blocked out the noise by wearing headphones and avoided eye contact by staring straight ahead or at the ground.
My aunt made every effort to speak to anyone she was near, pestering them with her southern drawl until they were forced to reply. By this I was embarrassed and I repeatedly had to warn her to stop. Looking back, I am embarrassed of myself for not allowing her to be who she was and for asking her to lose her joyful spirit in order to fit the mold.
When did this code of conduct take affect and why did I feel like I must follow it in order to fit in? New York City is a place, if not THE place, where you can be who you want to be — everything goes. It is a melting pot of races, cultures, ideas, dreams and styles. This is what makes it so appealing to so many people.
As I graduate and begin the search for my future, New York City will be one of the places I look. If by chance I do make my home in the city that never sleeps, ya’ll better watch out. I’m not leaving my southern roots on the plane.