We felt the shockwaves of the crushing silence that fell over New York City from Brooklyn, we saw the mobile morgues lined up outside of the hospitals, and we witnessed a Times Square with almost no one in it. I was so in shock and awe of everything that was happening around us that I went so far as to drive along up the FDR as the USNS Comfort Hospital Ship docked on the Manhattan shore. Dark, cloudy skies loomed over the city as that giant, magnificent ship pulled up to the island that houses 1.6 million people to assist in servicing the city that is home to 8.6 million.
Military vehicles patrolled the area, the fear in the air so thick it could be felt from a distance.
And there I was. A bright-eyed twenty-something with aspirations to match her spirit, with a nothing can break me down, nothing will break me down attitude that just got completely crushed by a pandemic. Both of the industries I spent my life working in shut down almost entirely, I had next to no resources in the city, let alone the country, and my savings were dwindling quickly with the asinine currency exchange rates.
But what was I going to do? Was I going to run back home with my tail between my legs? I could have. Who knows, maybe it was the smarter option. But I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t. That’s not my story and anyone who knows me well enough, knows I don’t back down in the face of adversity. While it was wild, scary, immensely mentally difficult in a myriad of ways, and just so totally stressful, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that shaped me in more ways than I could possibly fit into one story.
I went into that thinking it would be a glorious, spontaneous adventure and while it was definitely that, it was a lot of other things too. One thing I truly didn’t anticipate as an outcome was it in the end being looked back on as a time where I came to terms with my mental health and the fact that I needed a serious change of course in both my life and my career. A realization that was brewing under the surface for a long time, dragged out over a global pandemic with an unimaginable stack of other factors at bay, going back and forth over an international border and facing militarized, inhumane treatment while navigating it. It can take something absolutely drastic to shake us into realizing things that we choose to shove aside, sometimes for years at a time, and that is almost never a pretty process – but it is necessary and I am glad for it.
People always tell me how sorry they are for me that I went to New York when I did because I didn’t get to spend much time in the all-night jazz clubs that we went there for in the first place and while that is heartbreaking, I got to experience that place in a way not many will ever be able to say they did. I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge with not a soul in sight, I took over the Williamsburg Bridge with hundreds of other people during the George Floyd protests, and I was packing for my planned DC trip when AirBnB closed down all reservations and the Capitol fell under attack.
I went to New York wanting to experience everything that I loved about it and its history, but instead, I got to experience and be a part of one of the most notable times in New York’s history.