Category Archives: New York

Thank You Note

Eleven months ago, I wrote a note to a crying stranger in a café, assuring her that her troubles would pass and that she was not alone. You can do it, I wrote.

A week later, I needed a kind stranger to write me a note, promising me that I was not alone, that my troubles would pass, that everything would be okay.

More than a few kind strangers entered my life this year; they grew into kind friends.

I’m at my parents’ house in Rochester, enveloped by a quiet joy, a delight at having my family all together. There’s a warm bubble somewhere just above my heart, noticeable despite a slight constriction in my chest. In a few days, I’ll be getting on a plane with my two checked bags, a carry-on bag, and a backpack to move back to Singapore, a place that I love and still call home. I’m not sleeping well, which must mean I’m nervous.

And just like last time and the time before, it’s bittersweet. I think it always will be.

Before I go, I want to thank everyone who has supported me through a year fraught with personal challenges. With their support, I learned a lot about myself, confronted some demons I didn’t know I had, and gained a sense of what I want and what I’m looking for.

So, I want to say thank you.

To the friend who sat with me for hours to find an apartment, figure out the next steps, and forced me to literally get up, get dressed, and get out;

to the friend who let me be sad and supplied me with wine and cheese to help the sadness go down a little easier;

to the friend who held me when “New York City” by The Chainsmokers filled the LA Convention Center;

to everyone who told me to talk to a therapist and to my roommate who gave me the last push in that direction;

to the therapist who let me talk and assured me that that I’m doing okay at this thing called life and that I’m allowed to listen to myself;

to the friends who called on Skype and over the phone to remind me that they may be far away, but they’re here;

to the colleagues who put a smile on my face every single day, made me look forward to coming to work, became my friends and confidants, taught me about resilience and overcoming adversity, and gave me the safest, most nurturing place to be when I had nowhere else to go;

to the students whose questions pushed me to rethink schools, education, and my plans for the future;

to the UES carpool squad who became my reason for getting out of bed nearly every day for the first few months of school and for friendship, political solidarity, and Starbucks Fridays;

to my sister and brother who checked in on me, came to visit, and reminded me that my “built-in friends” are really never going anywhere;

to my parents who showed me the world;

thank you.

Thank you all so much.

Love,

Rebecca Michelle

 

Speaking Out: Photos from a Planned Parenthood Rally

This country is in the midst of a series of ideological battles, mostly recently regarding healthcare. There are lies, secrets, rumors, and speculations about what’s next. There’s fear and uncertainty, anger and deep mistrust. Decisions are being made behind closed doors; this practice fundamentally threatens the rights of the American people and the democracy they live in.

To add our voices to the cry that high-quality affordable healthcare for all is a human right, my friend and I attended the Pink Out in Columbus Circle here in New York City last Wednesday.

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Rallies were held in cities across the country on the night before the Senate Republicans released their health care proposal.

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I can’t speak for other cities, but the rally here was not as well attended as we had expected, which made me especially glad that we were there.

I wonder if we’ve become complacent in our blue New York bubble. I wonder if people are tired of fighting, tired of calling, writing, handing out fliers. Recently, I read On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder and he warned against complacency. Don’t think it can’t happen here . . . because it’s too late to stop it once it’s happened.

At the end of the day, to sleep at night, I need to know that I’ve done what I can to raise my voice to express my beliefs. I need to know that if everything I cherish is taken away, I didn’t let it go quietly. And that’s why I went to this rally.

As with the Women’s March back in January, I was glad to see so many people of different genders, races, ages, and other demographics represented. In times of turmoil, it’s comforting to find allies. That’s what we did on Wednesday night and what we will continue to do.

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An Open Letter to New York City: Part II

Dear New York City,

When it’s a sunny day and I’m sitting outside in a park, it’s hard to hate you. And the truth is, it’s hard to hate you at all now that I’ve been here long enough. You’ve taken me in and somehow made yourself a home in me. You’re in the feet that have traversed your streets, the legs that have climbed the stairs of your subways, the chest that has felt the vibrations of your buses, trains, and street music, the hands that have opened countless doors, the eyes that have seen people from all walks of life, and the mind that decided to give you a chance.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t know that we’re best friends. Some days, I think you’re shunning me altogether. Those are the days where I can’t find what I’m looking for, when I take a wrong turn, when I miss the early Metro-North train, when I have to go to three grocery stores and the streetcar man to find one item. Those are the days when no one looks up, no one smiles, and no one seems to care whether the people around them are there at all.

Those are the days, New York, when you tire me.

But more often, now that I’ve met you where you are, more often you’re a delight. Your sights, sounds, smells, and tastes tickle the senses in ways both good and bad but always alive. You’re demanding because your offers never end. There’s culture, food, and experience on literally every block. You’re always awake, always ready, always open to take in the next weary traveler. But you’re tough, too. You don’t give in without a fight and I’ve certainly never seen you give up.

New York people have stories and you feature prominently in all of them. New York people are here for a reason, hustling for a reason, and all attribute their actions to the energy, drive, and culture that you’ve cultivated. You create spaces for people who don’t have patience for you, waiting just outside until they peek out. For them, for me, you have quiet little cafés, parks and river paths, libraries and independent bookstores. You reserve places for the people who are afraid to find them on their own. And when they’re ready, you open the doors to everything else that is out there, the glitz, glamour, grittiness, and attitude of the greatest city in the world.

And of course, you have community neighborhoods that all feel different. That’s my favorite part about you – you take all these people, you watch as they split themselves into group after group, and you let them develop into a patchwork of lives, a quilt of everything that makes you who you are. You cross rivers. You encompass islands. You’re connected by bridges and tunnels, by the people who cross them and by the people whose lives are crossed by them. You’re a story of who we are and how we got here. You’re a story of the people who flock to you and will continue to come.

Without a doubt, you’ve changed me. You’ve made me more curious about people but less likely to voice my curiosity. You’ve made me warier but more willing to test the waters. Because of you, I’m more confident but much quieter. I’ve asked more questions, read more books, found more answers, wiped away more tears. You’ve forced me to embody resilience, to learn from experience, to solve problems I never expected to have. You’ve taught me to ask for help and to accept it when it comes. You showed me people who struggle and promised a path forward. I followed you and found it.

Once upon a time, you scared me a little. You were too big, too loud, and too fast. You were full of people who knew you and loved you. I didn’t know you. I didn’t love you. Some days, all I want is to love you. Other days, I catch myself doing just that. I’m ready to say goodbye to you only because you’ve left me wanting more. You’re not going anywhere and I’m sure I’ll be back one day. There’s no place like you, New York City, and I’m grateful I’ve had a chance to call you my home. See you soon.

Love always,

Rebecca Michelle

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PS You can read my first open letter to NYC here.