He always stood on that corner though. That corner right below the large red CVS sign with the automatic doors, which weren’t always so automatic. It didn’t matter if it was pouring rain or if it was sweltering heat – he stood there with the exact same expression, the same demeanor…just watching. He wore the same torn up black sweatshirt, with holes in both elbows from his years of being out on the streets. Observing every pedestrian passing by, studying the details of their face; I assumed he somehow knew every facet of my life. I felt every walk home from work gave him another glimpse of myself, another secret I unintentionally shared with him or story never meant to be told. I always slightly tilted my head up to look up at his tired face… wondering, “what happened to this man?” I’d then quickly return my eyes to the ground and scurry past him sheepishly. His eyes had an innocence in them like that of a child and his face always seemed to be in a semi-permanent smile, like he was almost greeting people. It was puzzling for me to see someone who had so little, still maintaining some bit of personality, some inkling of pride.
What did he dream of becoming? What happened that steered him so far away from the person he sought to be? Was this the life he imagined? I had so many questions for him, yet each day I went along the same path maintaining the same pattern of behavior. I felt guilty as if I was doing something wrong and constantly wondered if he envied the life of the people around him. I wondered if he envied the large amount of wealth that defined New York City, the residents with their 3 cell phones tapping away, perpetually late for their 9 a.m. Tuesday meeting. I wondered if he felt needed, purposeful, or loved. Did he have aspirations that were never fulfilled?
But I also wondered if he felt sorry for me and for everyone walking around me in uniform. Could he read the stress on our aged faces, groaning over how much money was made or lost that day, trekking to unfulfilling jobs – just striving to fit in with society norms? Did he secretly smirk at everyone on their iPhone, who missed the beauty around them because they had to answer another incoming client email? Did he see that 11-year-old kid on his cell miss an important moment with his father due to his Snapchatting? Was he wondering how and why we made decisions, which drove us into ultimate unhappiness? All this time I had been judging a man who actually appeared perfectly content with his life…never taking a step back to evaluate my own.
I’ve pondered on what my main New Years resolution would be for this year. I’ve drafted many versions of this blog post since January 1st but as I sit on this plane back to New York, this will be the final draft for a resolution. And that is…to be in the moment more. To enjoy every second, to savor the present, to put my phone down and embrace life and try to lock it in my memory and not just on social media. To take notice of the world around me, to listen, and to focus on solutions instead of dwelling on problems. I want to make sure I’m doing something I really want to be doing, and not just something that has become automatic, habitual and expected. For 2015, I’ve taken inspiration from an unexpected place. A man on a lonely corner on 42nd street has inspired me to be happy, to live, to feel, and to just be.
Lots of love,