There are a lot of cliche’ terms involving New York City. When you’re here, it’s hard not to forget that there’s a world outside of here, too. I think there have been multiple times this month that I’ve either said or been about to say “Only in New York” to someone. As soon as you say it, you hate yourself. It’s just a dumb, arrogant thing to say. All of a sudden, you’re “that guy,” or “that girl.”
But that’s the funny thing about cliche’s - they wouldn’t be cliche’ if they didn’t get said a lot. Which is why I feel at least somewhat comfortable sharing a story from Sunday night. Even though the story includes something I will call a “New York moment.”
I was headed to a show Sunday, and right before I went underground to catch the subway, I got a text from a friend. It’s a comic in DC, and he was asking about my Montreal set this Tuesday. The interesting part was, I hadn’t told him about my set. And he hadn’t read my blog about it. No - he had heard about my Montreal set because he overheard other comics talking about it at a show in DC over the weekend.
So as I rode the train, I kind of took that fact in.
As humans, we don’t get to feel like a God very often. We’re not all-knowing, and we’re not all-important. But to me at least, one of the ways I feel closest to being “immortal” is when I find out that other people were talking about me, when I wasn’t there. Part of me wishes I didn’t get a rush from that. Though I think part of me just kind of accepts that I’m human, and that as a human, I like the brief moments when I get to feel more important than I actually am.
Let me try to explain. Here’s why hearing that people were talking about you is awesome:
1. You essentially get to see what was happening in a place, even though you weren’t there. This gives you a sense of being all-knowing, like you can see more than any human should get to.
2. More importantly, you receive proof that you exist. You exist in the whole world, not just your own. So in that way, you feel pretty damn important. Because of course, we all exist in our own world - everywhere we go, we’re there...obviously. But if you were getting talked about when you weren’t even there - then you even exist in places that you aren't! You’re like a God!
Those were the sources of the high I was feeling, as I was walking out of the subway. I’m awesome, people care about me, I exist, and I definitely matter. I was actually thinking about how I would write a happy blog in the morning, about New York, and about how I was in a good place.
Then as I bounded up the subway steps - two at a time - and landed onto the 14th street sidewalk, I almost ran into a guy walking backwards. If I were in a bad mood, I probably would have gotten annoyed. But I was in a great mood, so instead, I just good-naturedly thought about how much better I was at walking. Probably a tourist, I thought. Not a savvy New York walker, like me. That was that first initial line of thought - the one that lasts a about a second, before your brain takes in any more of your surroundings.
But then, I noticed that a lot of people were walking with him. I had my headphones in - listening to one of those songs that makes me feel better than the people I walk past - so I wasn’t hearing anything, only seeing it. My thought for about two seconds was that he must be a tour guide, even though it wasn’t a touristy part of town, and even though a lot of the “tourists” were white people. I was still safely awesome.
And then I noticed the first sign that someone was holding: “THIS IS FOR OAKLAND”
And then, as hundreds and hundreds of people poured past me, I understood. This was an “Occupy” effort, walking the streets of New York, protesting the arrests in Oakland this past week.
Riiiiiiight, I remembered. Writing a blog doesn’t make you awesome. Being talked about doesn’t make you awesome. Montreal doesn’t make you awesome. Action makes you awesome. Passion makes you awesome.
And poof. With that, my masturbatory, navel-gazing session was over.
And that’s something that I am growing to love about living in New York City. No matter how great you think you are, you are always 30 seconds away from being reminded that you are only as awesome as your present self. You are only as awesome as your actions, not anyone’s perception of you. None of us are Gods. We’re all going to die. So if you happen to be alive right now, get over yourself, and go do something.
Those “New York moments” are always literally and figuratively right around the corner. You know you’re not shit here - for worse, and for better.