It might come as a surprise to many, but I have a strong penchant for superstition: catching an eye lash and making a wish; seeing a magpie and instantly looking for its companion – one for sorrow, two for joy; often on the look out for omens for good luck in support of a specific event; reading my horoscope – a moment to lift the veil and get a glimpse in to the future…
I just imagine the frantic eye-rolling of some of you when reading this…I know…it goes against all logic and rational…but that is exactly what draws my fascination…a desire that there must be more to life than what we see – hear – feel – taste…. more than we can understand.
Over the past years, the horoscope described in my favourite monthly magazine Red UK has been eerily accurate in forecasting future events in my life and reading my January predictions certainly sent a shiver down my spine:
There is a journey into the past ahead of you.
Perhaps seeing an old friend who means a lot to you or revisiting somewhere.
Either way, it’s a good time for you to remember that you are who you are because of where you came from and what that taught you.
I read this a week after I booked a trip…a treat to make the most of my sabbatical before I start my new professional chapter…an opportunity to revisit old memories and make new ones…a journey taking me back to the place where I lived for most of 2014…
The Big Apple – The City That Never Sleeps – New York
I was apprehensive about the trip, though. I left New York three years ago with a huge sense of relief and slightly bruised. The city had all but crushed me. Yes I felt accomplished professionally as I successfully completed the job I was required to do but it did come with some personal sacrifice. (see Big City Life) My feelings about the city had changed…despite all the amazing experiences I gained throughout that time, I think I fell out of love with the Big Apple.
If the past year has taught me anything, it is to be positively strong, to rise above doubt and break through barriers. And as 2016 was drawing to a close and I was taking stock of my year (see Goodbye 2016) I couldn’t help but reflect back on my NY adventure and all the emotions that it still evoked…and so my journey in to the past started….
Excitement as the captain announced our descent in to JFK…the first sight of the towering skyline…I reached for my husband’s hand and squeezed…this felt really good!
Rediscovering the city and seeing it through more positive eyes, I saw a city that is changing and making serious attempts to modernise. The WTC area around Ground Zero, where we used to live, has changed beyond recognition. The futuristic Oculus shopping centre, the new Liberty Park and a stunning new Performing Arts Centre give this area of remembrance a modern look and a strong message that the city is looking towards the future. Quite symbolic.
More experiences and fun were packed into this week of holiday than when living here. Experiencing Madison Square Garden, that iconic temple of American showbiz, for the first time when attending a NY Knicks basketball game was just mind-blowingly fun – American entertainment at its best. We leapt it all up and even went back for a second time to see the NY Rangers ice-hockey game. One spectator’s comments after the game was quite reflective of the mood: “Great game, not enough fighting though!”.
Traveling to Philly on the day of Trump’s Presidential Inauguration was yet again symbolic and inspiring. The city of Brotherly Love, the beacon of America’s Independence and Constitution, was desolate and washed away by downpour rain…it was as if the heavens were crying….
Sure, some things still remained unpleasant like the dirty subway – yes we even met Mr Rat again! (see Big City Life), the toughness of people’s attitude, the divide between rich and poor certainly got visibly bigger, prices about doubled since last time and not just due to the strong Dollar vs Pound/Euro.
Amongst all the old and new experiences, what was most striking was that I came back not as a tourist but a resident. Walking the streets with ease and familiarity felt strangely comforting and I realised that was only possible because of my time spent here before.
The clichés were yet again confirmed: every experience, good or bad, teaches us something, broadens the mind and allows us to grow. But more than ever, I understood that we do set our own boundaries. We define the limits of our experiences. Our frame of mind defines our frame of reference and colours everything.
Not wanting to give in, I went back to confront the Big Apple and with an open mind came new and positive experiences. I left, fallen back in love again….