It was a February when I first stepped foot in New York City. The streets were crowded and dreary, and even though I had my longest, thickest winter coat, I was cold.
But I was also excited. This was New York City, after all! Bundled in the best winter clothes my Californian closet could provide, I traipsed from Battery Park (hello, Lady Liberty) through Lower Manhatten and eventually up 5th Ave. I did my best impersonation of a New Yorker: dressed in black, I set my pace to a brisk trot and only made eye contact when completely necessary.
I absolutely loved it. Yes, the streets were dirty. The people were solemn and the stores were all packed to the brim. And it was cold. Yet, one thing outweighed all of the chaos and chill: the beauty and discomfort of being somewhere new.
I was in New York for work–attending a conference at a local church to observe their strategy and organization. My host was a church member who kindly invited me into her home in the upper, upper streets of Manhatten. Walking the entire length of the city didn’t exactly appeal to her, so this particular day it was just me and my camera.
I didn’t have any specific sightseeing plans. After solo-touring Paris, London, Madrid, Ghent, and numerous other cities in between, I felt I had a handle on my day alone in New York.
What I didn’t account for, however, was the overwhelming nature of a North American city. My travels so often take me overseas that I had forgotten how accommodating European cities are to tourists. And pedestrians. And people in general.
Without a plan walking around New York, I was trotting past unknown gems and businesses, blindly missing side-streets full of hidden potential.
By the time I reached the Empire State Building, I was in a state of exasperation. Where were all the cute coffee shops and unique bookstores? Had I missed the entire city while walking through the–well–city?
In a moment of desperation, I walked through the heavy doors of the ESB and bought my ticket to the top. I may be missing everything else, I thought, by I sure as heck won’t miss this.
The funny thing about life is that it has a way of showing you exactly what you need to see. The view from the top of the building is stunning–breathtaking, really. The city sits in a grid beneath the building, fanning out in neat lines in every direction. I could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance, rivers and bridges, and building upon building. I snapped and shot and stared and pondered.
Just before leaving, I decided to take a peek through the binoculars stationed at every corner of the rooftop. I dropped a coin in the slot and then I noticed it, a little red knob with the words, “Turn to clear vision.”
Every once in a while, life hands us a moment of clarity, a little bit of encouragement to get us through our day. The phrase was simple–turn this knob to focus the binoculars. But the reality is, those words apply to anything, and everything.
Life is messy. It’s not always a brisk walk up 5th ave. We all have unfulfilled dreams, ideas we can’t seem to get off the ground and setbacks that make us question our every decision. We all have days where we feel like we’re missing the very place we’re trying to explore.
The solution is as simple as the instructions on the binoculars at the top of the Empire State Building: turn to clear vision. If you are feeling stuck, change directions. If you are feeling stagnant, look to the left or the right.
And if you are overwhelmed with the amount of dreams or goals you haven’t accomplished, perhaps it is time to stop looking so far ahead as if tomorrow should be today.
Turn your sight to what is in front of you; the task, the people, and the challenge at hand. Turn aside from your worry or your stress and clear your vision.
Thank you, New York, for the enlightening walk that February day. The view really was much better from above.