Dear Whoever Wants to Listen,

I’ve been living in New York City for three months. I can’t believe it either. Three months in the Big Apple has seemed like a long time. I’ve had my ups. I’ve had my downs, but regardless of this prolonged and sometimes nauseating rollercoaster ride, I know I’ll look back on my residency in NYC and be glad I did it. Is it lonely? Sometimes. Is it scary? Not really. Is it exciting? Definitely. I’ve learned a lot, not just about myself, but about people. We humans? We’re WEIRD. But I love that. The other day, I saw a guy about my age walking a pig. Now that I think about it, I’ve seen a whole manner of strange pets being walked. On my way to work, I passed a woman holding a leash, the end of which was wrapped tightly around the shell of a turtle. A turtle. Already, after three months, I’ve become accustomed to these kinds of oddities. People wearing the entire rainbow of colors and more. Old men shouting obscenities on the subway because that’s just what you do. I’ve been graced with songs by would-be artists and singers on my way home from work. They’re always gone just as fast as they came. I’ve been late getting to the office in the morning because a woman, after boarding the train, promptly began to undress herself, right there in front of all those people too proud to admit that this was going to be the best part of their day. The train stood still until the authorities arrived to remove her. She’d had enough “removing” for one day, don’t you think?

What else? I’ve learned how to make pourover coffee. That’s exciting! I’m drinking a cup now in fact, brewed from the last bit of Stumptown beans we had left in the cupboard. Never fear; I bought more this afternoon. I’ve participated in my first Ramadan… That’s right, I’ve come to know the beauty of fasting. And it wasn’t without difficulty. Strangely enough, it was easier in the beginning. As the month wore on, however, I grew increasingly frustrated at not having the freedom to grab a bagel from the shop just downstairs whenever I wanted—at having to watch my coworkers down cold brews in the morning as I looked on envious.

Side note: Everybody stop using plastic straws. They’re bad for the environment. Paper straws are the new thing. Get on that train. 

Anyway, Eid (the end of Ramadan) is Friday and I’m feeling a mix of both disappointment and relief. The first because it has made a ritual out of dinners at home (iftar), sitting down at 8:00pm to eat the well-deserved food and gulp down as much water and coffee as you can knowing tomorrow is another day of fasting. And the second because…well, food is food. I feel I say that, though, with much more ceremony than I might have been able to before. Food isn’t just food. It’s a gift. Sustenance. An avenue by which we connect with our neighbors. An opportunity, and most importantly, a privilege. I don’t know hunger like some people do, but this should have given me a taste nonetheless (ironic pun recognized but unintended). It’s a great exercise, too, in checking your ego—forcing it to submit to a will reminiscent of that which is beyond our own paltry existence, and not it’s own. Not to mention, I learned a lot about food in the process—where it comes from, what makes it halal, how it affects my body, etc. Milk for instance, you gotta be careful with that. Meat? Just…know where you’re getting it from. Fruit, I buy mostly organic. I guess the same goes for vegetables. Is it more expensive? Yes, but that’s an expense I’m willing to make. Do I still eat out too much? Most definitely.

What else? I paid for a gym membership. Have I been? Nope. But you better believe I’m staying on top of those membership fees just in case I have it in me one day. To be fair, I haven’t been eating. Can you expect me to work out after a whole day of no food? Some people can do it. Me? Nah.

Anyway, long story short… I’m still alive, taking my life day by day, and at night, tucking my baby blanket close to my heart and pretending I’m a kid again and my mom is in the next room. I can’t imagine that ever going away. Just today I texted my mom that I missed home. And she said: “Home misses you too, sweet Steph. But Home is also in awe of your independence!” And then added: “Natural progression – barf”

And to that I say, Natural progression, shmatural shrogression. 

Sincerely,

Stephanie

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