Today I went exploring. That’s something I haven’t done in a long time.
Usually I stay inside my small area of NYC in Herald Square, stuck in my routine. Each day I come off the train at Penn Station, walk with head looking straight ahead and not looking at the world around me (God forbid I make eye contact with anyone). Then I whirl through through the revolving door escaping from the hustle and bustle of the city and into the stress and mayhem that awaits me as I open my inbox (mailbox nearing maximum capacity again) with my cup of coffee in my open space office environment. Then 7 hours later it’s back through the revolving doors, running to catch a train and back home again. So exploring was something I never had time for in my day to day routine, or something I thought I didn’t have time for anymore, especially now as a working mom. But maybe the explorer inside me has never died and is instead springing to life once more. Trying to get out of a rut and feeling “stuck” I recently realized I needed to make small changes in my life to find myself again. Not just as a writer, or a mom, or wife or media executive… but finding myself again and what I truly want out of life.
So this morning started out as usual, except I wanted to make a small change and do something different today. But what?
And then I thought of the High Line.
It was something that for years I had said I wanted to visit and see but for every excuse and reason in the book I never went there. It isn’t too far from my office, with an opening on 11th Avenue and 34th street, and I became determined that today was going to be the day I visited the High Line. That I was going to be a “tourist” and take pictures and just enjoy something new for a change. Maybe that was what I needed.
I had to pick my daughter up from daycare after work, so the only time I could go to the High Line was during my lunch hour. I checked my inbox in the morning and by some small miracle there were no meetings on my calendar from 12-1pm. I got excited. Today is going to be the day. But then I saw the weather saying “Heat Wave”. Ughh… did I want to go exploring in 90 degree heat plus humidity? And then as the day progressed someone put a meeting on my calendar from 1-2pm. The High Line was not going to happen. I was kidding myself.
But then I woke up! If today was the last day of my life, did I want to see the High Line or talk competitive spend in a meeting where I would want to tear my hair out? And hey… what is a little heat? It will be by the East River so there should be a breeze. I started putting myself first and telling the negative voices in my head to take a hike. I moved the meeting to later in the afternoon and then ran through the revolving doors and took off down 34th Street to go exploring Manhattan.
Yeah it was hot out, but not as hot as I had imagined. So I kept walking, grateful I was wearing flats instead of heels as I started making the trek down 5 avenues to reach 11th. I started feeling something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt proud and excited, like a child experiencing something for the first time. And despite the loud noises and the construction and the obnoxious tourists that usually drive me crazy during my daily commute, I took it all in and enjoyed it as part of the experience!
Strange but as I made my way down 34th street, it felt almost like a pilgrimage. It was like I was finding myself again little by little with every step I took along this journey, except it wasn’t Machu Picchu or the Road to Santiago. I walked past the church, St. Michael, that I had visited for Ash Wednesday a year ago when the priest asked me, a stranger to their church, to be lector that day. And I kept passing signs that seemed to be placed on the side of the road for me and for me alone to see. “Sometimes you need a push to take a walk to the park” was scrawled out in a beautiful mural. Then I spotted, “What’s your focus”. Then I passed a sign along a brick wall that really resonated with me. It read, “A Pioneer On the Brink of Something New”.
Each of these signs made me realize I was on the right path; that I was a pioneer still discovering myself and who I am and that maybe the best things are yet to come… and the best me is ready to burst and be powerful and share what I have to say with the world. It was quite uplifting and I kept walking, nearly at the High Line, the beautiful East River sparkling in front of me, a whimsical sail boat floating in the distance and I felt so excited that I was nearly there.
And then there was construction blocking my path to the ramp.
Devastated, I started fearing that maybe it was closed or blocked and I wouldn’t be able to make it. But then I heard “Excuse me, Miss. Can you buy me a hot dog?”
I looked up and there was a homeless man in ragged black clothes on this scorching hot day, sweating and holding out his hand to me. The voice in my head said, “Don’t make eye contact.” “Keep walking.” “You need to get to the High Line and don’t have a lot of time.”
But instead of listening to that inner voice, I listened to my heart and said, “Sure.”
We headed over to the hot dog stand and I looked in my wallet and had a $20 bill. The man at the hot dog stand stared at me and said, “Are you paying for him?” I shook my head and handed the man the $20 bill. I said to him, “Here, buy whatever you want.” He thanked me and shook my hand and I was so happy to have helped this man, like maybe this journey was not only for me but to help him get a good lunch on a hot day. Small changes, small steps. But maybe it’s for a great meaning… a greater purpose.
And then I saw that the path opened up through the construction and before me was the ramp leading to the High Line entrance.
I followed the old freight train tracks as I entered the park and it was like I was in a different world, a combination of the past and present intertwined with high rise buildings being built to my left, traffic jams below me, and yet those tracks built in the 1800’s still stood through the test of time, with plants and flowers blooming through the destruction when it had been abandoned in the mid 20th century. And here it was rejuvenated with new life, nature surviving through the modern day and living despite being abandoned. I sat there watching the river and the blue sky and it felt like I had been through penance, finding my inner wisdom and what my heart has been calling out to me to do all this time. I felt free, not trapped and not afraid as much as I had been about failure, and not living the life I was meant to live. It’s these small changes and steps that will help us get to where we are meant to be, as long as we’re not afraid to push ourselves to take a walk to the park, focus on what matters, and be the pioneer of our own lives.
What will I explore tomorrow? Endless possibilities.