Leaving Manhattan and the Journey Home: Part 1

11112480_1001065049904679_311166390790513244_oIt’s been one week since I arrived in Howell, fresh from my freshman year at New York University, and far too long since I’ve written an update.

This represents my first official summer post, and my first under the blog title, “Misadventures in the Mitten”. (I’m waiting patiently for my URL to expire so I can update it. Until then, bear with me. I’ll own the Misadventures in the Big Apple URL for another year. You have that long to get used to typing the new one. Be prepared.)

Let me start by telling you all about my last weekend in Manhattan, and how Austin ended up on 27th and 7th with an empty suitcase in tow.11180301_1003638556313995_4824207280135465901_n

In the midst of the hectic nightmare that transferring schools became back in April, my family and I had one major issue that needed to be resolved. How in the world was I going to get home with all of my personal belongings without one of my parents having to miss several days of work to pick me up?

The original plan involved a storage unit in New York and a suitcase full of necessities that would come with me on the bus ride to Michigan. However, now that I was coming home for good, the situation complicated itself.

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Austin was, thankfully, the answer to the problem. While talking to an extremely frustrated Cassie on the phone, he offered to take an extra suitcase, buy a bus ticket, and take the 12-hour road trip to Manhattan to pick me up. With that in mind, we planned a five day- four night trip in which he would stay in my dorm and explore the city (he’d never been anywhere bigger than Ann Arbor for an extended period of time).

I wish one blog post could fully explain my excitement for the weekend that Austin showed up. The last two weeks of school were held solely together by the glue that that daydream became.

Let me explain. It’s more than just a “relationship thing”. For almost nine months, I was completely alone in a huge city. While Mara and I became close, I left feeling that I had made very few true “friends” in my time there. There’s nothing worse than exploring Manhattan with no one to share it with except, perhaps, finding incredible new places and having nobody next to you to say, “Oh my god, how cool is that?” 

As soon as I knew I would finally have a visitor of my own, I filled the weekend with a slew of plans. There were so many things I’d been waiting to show a loved one from Howell and, finally, here was my chance.

Austin arrived on a Friday evening and stayed until the following Tuesday afternoon. This…is the story of that weekend.

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My phone rang at 3:45am sharp. I jumped out of my skin, answered, and checked my text messages as I listened to the frantic voice on the other end of the line.

“Dad’s gonna be late.”

My heart leapt to my throat. Late? Austin’s bus was scheduled to depart from Toledo at 5:50am. The next trip to Manhattan wouldn’t start for another 24 hours after. What did he mean late? 

“What are you talking about? It’s only 3:45. Wasn’t he supposed to pick you up at 4:15?”

“Yeah, but he hasn’t answered his phone. What if he isn’t awake?”

“Calm down. He’ll be there. Text Jack and see what he says.”

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Don’t worry, readers. He got there.

The next hour was a mess of text messages and brief phone calls. I didn’t quite stay awake until the bus left Toledo, but I stayed awake long enough to know they were going to make it. As soon as I felt certain, I collapsed back into sleep.

I guess you could say the rest of the afternoon passed uneventfully. Though I did get a call around 2pm, in which Austin informed me that his bus was stopped. Apparently, the driver left a passenger at a rest stop about sixty miles back. They spent twenty minutes deciding whether or not to turn around but, unwilling to risk fifty or sixty unhappy customers instead of one, the company sent a car to pick up the stranded passenger, and the bus continued on schedule.

Austin finally got to Manhattan at 7pm. I half-ran to the bus stop, running late because I had been on the phone with, well, him. I met him right on time, but he wasn’t in the best shape.

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Like I said, Austin has never been anywhere bigger than Ann Arbor for an extended period of time. This was New York City. The heart of New York City. He couldn’t keep his eyes focused on anything. There was just too much stuff. 

I never realized how comfortable I became in comparison to the tourists in the city until I was practically dragging my boyfriend through the streets while he clung to my arm. But don’t worry, he picked up fast. By the time we left, you wouldn’t have known the difference between the two of us. I think it must be like that for everyone the first time they see something that gigantic and that hectic.

After checking into my dorm, we wandered off in the direction of the High Line. If you haven’t already read, the High Line is a converted above-ground train track that is covered in vegetation, artwork, and plays host to some of the most beautiful views in Manhattan. It’s one of my favorite places in the city, and Austin absolutely loved it.

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But, of course, this blog is called “Misadventures” for a reason. Something had to go wrong. And it did.

First of all, it started raining. Well, sprinkling mostly. We had plans to go to the pier afterward, and I was getting depressed. Austin told me he was still willing to go, even in the rain. But I felt like the night was going to be ruined.

As I was responding to a Facebook comment moments later, I walked right into a concrete bench. Both of my knees were severely botched. Austin had to guide me down the nearest stairs, whisk me off to a CVS, and buy me $5.00 Band Aids and a huge bottle of water. At first, I was miserable. But by the time he was putting the Band Aids on my knees like I was five, I was laughing the whole thing off.

It figures I would do something that stupid. My knees forced me to limp like an idiot for the rest of the weekend.

We did end up going to the pier. I think I have some pictures of it that I’ll be able to post. It took nearly an hour to find it but, once we finally did, it was worth the wait.

Around 11, we got a cab, went back to the dorm, ordered pizza, and crashed.

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Saturday

We began Austin’s first full-day in Manhattan by exploring Washington Square Park. I showed him the library (which was apparently being cleaned, because there was no one there), played chess with him in the square, dragged him to the “Puppy!” store (where we hung out with a very depressed little puppy who apparently has some anxiety around new people), and took him to eat at one of our campus dining halls.

Finished by noon, we decided to check out Strand (the used bookstore I wrote about a while back). Outside on the $1.50 shelves, we found an incredibly useful Java textbook (Austin is studying computer science). Inside on the bargain shelves, we found the full works of William Shakespeare in a heavyset, leather-bound book for $12. Needless to say, Austin was pretty excited.

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Afterward, we went to the Halloween store that I’ve been avoiding for 9 months. And then, Austin found a card store that had practically everything he has ever been interested in featured throughout the room. You should have seen his face. Actually, you can. I took a picture.

When the shopping was finished, we went back to the dorm and got ready for the Mets game-

Oh. I should explain that part.

About two weeks before his arrival, Austin begged me to take him to a science museum in Flushing, Queens. The only issue was, admission was $14 per person and, get this, it was a children’s museum. But I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I bit my lip and agreed to take him.

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Fast forward another week and through a very puzzling game of hangman, and I was told that the whole thing was a farce. Austin had actually bought us tickets to the Mets game in Citi Field for our four month (which is located in, you guessed it, Flushing).

The game itself was a lot of fun. We were given free fedoras as we entered the stadium and, even though we were sitting in the upper-balcony seats, we had an amazing view. Despite the fact that it rained and we ended up moving farther up to be underneath the overhang of the field, we still had a great time. The Mets kicked butt, too. We won 14-2. It was a good season to see them play.

After the game ended, everyone in the field either piled back into their cars or into the subway system. You can imagine the ride back into Manhattan was pretty miserable. I’ve never been on a subway ride that dramatically overcrowded, and we were on it for 45 minutes. Did I mention I get claustrophobic?

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Overall, though, we had an awesome second day. There were so many experiences in New York that I missed out on because I felt like I had no one to share it with. Once Austin got there, it stopped feeling so lonely (but it didn’t stop being too hot and too crowded…we’ll get to that in the next post).

Now. In the interest of time and avoiding a 3000 word post, I will be continuing on Part 2. See you then 😉

Thanks, as always, for being my followers. It’s great to be back.

-Cassie

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On Homesickness and Mistakes

I think I’ve had enough experience in this particular area to write a book. Maybe multiple books. But today, I read a passage in a Stephen King book that really struck me. Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me that he managed to beat me to the punch.

“She had been drawn to the city like a thousand other girls…she got a job selling perfume in one of the big department stores and enrolled in acting classes. She was smart and terribly determined, this girl – her will was pure steel through and through – but she was as human as anyone else. She was lonely, too. Lonely in  way that perhaps only single girls fresh from small Midwestern towns know. Homesickness is not always a vague, nostalgic, almost beautiful emotion, although that is somehow the way we always seem to picture it in our mind. It can be a terribly keen blade, not just a sickness in metaphor but in fact as well. It can change the way one looks at the world; the faces one seems in the street look not just indifferent but ugly…perhaps even malignant. Homesickness is a real sickness – the ache of an uprooted plant.”

Leave it to Stephen King to make me feel like my discomfort and heartache is the most rational feeling in the world.

He’s right, you know. Homesickness isn’t an illness for the weak. I’ve come to accept that. So I’ve decided to write a post for anyone who left home after high school and realized it wasn’t panning out. That something just wouldn’t “click”.

Maybe it was a chance to chase your dreams; to escape your small town and see the world. Maybe you saw it as your one opportunity to get out. To be free. To show everyone back at home that you were something more than those who chose to stay.

Maybe it was a practical decision. Scholarship money granted you access to an elite university and, whether you wanted to leave home or not, it was “the right thing to do”. You’d worked your entire life to reap the benefits of our poorly designed educational system (you’d “won the game”, as it were), scored the best on all of the standardized tests, memorized facts until your brain turned to mush, and forgot everything you learned after the testing days passed. As a person, you didn’t feel particularly better than anyone else, but the system encouraged you to believe that you were anyway. So you left.

Whatever the reason, you aren’t at home anymore. You’re in a different city, at some big-name college, pursuing a degree and maybe beginning to get the sinking feeling that you don’t belong. It doesn’t feel like high school did after the jitters went away. It feels somehow utterly wrong. And no matter how much you try to shake it, you know somewhere inside you that you’ve never felt this lonely in all your life. And, even worse, you know that it isn’t going to go away because you made the wrong decision.

Everything starts to slip away from you. Nothing makes sense anymore. Every grade, test, and class you’ve ever acquired in your academic resume has led you to this point in your life, and everyone has expectations for you. How can you let down the people who were so proud of you? How can you admit that you, of all people, made an error? Pressed the wrong button on the calculator?

Admit it. You made a mistake. 

And now you have to find a way to open the back, detach the dead batteries, and plug in the new ones. Maybe you got some of the answers wrong, and maybe you can’t figure out how to erase that damn history column, but you sure as hell know how to solve the equations now that you’re thinking clearly again.

Leave in the dead batteries, and the whole thing might just explode.

I guess what I’m saying, to anyone who cares to listen, is that it’s okay to admit you made the wrong choice. So many students turn “transfer” into a taboo word, maybe because they’re too afraid to listen to the voices in their own head. It’s not taboo. It’s your life, and unless you want to spend the rest of it wondering how it would have been different if you’d been brave enough to take the leap, just take it. 

It’s easy to impress others. That doesn’t take bravery or strength. It’s easy to follow the system and pretend that it works. It’s easy to ride the waves like there’s no sharks in the water below you, because you think the audience won’t understand if you get dragged under.

But I think you’d be surprised. Because when people truly support you, they always support you. No matter what.

Just a few thoughts for a Tuesday morning.

Have a wonderful week,

Cassie