Intimate Moments / The Color Violet.


Purple, White, and Red

Mark Rothko, 1953.

I’m a violet.

At least, that’s what NYU calls all of their current undergraduates, graduates as well as alumni.

In a sense, it’s quite nice to be referred to that way, as it’s similar to being accepted to some sort of exclusive (yet, okay, expensive) club. I’m aware that rankings are more or less made up (or paid by universities to increase their scores to a certain extent) and for the ego boost, but hey, it’s ranked 29th or 30th in national universities, respectively from two different sources. Sometimes we all need that extra little feel good factor in our lives, so today I’m a shameless about it. I’m calling this having some “school spirit”.

Unfortunately, as much love and occasional loyalty (it really depends on the aspect and angle over here, because sometimes the school administration & board are pains in the ass, but I think this is an universal issue) I possess for the university, my love for the city itself is undoubtedly a lot greater for the institute. I’m definitely not apologetic about that at all. In fact, a significant reason why I have affinity towards my school is because of its location.

New York is not an easy city, and it’s definitely not for everyone.

It will chew you out and spit you out when given the opportunity – and there are more a handful of those occasions that arise continuously. It could be the rent, the salary that barely covers the cost of living, the lack of space, the absolutely rancid, outdated, grimy, and delaying subway, the abundance of “fuckboys” and “gold-diggers / sugar babies” or “creeps” (but fret not – there’s always someone decent out there & being single isn’t an issue at all, it’s so much better being by yourself and carefree instead of hanging in any type of toxic relationship – lessons learned), the bedbugs and the rats, the drunk homeless people who throws profanities at you…point is: there is an array of reasons in existence.

People (other than tourists, probably) in general have a bit less patience and are a lot colder compared to other places. Residents or locals tend to roughen, toughen, and wise up at least a bit to survive and / or thrive. There is still the rare glimpse of hospitality and friendliness though, if you look carefully.

Perhaps this is why New York induces so much controversy. There’s the black, then there’s the white. There’s the love and hate, the like and dislike, but nothing that’s really “indigo“, nothing in between. Most people tend to pick a side. Either way, with all of the visible flaws and apparent deal-breakers for some, there I was, and still am: seeing red and in love.

Greenwich Village: 10003, 10011, 10012, 10014.

That was the first neighborhood I familiarized myself with in the Big Apple.

I remember my initial impression of my “campus”. For those of you who are not familiar with New York, the only university on Manhattan island that has an “actual college campus” (whatever that means – I’m quoting my brother here, because I’ve never been to any other schools other than Parsons, LIM, FIT, and one of the CUNY) is Columbia University.

I suppose it’s true though. NYU is mainly composed of buildings, and they pretty much only stand out with the violet and white torch flag hanging up high.

I don’t mind a single bit. I don’t really feel like I’ve missed out even with the unconventional college experience. To be honest, I’m not really sure if I can fit in or adjust to the traditional type. I’m sure I’ll figure out a way like I always do, even when during that instance my repeated thought for the millionth time was that I was definitely screwed.

Sometimes I waver between being an optimist and a pessimist. I don’t consider myself a pessimist, though, despite possessing the capability to think of the worst case scenarios (and somewhat believe that it will happen at the back of my mind, even though the logical side of my brain scoffs at the possibility of them actually coming into fruition). It’s more of a defense mechanism derived from some sort of anxiety that I haven’t quite figured out about myself.

Regardless, it doesn’t matter. There is barely a presence of negativity and toxicity in my life at the moment, and I am quite grateful of that as I have been actively working towards being in a better place.

Not go to on an intentional tangent, but maybe aphorisms such as “birds of a feather flock together” do have their appropriate truths in them. My personal favorite is one in my mother language, Mandarin Chinese, though, which is: 近朱者赤 近墨者黑 – this translates to “those who stay close to vermillion will be dyed red, those who stay close to ink will be dyed black”. It definitely sounds better in the native tongue.

As I familiarize myself with the different areas of the concrete jungle of the world, some of my perceptions and experiences changed me. Some of them small, some of them big. Some of them significant, some of them plain.

I never want to step into Times Square ever again, despite it being one of my first and anticipated destination to visit in New York.

I considered the subway map as an uncrackable labyrinth before, but now I can navigate to my desired destination accurately and as naturally as breathing while reading my book (or on occasion, napping) – just like a native New Yorker. Not to mention squeezing into the train during rush hour and / or running into the train just in the nick of time…with heels on – those happened quite frequently, too.

Seeing odd public spectacles, such as the street artist / performer who used to frequent Astor Place, is regarded as a norm nowadays. Some of the actions that made me stop, stare, or even gawk ceased to have that type of influence anymore. I’m a little more anchored and significantly calmer as I got exposed to more. It’s great to be cool and collected and unfazed, but the trade off is that I lose a little bit of awe and a touch of spark and wonder.

It suppose it’s a path towards personal growth. I still do get surprised and fascinated, so there’s that bright side.

And perhaps the most important and consistent lesson that I’ve gleaned from living in New York was the resiliency and ability to coexist with rejection, failure, and the worst of personal pains.

There are so many chances that are just right there in New York. To be fair though, most of them are only for looking and not reaching nor touching, even though you can and should definitely try. The unfortunate truth is that you’re most likely not going to be able to succeed unless you have the personal connections or requirements or specific skills. One of the most significant piece of wisdom that reality has served me is that sometimes it really is up to who you know to get your foot in the door, and not necessarily what you know.

The population of New York City has exceeded eight million. It’s incredible and hard to believe how many people are spread throughout the five boroughs. People are bound to fight and reach for the same achievements and goals that you are staring at greedily and potentially working towards.

It was a hard pill to swallow, but the city’s ruthlessness has made me grow. Not without pain and doubt at the time, though. There were a lot of self discovery as well as searching. I’ve hit walls and ran into dead ends while thinking that they were the path to go. It’s so easy to be proven wrong over and over and over again.

We’re such creature of habits, it’s hard to adjust and reflect on our inadequacies and mistakes and take accountability for them. Pointing fingers and blaming others is such an easy act, that a lot of us chose to do that in the past and actively still do the same in the present and will continue to do so in the future. It’s fine, it’s simply human nature.

New York doesn’t allow that.

Despite situations that introduce and pull people into an indigo spiral, New York always showed me the black and the white (with the help of some hindsight). It’s honest, and sometimes too brutally so, but it’s what I want and need to hear so I can grow. It’s the type of truth that I need to know to keep me grounded.

So today, right at this moment, as I stared at the screen to scan my flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco earlier to find my gate number, my eyes lingered a bit longer towards destination New York. I would, without hesitation, change my flight to California to New York if I could. Always.

And if I weren’t sure before this instant, I am now. Once a violet, always a violet, and being a violet helped me meet one of my greatest loves in my life (that shaped me more than significantly) – New York.

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