I recently rediscovered an old post that I was going to share two years ago. Now that I’m happily living in Korea, it feels appropriate to post it here. The juxtaposition is striking.
It begins below.
Walking around New York at night is an odd experience because it never truly feels like nighttime. Manhattan, true to its reputation, is a constant bustle of activity and noise (even when you drift away from the tourism hell that is Times Square), with honking cars and people screaming out the stress they’ve kept bottled up until 3 a.m. Even out here in Queens, the neighborhoods don’t feel sleepy. Powered down, but not completely off.
New York’s overachieving nature can take most of the credit for this restlessness, I think. None of us feel rested because we aren’t supposed to be resting. We live in the city that’s defined by its Ambition — that great pillar of achievement. And Ambition implies work, and struggle, and crawling up out of the muck. There isn’t much time to sleep when you’re constantly scrabbling to survive. Just ask the subway rats.
Another thing we have in common with the subway rats: neither of us ever bother to look up. Especially at night.
I come from Lincoln, Nebraska — Nebraska’s capital, and therefore a large place…by Nebraskan standards. It’s not large enough to blot out the night sky. Not enough pollution there.
Once, I went camping with friends up in Valentine, Nebraska, where it felt like we had traveled to the edge of the world. The night sky there was incredible. Rich blues and purples mixing with the black emptiness of space. The Milky Way stretching across the expanse. And more stars. Countless stars.
Meanwhile, in New York, the stars are hidden. As I walk around Queens this evening, I count three stars in total. And….actually, one of those stars is actually a plane.
The lack of stars here makes it easy to forget how small you are in comparison to everything. Even in NYC, the city known for making people feel small and unimportant, it’s easy to develop a sense of tunnel vision. Upstate New Yorkers joke that city folk forget about the world beyond NYC, and they’re right. We live in The Greatest City In The World, and therefore think we’re special. We may spend most of our evenings eating pre-packaged foods whilst using our roommate’s HBO account because we can’t afford our own…instead of throwing parties at our Manhattan penthouse after attending 6 Broadway shows (one for each night of the week, because we’re worth it) but, god dammit, we’re here, and that’s so much better than being there, right?
The trouble with this attitude is that there contains many possibilities as well. Stars may remind me of how small I am, but they also point out my potential. The universe is vast — there’s so many places I could go, so many things I could do. There’s more to life than here, even if that here is New York.
To put it plainly — I miss stars.
And that is why, after about two years, I have decided to leave New York.
If you’re feeling restless tonight and have the means to do so, take a minute and go outside. And look up.
Keep looking up, and thanks for reading,