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  • Ryan Manuel

A HEALING NEW YEAR

A slow paced Manhattan is difficult to imagine. The beginning of January usually calls for resolution-stuffed schedules. We do anything to fulfill what is often a false sense of productivity. Leaping through obstacles in below freezing temperatures while dodging midtown’s leftover confetti and post-holiday tourism is our January norm. New Yorkers play real life Mario Kart without the advantage of personal vehicles. In 2021, this is not the case.

New Year’s Day feels a bit underwhelming and out of place. If it was scheduled for January 20th or sometime during the second week of March, it might feel more like a milestone. We often think a new year will make our irritable misfortunes disappear. This year, after the ball drops over an empty Times Square, the only thing disappearing is Prosecco from my glass. “Congratulations,” I think, “we’ve made it to January 1st of March 2020.” Across the city, typical midnight festivities wrap up at 10pm as street restaurants close their makeshift huts. 2020 left the city that never sleeps with a bedtime - a foreign concept for a social metropolis. This temporary pre-renaissance version of New York is not ideal, but the closer I look, there is something beautifully healing about it.

Despite the lack of human interaction, there’s a unique sense of community that the past year created. I find myself more in tune with the rhythm of the city than I did when the city actually had rhythm. It makes me think about how people come together in times of need. About fourteen years ago, I was on a midtown street corner when I noticed people sprinting from the direction ahead. A woman with a stroller frantically approached my family. She was covered in debris and panic, crying for help. In early post-9/11 New York, seeing people running like this stops your heart. The world freezes, and you think the worst. My mother and a family friend helped clean ashes off the faces of the woman and her child as we tried to figure out what was going on. We later learned there was a steam pipe explosion on 41st and Lexington. The explosion was forty stories high, causing many injuries and a fatality. That day was one of the first times I felt New York pause for a moment - a feeling I've revisited a lot over the past ten months. People dropped everything to protect others. When hyperemotional events occur, New York has a routine of stopping its pulse, confronting reality, and easing into a state of awareness or healing. There’s a universal energy that snaps us out of our robotic mindset. You feel it in your gut like a sixth sense.

The new year parallels our current state of healing. It’s fascinating to see how New Yorkers have suddenly become more aware of the human experience. People changed their lives to protect others, demanded justice in the streets, cheered for heroes - the list continues. It’s challenging to look at the big picture when we drown ourselves in cynical memes and negativity, but there is so much good in this city. New York might have paused, but its heart never stopped beating. Check its pulse if you’ve lost it. I promise, it’s there. It’s beautiful. It’s healing.

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