I remember playing with my friends in the creek behind my house, using sticks as swords and large rocks as thrones. Living in New Jersey was all this and more, and growing up there made me who I am. The Garden State was indeed an inviting place. However, moving away from my verdant suburban paradise to the City that Never Sleeps has changed my life, and in some ways ended the idea of never-ending adventure that was my childhood.
When people think of aliens, they usually think of E.T. or a funny looking green guy. Of course, as a child I also made these connections to aliens, but the population living on the other side of the river were also alien to me. Some of my friends in New Jersey thought New Yorkers were totally above our level, and others thought they were rude or criminals. I guess we were just afraid of people we had never met.
My first time taking the public bus in Brooklyn was nothing less than a disaster. I remember hearing my heart beat faster and faster as I realized I had taken the wrong bus, going in the opposite direction of my new apartment. As we turned the corner of a street I didn't know, the sense of being lost in this big city hit me like a tidal wave. Standing in the aisle looking through the window, staring at the passing buildings, made me feel alone in this big city.
Beginning to wonder if I would ever get home, the story that New Yorkers were aliens crept into my thoughts. I was too nervous to ask anyone for help and too scared to get off at any stop; thankfully, the bus driver noticed my bright red face and overheard my frantic voicemail left for my mother. Much to my surprise, she asked me if I was alright, and with much trepidation I walked up to the front of the bus.
She looked down at me with big smiling eyes and, after I had explained my desperate situation, told me which stop to get off at and which new bus to take home. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I think she could tell. Startled by the help I had gotten from this foreign being, I thanked her probably more than I should have. For the first time in my life I had seen a New Yorker as less of a monster and more of a human. Her response consisted of a bright beam and a friendly wave farewell.
At this point, I realized the first thing I had learned from this experience: stories can have real impacts on everyday events. My friends from back home used to warn me about how much I would change, or turn into a “city kid,” as they called it. I believe my friends and I always considered people living in the city to be so different from us because of the stories and articles that told us so. But now I know people from this great city are just like me and just like the benevolent bus driver.
When I left the bus, my newfound friend wished me luck. Later that night, when I had finally found my way home, I realized the second thing I had learned from this experience. Moving to Brooklyn has brought new challenges and responsibilities to my life that have forced me to grow up faster than I would have in the suburbs of my hometown. Living here is very different, and in some ways better, than living in New Jersey. I don't yet know if I am ready to take the big jump into adolescence, but getting lost in Brooklyn made me accept these new responsibilities, like knowing which bus to take.
My transition from backyard barbecues to take-out dinners has been difficult, but I am so proud to call New York my home. Though we might think the books and articles we read are simply fiction, they can form opinions and stereotypes without our realizing. I know now that I can never judge a whole city of diverse and interesting people based on stories and rumours. People are people no matter which state they wake up in every morning. Even though I have lived here now for close to two years, I am still surprised when I walk outside every morning to the breathtaking skyline that is my new home and wave hello to strangers on the street.
Jaden Flach is 13 years old and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Art might be her favorite thing in this world. Painting is her escape from reality, and she hopes you enjoy her paintings as much as she enjoys creating them.
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