It’s no secret that the easiest way to get around NYC is via the subway.
I’m not unfamiliar with using subways as a means of transportation, but I was a late bloomer when it came to subways and general public transportation. The first time I ever took a subway, I was 16 years old in Paris, France. In addition, I didn’t start actively using public transportation back home until I was about 20. There are subways that I have taken in Center City Philly (since that’s the only place that there really is a subway), but even then, I only took one subway line. I took that one subway line, and only ventured out on the others in the past few months.
I just got comfortable with taking subways in Philly, and now I’m in a brand new city using public transportation. Of all cities, I’m taking the subways in New York City.
Those are an entirely different animal.
I’m always the girl that knows where she’s going. In fact, I’m usually the one giving directions to others that are trying to find their way to a destination. However, over these past 4 days, there’s been a bit of a role reversal, and I find myself in the position where I’m in need of guidance.
I know I’m here to learn about acting, but I think the things that I’m learning in acting class and my experience navigating the subway is, in effect, causing me to face a fear: being vulnerable.
When you’re lost, you’re at the mercy of whomever has given you direction until you can start to stand on your own.
I know New Yorkers have a reputation for being unfriendly, but anyone that I have asked for directions has been wonderfully helpful. They might be New Yorkers, but I think everyone at some point can related to getting lost.
A woman in a booth told me how to get to the train I needed to take to my temporary domicile. I also quickly found out that the train wasn’t, in fact, the 2/3 train, like it was a fraction. The writer of the email was telling me that I could take train 2 or 3 to my destination. When I got to my stop, I realized that I had never asked what street the apartments were on. Just when I thought I would be sleeping with the pigeons, I was able to figure out the street, but still didn’t know where to go. I asked an older woman for directions. She guided me rightly, and I arrived sweaty, yet happy. And… in yet another instance, a hispanic woman with a baby showed us how to take the current train line in the other direction without paying again.
In all of these different situations, I was the one in need. I was the one that was dependent. I don’t like that feeling because you’re exposed. If someone leads you wrongly, you’re still in a bad place… maybe an even worse state than your previous state. Worse still is when you open yourself up and get your feelings hurt. In this case, everything was sorted out.
Now, I’m better at navigating the subway. I’ve even managed to take it on my own a couple of times and venture out alone without feeling like I would turn up dead in a manhole cover. I was even able to give direction to someone else. That surprised me, and still does when I think of it. Even in a city that isn’t my own, I must’ve looked like I knew enough to be helpful.
At first, it scared me to ever ask questions or ask for directions if I was truly lost. Now, it’s just what I do. I can’t be shy about putting myself out there; if I need help, I need to ask.
Not everyone is unkind. Even in a city, you can find mercy from people when you’re trying to find your way. They are people, after all… people that understand vulnerability, and how scary a place that can be. I think I’ve said “Um, excuse me…” more to total strangers in the past 4 days than I have in a very long time. If I continue to travel the way that I would like it, it certainly won’t be the last time.