Looking out the window as the bus slowly leaving New York City, I have this feeling that is strangely familiar, the one I always get when I board the plane leaving Vietnam, or South Africa, or any place that I've just had a wonderful time. It is a bittersweet feeling of knowing that your vacation has come to an end, and that you will have to go back to your usual routine of going to school, to work, of studying late at night and getting hardly any sleep at all. Yet at the same time, you are excited to be back to your routine, to your comfortable room and all the friends who may, or may not be, just as happy to see you as you are to see them. Thus, the thought that I always use to comfort myself while travelling alone: "If you love a place, you leave it."
First thing first, I am now officially 22. Happy Birthday to me! To be honest, I don't feel like 22 is a bad age at all and I definitely don't want to stay "Forever 21". 22 is a scary age, to me at least. It is the age that I will have to start making real decision about my career and my future. It is not just about partying and enjoying college life anymore. 22 isn't reckless and adventurous. 22 can't do whatever the heck it wants. It has to think about 23, 24, 25, the twenties after that, and even the 30s. However, it is still young enough to not just settle down into a boring life. I personally believe that everything from 22 to 25 will most likely determine everything after that. People can disagree with me, of course.
The point is, I am happy to be 22. It sounds much older, sadly. But I am excited, and nervous, to see what I can do and will do.
Unlike every other year, this is actually the first year I spend my birthday in the US and away from my family. My parents know that the ocean and new places are one of my most favorite things in the world. So they always try to take me to somewhere nice by the ocean for my birthday. This year, since they are not here, I decided to treat myself to a short trip to NYC. I have only been here very briefly for a few times, but never get to actually check out the city like I want to. As a Sex and the City hardcore fan, I also have the biggest crush on the city. Not only the fashion and the luxurious life, there is something more about the city that I felt like I would love it instantly. Thus, I was extremely excited to finally meet my crush and go on a date with him ;) It was also the very first trip that I spent on with my own money. All the extra hours working hard for the past few weeks were gone within such a short period of time, but it is the best feeling ever to travel with what I have worked hard for.
I spent a few days in NJ visiting Miki. She was one of my very good friends in high school. She took care of me better than anyone ever could, and that stays true until now. We didn't do many exciting things like partying or going out to various restaurants. We went to movies, got frozen yogurt at midnights, went shopping, laid in the sun, etc. I needed all the relaxing activities. Her parents are the friendliest people. Without barely knowing any English, they were still able to make me feel instantly at home. I was treated with delicious homemade breakfast and dinner, and was taken care of so well that I didn't even need to leave the bed for water, yet anything.
Monday morning, I set out to my big's house to spend a few days with her in Brooklyn. I treated her to a massage for her birthday. It wasn't the nicest and fanciest massage place I have been too, but it was one of the great massages that I have had. The lady definitely did know what she was doing. I feel slightly bad that my big didnt enjoy hers as much and I was I could have treated her to something much nicer. If she ever comes visit Vietnam, I am going to give her all the best treatment that I always get. So she needs to hurry up and able to come.
We went out for lunch and bubble tea, then headed to SoHo to spend an evening shopping. Being in SoHo to me felt incredible. I've heard the names so many times coming up in all of my favorite movies that have NYC. To be here and to be one of those people strolling along the streets from stores to stores has been something I dreamed of. One thing that made me mad about this entire shopping trip was that I could NOT find any long skirts or maxi dresses that fit my height, and i could NOT find any top I like in my size. I ended up with a good deal on two pairs of shoes, but still ... Eventually, toward the end of the trip, I just kind of gave up on the skirts and dresses and admitted to myself that sometimes, your body is just not born to wear something ... maybe.
Victor joined us for dinner and ice cream before we all came back to my big's place to start drinking for my birthday. Monopoly drinking game has become my go-to-game lately. I lost terribly, for the first time in monopoly ... It was a fun night regardless and we all agreed to get some rest since I had a long day ahead of me.
I woke up at 8am on my birthday and took the subway from Brooklyn to downtown to meet up with Victor, my tour guide of the day. Knowing me and my infamous sense of direction, my big wrote down a detailed subway itinerary for me to make sure I didn't end up in some random places, or even worse, end up back in Brooklyn. My first trip by myself on the subway was a success. I made it to the Museum of Natural History. We spent a good two hours there before heading to Central Park for a day stroll. People laughed at me because I could recognize bits and parts of Central Park just by watching Sex and the City, lol. And I definitely was beyond excited when I got the Boat House, one of the locations that Big and Carrie had lunch (although that didn't quite happen). If I had my way, I probably would have hunted down all the locations where they filmed SATC, but I will save that for my next trip to NYC. I'll call it a date/honeymoon with the city and just wander around by myself looking for interesting places.
Victor treated me to the famous NY pizzas while waiting for Frances to join us. We visited Guggeinheim and the Met after that. I love museums. I may not be interested in everything in each museums, but I always learn something exciting every trip that I actually become addicted to that feeling. I got myself a tote bag from the Met just so that I got something from there. That's the whole point of souvenirs isn't it? I wish my dad could be here though. He used to take me to museums and exhibitions and I felt like he could understand all these art more than I could ever be.
As the day went on and we had been tired of walking from corners to corners of various museums, Victor took me to Union Squares while waiting for the others to join us for dinner. It was interesting to just sit on the steps and observing the life of NYC in the way people dress, play music, or just simply express their interest.
I was glad to be able to meet up with some of the seniors that I didn't think I would be able to see again soon and was happy that they came out for my, and my big's, birthday dinner. Of course, I was treated to my most favorite food: sushi :) After dinner, we walked around the area to get desserts and to do some bar hopping. The ultmate benefits of being the birthday girls: free shots all night. Also, the highlight of my trip was to be able to enjoy a Cosmo in a NYC setting, SATC influence again, I know.
I wrapped up my short vacation with a speed shopping trip with my big before taking the subway to the bus staion to head back to Rochester.
It was a short trip and I am sure I haven't seen even the tiniest of what NYC is. Nevertheless, it was like my dream came true, just a little bit. I have always said that I wanted to live in the city and despite how much I know it is not a realistic dream, I still want to work hard for it.
Coincidentally, Gala just posted an entry on her blog about moing to NYC, and she said:
"Truth time: New York City is a hard place to live. Everyone here is on a mission; without a strong sense of purpose, this city will swallow you whole. Rents are exorbitant — $2500/month is the going rate for a hideous studio apartment right now — & a one-way subway ride costs $2.50. It adds up quickly. This is hard to deal with. Some people feel exhausted by this, think, ‘Why bother?’ & decide to live somewhere else. But some people choose to let it motivate them, push them hard, & turn them into the person they never even dared to dream they could be."
I still dream of the day that I will be able to walk down the street of NYC as a successful, confident and independent woman, just like all of my idols.
On a less serious note, for a first birthday away from home, it made me happy to have all my friends, who spare time in their busy schedules and go through all the troubles of subway rides to be with me. It struck me that the most valuable experience I get from this trip wasn't all the great food or all the trips to the museum, but all the people that are and have been in my life. It makes me realize that no matter what I do, there will always someone for me to celebrate a special day with.
I was sad to have to leave the city and come back to Rochester to a less exciting life. The worst feeling on earth is to be home after an awesome vacation to an empty house and to microwave food. But I didn't have time to face any of those because I was greeted with a surprised birthday party prepared by my housemates. I was welcomed home with homemade tiramisu as a birthday cake, with zebra and cheetah-printed balloons, with an unexpected lap dance (?), but most importantly, a houseful of 8 people who care for me (and feed me everyday).
Honestly, I can't imagine any other way to make this a better birthday.
My room is now filled with random purple things that make me smile everytime I see them, lol.
My resolution for this year is to work hard in school, to figure out what I want to do i the future and appreciate more of what I have. Also, to stay true to myself and keep walking toward my dreams, one of which is to strut down 5th Ave with shopping bags in hands ;)