When I am in Jersey City, I always make time to walk by the waterfront to see the view of the NYC skyline. This one particular morning, the fog clung to the buildings and New York had almost disappeared.
I prefer this view of NYC, draped in fog, to the rollercoaster ride that happens when you are inside the city. For me, it has felt like I’m on a rollercoaster moving backwards and upside down, but the regular New Yorkers don’t miss a beat. They all move with the rhythm of each other as if they are sitting in a forward-moving rollercoaster gliding them from place to place, speeding up and slowing down at just the right moments. It makes me feel like an outsider.
So when I’m there, I create pockets of quiet to escape the loneliness I feel. I take my cue from the pigeons that congregate in this waterfront spot. It’s their home and they set their pace. People move around them.
While everyone is moving so fast around me, I put my headphones on and silence the outside noise with music. A self-induced isolation to center me. My homesickness disappears and I feel this relaxed state of happiness settle in. And I realize I’m glad I’m not on that forward-moving coaster. I like going my own speed. And that doesn’t make me backwards. I look at all these people moving so fast around me, and feel lucky that I’m not part of it. And then I follow pigeons around, taking pictures as I go.
Pigeons have intrigued me since I visited Venice almost 15 years ago. In the tourist areas, like the Piazza San Marco, people throw bird seed in the air, and let hundreds of pigeons swarm and land on them. While I did think it was a little unusual that people would subject themselves to this for a picture, that wasn’t the strangest part to me.
The part that stood out was while these “model” pigeons were signing autographs, with their perfect beaks, feathers with a glistening sheen, and all three toes on each foot, a very different set of pigeons was living out their days at the Venice Train Station. These pigeons were all mangled up, missing legs, toes, some couldn’t fly. I looked at them as cast-away pigeons not good enough for the piazzas. Hobbling around, eating goldfish crackers some toddler dropped on the concrete.
But now, almost 15 years later, I see it differently. I think about those people on that fast-paced rollercoaster, or those pigeons fighting to get birdseed tossed in the air for them only to be used for a photo opp, and I think maybe all this time, I was looking at it upside down.
I thought I needed to keep being swept around at this ridiculously fast-pace, otherwise I would get left behind. Instead, I should be setting my own pace.
Let the ones that really want to be in the spotlight, let them have it.
- I don’t want to be a pigeon in the piazza fighting for the spotlight. I don’t need it.
- If I want to speed up, it’s my choice.
- But if I want to slow down and choose to let others go around me so that I can focus on the important things in life, then that’s okay too.
When I get hung up on my next career move, or someone else getting further ahead than me, I need to think to myself, is that really what I want? I don’t think it ever has been, but I just let that rollercoaster carry me along. I don’t want to do that anymore, because it doesn’t make me happy.
On that foggy morning, though, listening to my music, taking pictures and being the odd lady laughing at pigeons, that was the happiest I had felt all week. Those are more of the moments I want to create. If I look back and remember hundreds of those moments, that is success to me. That means I didn’t suck at life. It means I remembered to set my own pace and I believe if you do that, everything else that matters to you will fall in place.