Every morning I ride the train with people I don’t know, and will probably never know. Yet I think about them: who they are, what their life is like, do they have a cat, do they wish they had a dog instead, are they trying to remember if they put deodorant on, are they regretting not taking a shower, are they going on an extreme adventure and why.
Most of the passengers get off at Union Square, dispersing to jobs, school, appointments, stores, or other trains. But for about ten minutes of the day we all head in the same general direction, with the same general destination of Manhattan. Sometimes I wonder if the person I’m looking at across the subway pole is headed where he or she wants to be; I wonder if they're happy with where they're going. I’m sure most of the time the answer is no. New York both gives birth to and executes dreams. I don’t know what the hell Alicia Keys was smoking when she sang, “There’s nothing you can’t do,” because I can think of about fifty things I can’t do here, off the top of my head, quite easily. That is often the heartbreak of this city: to be surrounded by magnificence so far removed.
In fact, New York can beat me into such a pulp that the victory of getting a seat on my commute instantly makes me think, “FINALLY: REDEMPTION.” Until the person I’m sitting next to begins primping herself. Or rehearsing his latest single very loudly. Or lets her head fall onto my shoulder to catch a quick snooze. And when this happens I’ll clench my fists and start breathing so furiously it sounds like there’s a stovepipe in my throat, and I'll begin rage muttering to the subway gods, “DON’T THEY KNOW I’M TRYING TO DO THINGS HERE? DON’T THEY KNOW I HAVE GOALS? THAT I’M TRYING TO BE SOMEONE?”
But don’t I know that the primping girl is on her way to her second interview that morning? Or that the songbird guy is on his way to record a demo before his shift starts? Or that the sleepyhead woman is on her way back to work after four hours of sleep and two jobs? Don’t I know?
Everyone has that Facebook friend who posts inspirational quotes that look like they were typewritten, xeroxed, and scanned into the computer, and every once in a while that Facebook friend is me. Which means that one day, a long time ago, I posted something that said this:
"The iron in our blood was formed in stars, billions of years ago, trillions of miles away."
Apparently it’s a quote from a bench in Dallas.
Sometimes when I see a celebrity—or as we call them, a star—on the street, I’m taken aback by how ordinary they look. Or, ordinary in the sense that they are a unique human being in the world. That they, also, are plagued by blemishes, wrinkles, gray hair, under-eye bags, fat, etcetera, etcetera. In other words, sometimes I’m taken aback by how much they look like me. That we are both made of skin, flesh, and bone; that our blood was formed by the same stars, billions of years ago, trillions of miles away. It’s a welcome sense of shock. I can consider more easily, then, that perhaps they also once took gratification in the achievement of getting a train seat on a morning commute, as they were on their way to do things, for the goals they had, while they were trying to be someone.
So you're tired and want to give up, eh?
That's cool, I get it, but maybe don't do that just yet.
Maybe smile and shine on.
Sometimes when you're beaten, and tired, and down for the count, is when inspiration strikes.
For real I had a dream like this once.
It was. And then I woke up and started designing stuff.
Then you sit back and realize, "Wait: I got this."
And you do.
Zara blazer, boots, and jumpsuit. H&M collar.
And that's about it. So remember, guys:
Don't worry about Moby, he's just a little starstruck by your presence.