On New York, Strawberry Fields and H&M

So, I went to New York this past weekend!

Man, everything was so overwhelming. I love cities. I beg Nate all the time to move me the heck to Detroit. I’ve rocked Chicago, powered through D.C., and live in the glorious mini-city of Jackson. Okay, it’s Jackson, so what? It has buildings.

But like, New York, right? It made me want to crawl into a manhole and hide with the sewer rats. It felt like a thousand hammers were repetitively hitting me in the head with millions of multi-colored stimuli. So many people live in NYC. Millions. I felt like my eyes and brain were going to explode into graffiti all over the concrete. I can’t even explain if you haven’t been there.

That’s how I felt for a while, at least. You kind of ease into it. I’m a pro now, after being there two days. And after going somewhere, I compulsively have to think through everything to figure out what I learned. Or else it was meaningless.

So here’s what I learned.

1.) There is a sad, beautiful and small remnant of John Lennon, and it is living in Strawberry Fields in Central Park. I’ve known for a while and for many reasons that I needed to go to the Imagine memorial in New York. One obvious one is that Imagine is the most influential and life-shaping song I have ever had bleed into my heart. So much so that I had it tattooed on my hip. Do I need to list more reasons, or?…

As soon as I walked up, I couldn’t. I broke down and just fell apart on the bench. Musicians take shifts playing Beatles songs around this small circle in the ground that has the word Imagine engraved in the middle. I saw two couples get engaged. I heard Imagine three different times, in between other classics, accompanied by different groups of tourists singing along quietly. We were sitting by the man who was playing the current shift. He was young, friendly and stoney with a cool story. And he had met Yoko Ono multiple times.

A young man who looked like the kid from Almost Famous come up to the current guitarist. He had a haircut like an early Beatle and he said what I already knew – that he was a “big Beatles fan” and that this “means a lot to him.” But he didn’t need to say that. You could tell. He belonged to the 70’s. A group of people gathered around the guitarist and sang Imagine – it was glorious – and he looked so happy.

It might sound silly, but I felt a connection with that guy. He was also from Michigan. He loved the Beatles, too. He understood the meaning of this tourist attraction in a deeper way, too. We both are from the 70’s and are walking around now for some reason. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he was feeling sad, like me, because this was the closest to the spirit of the beautiful music from times past that I would probably ever be. Singing in unison with strangers while I cried and wished that music was still good.

I took a picture with my tattoo out in front of the circle and that was that. I learned that I’m very sad about this generation and music. I learned how to cry better in public. And I really think I need to go to festivals.

2.) Cities are scary. Being away from home is scary. But vacation is very refreshing and worthwhile.

3.) Sleeping in a tiny hostel with your husband and 2 guy friends is fine, but not ideal.

4.) There’s just something about climbing on a roof.

5.) Advertising will suck your soul dry. Around the end of the first day, I was so exhausted that I wasn’t speaking and my legs were moving only by the sheer knowledge that a bed was waiting for me at the hotel. But Derek and Nate wanted to stop and watch some dance battle.

I was too short to see. What I could see, though, was an H&M advertisement in the reflection of the window in front of the dance routine. So I watched that on loop. Oh my gosh.

Basically, impossibly attractive, skinny – skinny – skinny girls (all white), tan, with long hair and beautiful clothes and big boobs. They’re running around in bikinis, eating expensive dinners, being physically picked up and swung around by boys, riding on dune buggies, and swimming late at night. The way these ads zoom in – on girls butt and breasts – and perpetuate this ideal, like – look at this, this is beautiful, look how much fun these girls are having, don’t you wish… It’s disgusting.

I could tell from the onset of this disease that if I did not treat quickly – if I did not have severe, acute, balls out on point discernment that I would leave from watching that ad feeling completely insecure and ugly. And feeling like some girls have reached an elite level of sexy that I will never ever obtain, so I will never have the spontaneous, fun lifestyle that these women have.

Although really, these girls are probably just as insecure as I am. And yea, I’m sure they have way more fun than I do (given their profession), but I’m willing to bet that they have a whole other slew of issues I can’t even imagine from being in the industry and having to keep up incredible standards. Unless they’re robots.

So, that made me sick all over. I’m glad I made it out of that one without (more) severe body hatred and self-shaming issues, but what about the cringe-worthy reality of all the girls who eat that stuff up and don’t sift through it realistically? It’s awful, and it’s playing on repeat on a big screen in New York City. I know for a fact that 13 year old Sam would have thought about that ad for days, and probably wouldn’t have eaten much for days, and would have tried her darndest to change into someone who could have a life like that – the glorious life of an H&M model – for days, weeks, years. And even my current self isn’t completely unaffected by any stretch of the imagination.

I learned that advertising sucks and I have to stay aware. And that I get to add H&M to the list of brands that I hate. (Victoria’s Secret, lookin @ u)

6.) I don’t know where I stand on everything concerning self-sacrifice, except that I know you should.. you know.. do it. Often. But NYC (and a wise psychiatrist) helped me realize that I want to live a good life. (Why does it feel so scandalous to say that? Seriously…) I want to know what happy feels like. I do want to travel, I do want to enjoy, I do want to fall more in love with my husband in fun places. I do know that I’m allowed to live life based on what I want sometimes, because there is actually good inside of me. And I don’t have to feel so damn guilty. So, no, I’m not flying overseas to a dangerous remote location anytime soon to sacrifice my entire life. I’m spending my money to go to NYC and drink beer and see new things with my best friends. Because that’s what I want to do. And that’s where I’m at. So sue me.

I’m in a place right now that looks like this: I am in the midst of a deep soul-rocking depression that I am learning to treat, with medication. I am hoping it helps me to feel happy again. I am learning to be married to someone who is as messed up and worthwhile as I am. I am finding myself, is that okay? I’m 22 years old. I was an Atheist for 18 years, believing in nothing. And I am not learning to walk with a God that I cannot see, while working through every lie that my demolished spirit has believed, and rebuilding my brokenness with the truth of who I actually am. Also, did I mention I’m 22?

Demons telling me I’m going too fast or not going fast enough. Demons telling me I have no freedom to watch a good TV show and drink chocolate beer. Demons telling me that I’ll never amount to anything if I don’t figure out my ministry soon enough. Telling me pressure and guilt and shame.

Lucky for me, I have gracious people in my life who tell me it’s okay to do what I want. It’s okay to be gentle with myself. It’s okay to take care of myself. It’s okay to learn to love myself, and slowly learn who I am. It’s okay to take baby steps. It’s okay to travel. It’s okay to go to New York City.

It’s okay. Like, really.

Grace, man. I’m swimmin’ in it.