Week Two in New York City: Hey, stranger

Read last week’s post here or view all other New York City posts.

Everyone wants a “Friends” apartment, to live with BFFs or favorite (read only) siblings and figure out life together, with a few fights and whole lot of fun along the way. I have yet to experience anything close to that.

Over the past three and a half years, I’ve been plenty willing to live with strangers:

  • my freshman year, because I knew no one at my school
  • sophomore year, because I had no desire to move off my wing
  • senior year, to make a friend happy by sharing an apartment with her (and two strangers)
  • now, in a house in Queens, because I didn’t know anyone in the City who had space.

I’m convinced in order to go anywhere new, you have to be willing to share close quarters with someone you’ve never met before. 

Anna Shannon Apartment

Living with strangers isn’t easy. There’s a testing-the-waters period, as you figure out how the other person operates, what sort of things bother them, and deal with whether or not you’ll be able to sleep in silence or have the shade open enough to let in the morning sun. When you share an apartment or a house, you have to learn how clean to keep everything in order to avoid conflict. It’s not like home where conflict is a natural thing you deal with, because you’re with strangers and confronting (or being confronted by) strangers can be worse than awkward. Your insides tense up, indigestion ensues. 

Beyond cleanliness, there’s relationship development, learning if your roommates are interested in friendship or if all efforts on your part will go unrewarded (what did she do with the gift I spent an entire month on? That was the best I ever made). I always go into living situations planning to befriend the others, so I’ve gotten hurt when the desire for friendship wasn’t reciprocated.

Thankfully, everyone I’m living with now is willing to live in community with each other, but we have a few strong personalities, so conflict now and then is inevitable.

Let me introduce you:

Dick and Mara Burns, the owners of the house. A couple in their sixties who have one adopted son with a wife and daughter. The Burns eccentricities are evidenced all over their house, with their rhinoceros collection on the untuned piano, their house collection in a glass cabinet in the dining room, all the nice pitchers lined up on the dining room fireplace, the rose pillows in the living room, rose lamp on the wall in the kitchen, and the random plastic rose stuck in the kitchen wall. Dick and Mara live in the third floor and basement of the house, meaning at least twice a day they must travel the creakiest stairs I have ever experienced. I never hear them go up or down.

Lili Leung, a 32-year-old Chinese renter who grew up somewhere in South America (either the Dominican Republic or Venezuela), works as a companion at a nursing home, and is very involved at church. Lili has an extremely fast metabolism and, when she leaves for the day, brings a bag of just food to keep her stomach satiated. She makes her own laundry detergent, dish soap and, most recently, ice cream.

Krystle Morrissette, a 29-year-old African-American who’s from New Jersey but has roots in the South. Krystle got engaged last week, so in my two weeks of knowing her, I’ve seen her go from being in a relationship talking about marriage to beginning to plan a wedding and all that entails. Her fiance is a Japanese-American from Hawaii. Krystle prides herself on proper grammar, and corrects me on a regular basis. She also likes to give things away — mainly things she can’t fit in her bedroom or kitchen cabinets. Within days of meeting her, I helped her go through her belongings, sorting into categories: keep, donate, chuck, store, and give-to-Meredith.

Coming to NYC, I was concerned that I wouldn’t meet anyone, that I wouldn’t make any friends, that my life would consist of eating, sleeping, and working. That isn’t turning out to be the case. I’ve already had really good, deep conversations that have brought me to tears. I’ve already joined in prayer with others and shared concerns very close to my heart. In my two weeks here, I’ve already been real with people more than I’ve been fake or passive. I’ve found that one shaky step out, not knowing what to expect, can bring more good than standing back for fear you might slip.

Garbage PlowSpeaking of stepping out and slipping, above is a picture of what happens in Queens when it snows like crazy: garbage trucks, retrofit as snowplows, leave the trash where it sets and put their backs into shoving other accumulation out of the public’s way.

Bringing you up-to-date:

Sunday, I went to church and had dinner at the pastor’s house with the church cleaners. I made the salad; it was beautiful.

Monday, I returned to City Hall Library to research for a few hours, this happened, and then I finished my day at City Limits’ office.

Tuesday, I applied to a lot of jobs. I don’t know how many. I also did a minimal workout, enough for sore obliques the next day, but not enough to feel like I exerted myself. Physical activity has really gone downhill.

Wednesday, internship day. I found people to interview to learn more about arson and fire investigation. I also looked up convicted NYC arsonists and where they’re imprisoned. In the process, I found these gems:

Attica Reviews

Thursday, I interviewed for a job at Panera. To kill time beforehand, I explored the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd, and saw from a distance one of my favorite NYC skyscrapers: the Chrysler Building.

Library MuralFriday, I learned the difference between hearings and court appearances (a court appearance is any time a convict appears in court; a hearing is a trial involving witnesses and evidence), had a great conversation with Krystle, and ate noodles and tomato sauce for dinner, with so much sauce it may as well have been soup.

Saturday (today), I updated my writing resume, wrote a long letter, converted my leftover sauce and noodles into tomato-basil soup (with oil, milk, and seasonings), and spent way too much time on this blog post.

Chrysler Building

To remember:

God understands your need for community — it’s part of being made in His image. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You have to be a friend in order to have friends, and strangers aren’t always dangerous.

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