I've decided to share one of my essays -- an essay that emerged from numerous "Eureka!" moments in the shower and long-winded meditations in my journal:
Swinging their Louis Vuitton purses and strutting their sky-high Louboutin shoes on the pavement, the glamorous women strode past me without a glance at my scraggly-looking self—they were occupied by their Blackberry Smartphones anyways. I was standing on the corner of 77th Street and Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side of New York City wearing a pair of pink pajamas and furry slippers, covered with band-aids and holding only a prescription receipt in my hand. The hospital had promptly released me when my fever had subsided; because I had collapsed in my apartment without my purse (and thus, my wallet), I decided to swallow my pride and venture through Central Park towards the Upper West Side, where my apartment was—looking like I had spent the night at a slumber party and had forgotten to bring a change of clothes.Just for the record, I'm not going back to New York City to intern this summer -- not because I don't want to (I have city yearnings practically every day), but because I have plenty of summers and years in the future to be there and everywhere else. There is no place like home.
As I navigated my way towards the park, my thoughts simmered in the feverish events of that morning. I had tried to crawl downstairs to the front desk to ask for the location of the closest physician, but I ended up collapsing from chest pains, a fever, and difficulties in breathing. As the paramedics strapped me down in the ambulance and attached an oxygen mask to my sobbing face, I was asked a series of questions: What is your name? How old are you? Where are your parents? Are you emancipated? So you’re living in New York City by yourself? What are you doing here?
Noel Duan. Seventeen. My parents are home in California. I’m not. Yep, I’ve been here by myself for about five weeks so far. I am interning in the Seventeen Magazine fashion department for the summer. My words gurgled out along with my tears; I was crying not so much because I was in pain but because I had foolishly assumed that my eight weeks in New York City would prove to my parents—and most importantly, to myself—that I was fully capable of living by myself without needing others to fuel my happiness and security. I wanted to be fiercely independent, but I was not as autonomous as I was alone in the city; this fact was blatant when I realized that I was the only person in the emergency treatment room without loved ones by her side.
“We’re going to have to call your parents to ask for permission to treat you,” said the paramedic as I awakened in the hospital. The piercing chest pain became overshadowed by heartache for my parents: yes, I had learned to navigate the subway system very efficiently all by myself; yes, I was working in a skyscraper with college-aged interns; yes, I had mastered the austere stare of a New Yorker in order to avoid adult men trying to take advantage of me on the streets—but when I needed help in a dire situation, I still relied on my dear parents to bail me out.
Thinking back on the ordeal of this past morning as I walked through the Upper East Side, I threw my head back and chuckled; I wish I had brought my camera to capture this moment of absurdity that would forever remind me of the importance of relationships. Yes, it is very important to live my life the way I want to, to follow my passions and ambitions wherever they carry me, but it is even more important to live my life knowing that it doesn’t revolve around myself. I had selfishly spent so much time fantasizing about my glorious summer in New York City that I had forgotten that my mother and father sat at home across the country, waiting for my phone call every night—as if I had unconsciously decided to disappear for two months and yet expected none of my friends or family to be affected by it.
Instead, I discovered the selfless contact that made up my relationships with others—that independence comes not from shutting the closest people to my heart out of my life, but from embracing them and acknowledging how much I need them no matter where life takes me. Independence is not about autonomy; it’s about taking responsibility for myself while cherishing those who have my back.