Concrete jungle where dreams are made of

I've been to New York City three times before, and every time I went, there was always something new to see. During each of my short stays, I found myself exhausted trying to take everything in, but I was hungry for it. I, one story walking among millions, want to learn about yours. Over my Fall Break, my [new! college!] friends and I made a trip to NYC, and let's just say that we weren't ready to leave.

I've already completed a quarter of my freshman year of college!! A break was very much needed, and I made good great use of it. I packed for two days (ukulele and everything), but little did I know I'd actually be gone for four. First stop was Princeton University to visit Kathleen with Kevin.

The three hour trek up there was a pain. First of all, it was raining. Second of all, the SEPTA was delayed. I planned on taking the 8:50AM, but ended up leaving at 9:00AM on the 8:20AM (there was some kind of health emergency with a passenger and there was an ambulance and everything). So yeah, third of all, I got on the wrong SEPTA. It was the express, so it wouldn't stop at Haverford for Kevin as we planned, but we worked it out to meet at the first transfer. Due to SEPTA schedule delays, we were short on time for transfers, but had just enough time to get breakfast from a vending machine. Alas, (fourth of all) the flappy thing in the vending machine didn't flap, the Doritos got stuck, and Kevin's coins were swallowed. Being the problem solvers we are, we decided to get a pack of Starbursts, hoping it's weight would cause the flap to flap, bringing the Doritos down with it, but (fifth of all) to no avail. Good thing I packed a little Tupperware box of trail mix.

At this point, the world was in such a state of imbalance--tipping under the weight of our morning misfortunes--that it needed to start working in favor of us to restore the balance. While waiting at our last transfer, we stopped mid-conversation and looked up. Lo and behold, we saw someone Kevin knew from Forensics who was also headed towards Princeton University to visit a friend.

When we finally made it to Princeton University, we said our goodbyes and, after long last, got to start spending time with the wonderful Kathleen! As great as the box of trail mix I packed was, it was not enough to sustain us, so lunch was in order. For the main course, we had a buffet at an Indian restaurant called Méhék. I stuffed myself with as much rice as I could, because it's been too long since I've had any good rice; dining hall rice just doesn't cut it. For dessert, we had bubble milk tea from Fruity Yogurt. There was a buzz in the air, the kind you feel at lively little coffee shops, so we stayed awhile and had many interesting conversations, some of which may inspire my future posts. We stopped mid-conversation and looked up. Lo and behold, we saw someone Kevin knew from summer camp three years ago who is currently attending Princeton University.

We made a few attempts to jam, but weren't very successful with my one-month ukulele experience. How do you get yourself out of a jam? *harharhar* Cookies!! Cookies make the world go round. Apparently, Princeton University provides freshly baked cookies for its students every night at the Murray-Dodge Cafe. As if you needed more reasons to love this place.

Guess what we spent our evening doing? Eating cookies at Murray-Dodge! We hung out until 1AM just talking, and I even ran into a BMC student visiting a friend at Princeton. Oh don't you love run-ins? It's a small world after all. Anyways, originally, this was going to be my only evening at Princeton, and the plan was to head back to Bryn Mawr the following evening, but my friends called me up for a Monday-Tuesday trip to NYC, so I decided to stay an extra night, and then leave straight from there for NYC.

Finding good friends doesn't come easily to me. I'm an introvert, and it takes a lot of effort for me to get to know other people and to allow them to get to know me. Maybe I just use my introversion as an excuse for my social awkwardness, and not the "she's so cute when she's awkward" awkward, but the "she's so awkward, I'm really uncomfortable" awkward. It was comforting to visit someone familiar and talk about how we're really doing, because "fine" really doesn't mean "fine"; it means "F.I.N.E." as in "Feelings I'm Not Expressing." I actually try my best not to be cryptic, because after watching too many K-dramas, I have concluded that saying how you really feel or what you really mean will save you and everyone else from a whole bunch of drama/trouble. Unfortunately, I'm just not an articulate person.

But after letting out a massive brain fart and talking it out, I was finally able to pinpoint the root of my anxiety. There is so much pressure in college not only to fit in, but also to build lifelong relationships. Yeah yeah, "be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind" (Bernard M. Baruch), "if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best" (Marilyn Monroe), and all that, but if you think about it, you still want to fit in to some extent. After all, the whole point of the college application process is to find the one that is the best fit for you. [Kathleen and I had fun trying to figure out our college characters. What makes you look at someone and say "oh, she's so Princeton" or "oh, she's so Bryn Mawr"?]

Before leaving for college, my mom beat it into me that the world is all about connections, which I also believe is true, and that the strongest ones are made in college; the people you hang out with now in college are going to be the ones who stick with you/be associated with you for the rest of your life (high school friends, not necessarily, as sad as it is)--be strategic about it. Making friends is already hard enough for me, so I don't even want to worry about making friends strategically. I just want to make good friends. The thought of making friends strategically is too depressing anyways.

I miss my best friend. I miss having a best friend around. Sometimes when I have too much time, I just lie there and think about all the amazing people I've met at college and wish that we could be best friends. Then I start worrying about whether I'll ever find a best friend or if I'm doomed for a best-friend-less life. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has wondered about this (I mentally roll my eyes every time someone says "omg you too?? I thought I was the only one!" because did you really? Did you really?). Well I have good news for you. You have time. I relieve you of the pressure to find your best friend at year one. Heck, I didn't find my best friend until seventh grade after being at that school for two years!

I cringe every time someone uploads a selfie with irrelevant song lyrics as a caption, but I swear I have a good reason for quoting Alicia Keys for the title of this post. Do you ever like to sit in the car with your earbuds in and stare into the distance to create a real-life movie moment? Well, on the Megabus, Steph played "Empire State of Mind" while crossing over to NYC. Oh, and the three of us arrived at NYC on different forms of transportation: Steph on the Megabus, me on the train, and Miriam on the amtrak. We had a bit of a hiccup at the beginning with Miriam missing her ride, but we made it!

Also, we were greeted in NYC by a parade which we initially thought was an Italian Pride parade, complete with floats and a marching band. At one point, the performers started singing "Empire State of Mind" and it was glorious. Unfortunately, we later realized that the celebration was for Columbus Day. Why is Columbus Day still a thing?

our condo on roosevelt island

our view overlooking queens

Our trip to NYC was unreal. I can't believe how well everything worked out. Originally, our plan was to make a quick one-day trip to watch a Broadway show, roam around the city with whatever time we'd have left, and then head back to Bryn Mawr. However, considering how short this trip would be, we'd be burning a lot of cash, so we decided against this plan. Our plan for NYC was put on hold until Miriam called me while I was at Princeton (talk about last minute haha) (but it worked out).

It just so happened that Miriam had family friends in NYC who were renting out their condo, but hadn't yet rented it out, so they offered it to us for our Fall Break. We were spoiled rotten! They even baked us cookies! I reiterate: cookies make the world go round. We couldn't have asked for a better place to stay or for better hosts. The condo overlooked the river and the huge windows provided a great view. As the condo was up for rent, all the furniture had been removed so we had to bring our own sleeping bags, which we decided to unroll in the living room--fall asleep with the city lights, wake up with the sun.

bethesda fountain at central park

Central Park was our first stop, but Central Park is pretty big, so we took a few breaks sitting on whatever flat surface we could find, soaking up the city and its people. There was an adorable couple who was getting candid shots professionally taken (probably for their wedding), spiffy men and women who I suspect were fashion bloggers, children running around popping ginormous bubbles, an old Chinese couple playing erhus, and some people just looking pensively into the distance.

naumburg bandshell at central park 


street performers by the christopher columbus statue at central park

I wish these guys had CDs or something, but all they had was a donation box. I'm so in love with their voices! That guy in the middle is playing a stringed instrument with his hands and "drumming" on the box with a foot and playing the tambourine with his other foot. I can hardly walk and chew gum at the same time. Jk I can, but Maddie-Fitzpatrick-in-an-alternate-universe can't. Sigh. If anyone recognizes these people, please redirect me to a place where I can get their music! I could listen to them all day.

baked desserts at magnolia bakery

Magnolia Bakery is known for its cupcakes and banana pudding. Last time I visited (three years ago), the banana pudding was all sold out, but thankfully this time it wasn't. It did not disappoint! The bakery is tiny but popular, very 热闹. I couldn't enjoy the adorable interior to its full extent as it was super crowded, but all my problems were solved as soon as I took a bite of my banana pudding.

grand central station

And who am I? That's a secret I'll never tell. You know you love me. xoxo, Gossip Girl.

Steph was dying to visit Grand Central Station because of something to do with Gossip Girl haha. I think the most amazing part about Grand Central Station is that although it has been open for a long while and is now a tourist attraction, it is still presently and actively in use. While at Grand Central Station, don't forget to visit the Whispering Gallery, right in front of the Oyster Bar & Restaurant.

one world trade center 

I thought that this building was so tall that it looked like it was disappearing into the sky, point of perspective and all that. But the building is actually constructed of triangular panels (which are constructed of rectangular ones), so that's why it seems to be disappearing into the sky. This building is actually really tall, just not quite so tall that it disappears into the sky. It was, however, tall enough that while I was pointing my camera up towards it, the coffee in my hand tilted and spilled onto my shirt.

9/11 memorial

on our way to the tenement museum 

This was the place that Miriam was most excited about. Unfortunately, photography wasn't allowed during the tour. The one we went on was Shop Life. This museum is very different from any other museum I've visited. You are led into a recreated shop (complete with molds of food and everything), given the history and story of its former inhabitants, engaged in roleplaying the community members of the time, and finish off with seeing its modern day significance, complete with really high tech tech.

new york public library

It was difficult navigating the New York Public Library, and I felt really self-conscious while taking pictures, because although this is a tourist attraction, it is also an actual library where people are being studious. I think I would have enjoyed this place more if I was on a tour. The librarians did not seem to enjoy my presence. I was hoping to get shots of the main reading room, but that part of the library is under renovation and will not be completed until Spring 2015. Who's up for a Spring 2015 NYC trip? :)

So far my college experience has been quite hectic; it feels like I'm always running from place to place, never with a moment's rest. At the end of every night, I write out a schedule for where I have to be and when, what form of transportation to take, what to pack, when to nap or blog or do some quick skims of readings right before class. My days are very structured, and there never seems to be time to properly hang out with friends, as I am usually surrounded by people from my classes or extra-curricula. I would like to say that the best friends I've made so far come from my classes and extra-curricula, seeing as I interact with these people most days of the week, but I'm not sure that that's the case for me. Don't get me wrong, there are many people in my classes and extra-curricula I completely admire and wish to be thee best of friends with, but... I don't know. How?? Tips greatly appreciated.

I guess that that's what made this Fall Break extra special--the independence and spontaneity of it all. I still can't believe how well it all worked out. Sure, it was nerve-wracking traveling from place to place without having my parents around to follow, but it made arriving at the destination so much more rewarding. I set off expecting nothing more than to reconnect and catch up with old friends, but came back with more friends, new friends that I won't single out in this post in case they get weirded out (I don't think we're at that stage of our friendship, yet haha).

Good luck to everyone with surviving the rest of the semester, and surprise visits are welcome!