Three Moments in New York City

The cold weather has finally arrived in Manhattan. As a person who grew up near the Equator, I have felt winter’s coming with concern, albeit only slight. This highlights something interesting about us humans. When we are young, we search for adventure. When youth sails away from us, we long for a safe harbor, consistency, and stability. A routine makes us feel secure, and we get used to welcoming the seasons in their respective months, just as we grow comfortable expecting certain moments at a defined stage in life. As for me, I am used to being embraced by the warmth of sunlight, and sometimes the mere glimpse of sunshine makes me forget the passage of time. Now, after years running my life clockwise, I have chosen to pursue a new path at New York University by breaking the familiar cycle. Life at NYU Law makes me look back at three moments I have experienced in the City That Never Sleeps. These moments are interconnected and form a picture engraved in my memory. If my life were music, these moments would be some of its notes and tones.

Central Park and Plaza Hotel
The first moment.

The first moment was around four years ago, as a tourist. My wife and I had decided to escape from piles of work and take a quick holiday, and we chose the Big Apple as our destination. After a lot of research and some luck, we got ourselves a hotel room facing Central Park. It was October, and I remember waking up with a view of multiple levels of colors tinting the trees. We spent that day wandering in the park and feeling the gentle autumn chill. That was the first time I felt the emotions that have come to define autumn in my mind. Perhaps it is the need to plan for winter but, to me, autumn is a season that makes us reflect, examine life, and ponder the future. Autumn brings out different layers of temperature and color, just like life. I call autumn a season for creativity.

New York City intersection
The second moment.

The second moment came to me suddenly about three years ago, as a lawyer. On my way to Beijing, I had to stop in New York City for one day on a layover. If that previous contact with autumn introduced me to a gentle side of Gotham, this second time showed me a harsh one. I was shocked by the coldness as soon as I landed in the airport that night, especially because it was still late October. The panic came to me with a corresponding urge for warmth. When I arrived at my hotel, I saw a gentle yellow light outside. I stood in the lobby and, looking through a large window, I felt the light’s warmth bringing me such comfort, which I had never felt before. So, this second time, I fell in love with wandering around the city in search of beautiful yellow lights. Summer is a loud season with many things we would never notice until we lose them, including the vigor that emanates from omnipresent warmth. In contrast, autumn makes us enjoy the simple moments in life. When we are wandering the streets of the Empire City, passing by shops, restaurants, and cafés, the yellow lights from their big windows warms the season, comforting our souls and inviting them into a cozy bed.

Vanderbilt Hall courtyard
The third moment.

The third moment happened recently, as a student at NYU. A friend and I went for a walk in Chelsea. It was a rainy day, and the showers brought the first taste of autumn. We were walking with leaves falling on our shoulders, and the silence of autumn was augmented by the flapping tick of the rain. Afterward we went to Vanderbilt Hall, and looking out from the main entrance, I witnessed the change of colors in the courtyard. That instant reminded me of the day I experienced Central Park’s multiple levels of color. And the yellow lights from Vanderbilt’s windows reminded me of the emotional stirring I felt when I was a stranded passenger for the night. At the moment, it felt like life was reminding me that one aspect of my journey in NYC had come full circle.

Thanksgiving is coming, and I feel grateful for having had the opportunity to experience New York City from different perspectives. Now, Christmas is on the way, and the New Year is close behind. Let us focus on the future without forgetting the past, for we are the sum of our experiences.