Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, I find it entertaining to tell people this fact about myself to accompany their astonished disbelief that people can actually grow up in an urban environment. Yes, it is unusual to my suburban/rural friends outside of the state and random people I meet at work, but nonetheless it is my natural environment. It is one of the biggest parts of me that influences who I am today as a young woman.
Before I started this assignment I was conflicted because first of all I thought how can my urban environment be “natural” when the concrete jungle is completely the opposite of that. New York City is an industrialized, populated, congested, claustrophobic, chaotic setting for some people. However, in the midst of the craziness, the post-election stress syndrome, and the daily anxiety I feel between school and work, I encountered my peaceful moment as I walked yesterday (November 9, 2016) through the streets of Upper East Side during my two hour gap between classes.
I usually walk outside with headphones in my ears, blasting away my Spotify playlists to avoid unnecessary situations on the street like giving directions to a tourist or ignoring catcalling from construction workers (or anyone really). So the detachment from the plastic earpiece felt quite uncomfortable but as soon as I started to walk away from Hunter College Campus, I noticed my first instinct is to listen to the sounds around me. I couldn’t help but feel the sounds influencing my walk in a surprisingly positive way. The sirens from an ambulance, the rowdiness from a yellow school bus passing, the sound of children walking home from school lead me to a comforting realization that this is in fact my nature, and that’s alright. I started to walk down the “quieter” streets towards the East River and noticed there is more tranquility in the city than expected. The crunchy damp leaves piling on the sidewalk brought me to the realization that no matter where I am placed in the world, whether it be in a hiking trail on a mountain or the sidewalk of NYC, tranquility comes from the state of mind. Henry David Thoreau mentions in his book Walden, in the “Sounds” chapter that “Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.” It is in this moment that I can possibly relate to Thoreau’s nature experience. Different paths in life lead to different fates for an individual, but no matter the setting, a person should only focus on their own fate and try to strive towards success based on the opportunity or environment they are planted it.
Though it can be argued that there is no sense of natural peace within the urban environment, I am happy to have completed the task of the assignment and say that there is nature in any environment one is placed in. Nature does not always mean mountains, trees, and farms. Nature is the way environments shape the lives of different people throughout the planet. It certainly affects humans physically, emotionally, and mentally but most of all it is up to the human to decide how he or she can give back to the nature to make the world a better place in the future.