Of all the places shaping my New York experience so far, Washington Square Park might just have to be my favourite. It’s located in the middle of most of the NYU buildings so I walk through it most days.
I think the thing I like most about the park is it’s practicality. It’s not romantic, there aren’t any flowers, or rose gardens or ornately decorated works of art. It doesn’t feel like somewhere that people seek out or a tourist destination, it just feels like a part of people’s lives. It’s entrenched into thousands of people’s days, the men playing chess, the women walking their dogs, texting on their phones while their ridiculously oversized or undersized pets run around the dog park. Everyday it’s filled with hundreds of students; eating their lunch in the fountain, running to class, crying quietly on a bench. There’s performance art, chalk art, a lady sitting on the floor selling knitted cupcakes. There are people praying, people begging, people making out on the grass.
For me, walking through Washington Square Park is like a shot of energy. So often I feel so confused here, like I’m not really sure what I’m doing. But if I enter the park feeling lost I normally come out feeling a little more sure that I’m doing the right thing. That this city really is a bit magical, that there are people here who are struggling too but we all secretly know that in the end everything going to be okay.
The other day I was walking through the park at night when a rat ran in front of my path. Now anyone can tell you that this isn’t exactly the nicest experience but as I jumped at the sight of the huge rat scurrying across my path the man walking next to me did exactly the same thing. We both looked up and smiled at each other. Something about the freezing weather and the sight of the disgusting rodent connected us. And for some reason every time I think about that moment I feel better about being here . There’s a cliche often said about big cities that you can feel incredibly lonely even though you’re surrounded by people. But something about the fact that I could bond with a total stranger over a rat makes me feel like this isn’t really the case. I do feel lonely here. I miss my family. I miss England and I miss Posy so much sometimes I just go stand outside the small dog park like a creepy Poodle pedophile. But Washington Square Park almost always makes me feel better. Like everything else it’s messy and it’s a bit dirty and it’s scary at night. But it’s also beautiful, and colourful and it reminds me that I have time. That if things aren’t feeling great today they’re probably going to feel better tomorrow. And meanwhile the park will still be there. And I don’t ever really have to feel alone.