Friday, July 5, 2013

It's the people.

I was born on the night of the Feast of Kalimát.

Kalimát is Persian for "Word(s)." A Feast is an event that members of the Bahá'í faith hold each month to have devotionals, talk about the community's activities and catch up with one another. It's a casual gathering. Twenty years ago, my mom was going into labor on the night of July 13th while saying prayers with her friends in Hong Kong.

My brother and sister are much, much older. So I was alone quite a bit while growing up. Summers soon became holes in time that allowed for spontaneous trips to the library and sticky book covers clinging to my legs in the relentless summer heat. I loved it.

At age seven, my parents helped me start something called Project Book Angels that sent used children's books overseas to schools in need.

My father authored four books and my mother was, and still is, his "editor." She calls me her spiritual guru. Maybe it's because I was born on that Feast night. She became a Bahá'í a few months after that, mostly attributing it to the kindness of those friends in Hong Kong and that peaceful day in 1993. He says that I can do anything I want, as long as I put my mind to it. He used to say he'd only buy me one thing without questioning it—books. I couldn't get the newest shirt at the mall, but I could buy the latest hardcover at Barnes and Noble.

I think only now am I realizing how much my life has led me to this point.

When I was seven, writing was a dream. I never thought I could put together those sentences I read in the books I loved. The Magic Tree House series—hell, how could someone's imagination run so wild? As I got older—Lolita—Nabokov was a genius, to say the least. Nicholas Kristof—give me a break, no one can be that good.

But now, with this internship program, maybe it's all a reality.

Yes, ASME is about the glossy magazines and the fancy newsrooms and the terrifying yet wonderful amount of responsibility. I fact check, I make calls, I do all that good stuff. I've talked to people in Barcelona, Scotland and London, all before lunchtime. But for me, it's about the people—the other inspiring interns, the editorial assistants, the mailroom guys, the associate editors—they make this program what it is.

I have never been surrounded by this many excited people. Excited about writing, that is. My passion has been matched. When my eyes light up, theirs do too. The volume of our voices rise as we battle to be heard, just too eager to share our ideas.

"Let's do this!" "Well after that..." "But then we have to do this."

It's a never ending list. Exhaustion isn't a thing. Sleep has been more or less thrown out the window. And even though I've been in the city for the past three years attending NYU, I'm rediscovering a living, breathing, growing city.

The thing is, to me, this landscape has a hold on its people. It captures its dwellers in different and weird ways. The cobblestone street near SoHo entrances the tourists but is a treacherous overpass to the hot dog vendor pushing his cart to his spot every morning and night.

The bar that just opened down the street has unbelievable happy hour prices, but it's just another venue at which the musician living up in Bushwick can audition, beg and plead to play.

There goes the old café at which you used to write, replaced by yet another Duane Reade. But the bocce courts remain up in Corona, Queens for the older Irish community and newer Latino families to battle it out on the sand-covered lots.

New Yorkers are fearless people. They have conquered this beast we call home in more ways than one. I can only hope—and tirelessly try—to be as strong as them.


Written by Natascha Yogachandra, New York University, Travel + Leisure
Edited by Haley Goldberg, University of Michigan, Glamour

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