Today’s post is going to be a bit ramble-y and self-centered (or at least more than usual), so my apologies in advance. It’s raining on the pigeons outside my window and I’m in one of those strange, introspective, pseudo-philosophical moods.
In a week from now, I will no longer be in New York. I will be on a train traveling north and then west for twenty-six hours until I’m home. When I wake up in the morning and look out my window I will no longer be greeted by Manhattan’s skyscrapers, but the green of the trees that surround my yard. When I fall asleep at night, it won’t be to the constant litany of honking cabs and garbage trucks, but to the screech of cicadas.
Since I’ve been in the City, it’s been hard to imagine that places outside it exist. It seems strange to me to think of the flat horizon of my home with nothing between you and the huge expanse of sky. The spatial emptiness of home actually seems intimidating after being here for so long. I imagine myself with no tall buildings around me, no sea of people around me, and I feel unprotected, paradoxically both too big and too small.
It’s been a summer of self-centeredness. I feel like I’ve had to try hard to carve out some sort of identity for myself here, to declare myself as an individual among millions of other individuals. I’ve spent a lot of time by myself, and thinking about myself. How do I really know who I am? How can I be sure that I’m being “true to myself,” as the Disney cliché goes? How can I see beyond the layers of lessons and values and ideologies that have been placed upon me since I was a child, and if I peel them all away then is that truly “me,” and if it is then what is left that makes that person me?
My experiences at my internship have contributed significantly to this self-reflection. Through my internship, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about and become immersed in a different faith tradition from the one in which I was raised. The experience actually reminded me of my first semester of freshman year, when I took the infamous Social Organization of Law with Professor Sarat. Social Org made me think about the law in ways I had never considered, and caused me to question aspects of it I had taken for granted. Whenever I left class, I always had the overwhelming feeling of wonder at my previous ignorance and lack of curiosity about a subject that played such an important part of my everyday life (meaning the law).
My internship put me though a similar experience, and left me wondering how I could have gone so long in my educated life and not seriously examined my spirituality (I realize this is all very vague, but I tend to be pretty private in these matters, so this is the best it’s going to get). I had to ask myself some difficult questions, some of which were answered, and some I still struggle with.
In the end, I actually feel more confident in myself, or at least more self-aware—both in spiritual and more mundane matters. It’s certainly been a summer of growth, which I suppose is the point of summer/internships in general, as far as Amherst as convinced me. I still have a week left in the City, but even now I feel like I already need to acknowledge how grateful I am to be here.
One final anecdote: last night I visited Time Square for the first time after sunset. I’m generally not a huge fan of obnoxious commercialism, light pollution, or large crowds of tourists, so I didn’t think it would be a particularly enlightening experience. But as I stood at the top of those huge red steps and looked south over the main square, I didn’t feel claustrophobic or annoyed or bored. I felt very… not alone. As obvious as it sounds, I guess that’s the best way to describe it. I felt very not alone, and even, for some inexplicable reason, very hopeful.