new york city photography

Feeling Tiny In This Big Big World by Rachel Abrahams

I love visiting New York City but have always, deep down inside, been very intimidated by the city. It’s also made me feel a bit afraid as well despite the fact nothing threatening my safety has ever occurred while visiting. I always enjoy myself but usually with an edge of discomfort floating around on the perimeter of my brain.

Something happened on this last visit where I was incredibly comfortable in my skin and enjoyed myself to the fullest while wandering around the city, despite being 5 months pregnant. I walked around alone and never once felt the usual intimidation and edge of fear. It was very freeing. Most would say it was because I have been there enough that finally it felt familiar so I wouldn’t be nervous.

If I am being honest with myself, I know the real reason of this change in perceived fear is because of how my anxiety and depression have been doing these days. It’s not a topic I talk about too often, especially my depression, unless I show how silly anxiety can make me feel. The best way I can describe my depression is I wear it like a backpack. I feel it there, it has a pressing weight on my back, it’s an extension of me, & as long as I keep it in my sights I typically do just fine with it. 

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Park

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Park

It took me many many years (and umpteen therapy sessions) to understand that a lot of my depression is directly correlated with my daily anxiety. As a result, I have worked very hard to teach myself daily awareness, coping skills, and now make decisions to alleviate my anxiety. I have also learned there is no shame in this and I am honest with the people who love me about how I am feeling. I explain the not so great days and It feels like by doing this I don’t let the mountain of negative feelings and sadness build up because I admit to them right away. I don’t bury it deep in my secret shame drawer (which eventually explodes with being overly full and overwhelms me). This seems to do a great job at keeping my depression at bay and just hanging on me like a backpack versus cloaking me in its Darth Vader cape and making me disappear.

When my depression & anxiety does get ahold of me, it can make me feel very isolated and tiny in this big world. I get lost in the idea I am a meaningless cog in the overwhelming wheel of life. I am convinced I am a burden to the people around me. It envelopes me into a fear bubble of a perceived reality that my rational self KNOWS is not real but is too overwhelmed to fix this point of view.

Bryant Park Carousel

Bryant Park Carousel

I have had three very serious depressive periods of my life: first when I was 16, again during college, and then in my late 20’s/early 30’s. These periods didn’t come on all at once. Instead, I describe it as standing on the ocean’s shore watching a tidal wave come painfully slow at you and feeling powerless as it crashes over you and then pulls you off your feet into its murky depths – all happening at such incrementally slow speeds that you are thinking you are ok and then you are underwater wondering what has happened. Then, I fight to not drown and it’s exhausting.

During these times I was fully functioning in both school and work, an expert at performing to my fullest abilities but all while walking around inside my bubble of fear and loneliness. I was not truly connecting with those around me but still looking the part. This is exactly why when people decide to take their own lives it typically shocks everyone around them and comes as a complete surprise. During depression, the light is figuratively on but no one is emotionally home.

NYC Fire Escapes

NYC Fire Escapes

So, what changed for me? A catalyst in my finding a way to keep the depression and anxiety from becoming full blown episodes was watching the Brene Brown TedTalk Listening To Shame where she said:

            “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive”

That statement stuck with me and began a very long and involved process of teaching myself to be honest, owning up to my feelings, leaning on those I trust, and stop living in my petri dish of shame. Some might say I am overly honest these days about my anxiety and depression but it’s the biggest coping method I have to try to fight against the chemical processes of my brain.

Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building

And that’s how I know this is the real reason why I did not feel that overwhelmed stress and fear while visiting NYC because this time I was honest with myself and forced myself to feel empowered during my visit. I spoke aloud my discomforts and fear to my husband and friends who then gave me very rational and emotionally supportive responses. I believed them (no matter how hard my anxiety/depression makeup didn’t want to) and confidently took on the city feeling like I had the skills I needed to enjoy myself and connect emotionally with my surroundings, instead of walking the city inside my bubble of fear and isolation.

I no longer let myself take this isolating bubble tactic in life and it has made my world an incredible rainbow coloring full of love and empathy which helps me to have more good days than bad. It’s the recommended way to live. Trust me.

The View From Above | NYC Photography by Rachel Abrahams

How often do you find yourself participating in this age old conversation filler:

Person 1: Oh my, is it May already? Wow - where has this year gone?

Person 2: I know, right? It seems like it was just January and now the year is already almost half over.

Person 1: Blah, blah blah, busy, so busy, everything in life is busy. . . .

Person 2: Blah, blah, blergh, I too am busy, I think I am even more busy than you, blergh busy. Next think you know it will be next year!

See what I am getting at? I admit, every time this conversation (and the topic of weather - but that's for another day) comes up I want to hide inside my invisible turtle shell so no one can see me, the introvert in me crying and having a tantrum over this inanely boring small talk. Honestly - why do we do this?

I know most people do it because it helps fill the air and avoid being uncomfortable. The problem though is many people actually feel like this all the time in their life because they are spending 90% of their time surviving to the next moment and 10% (MAYBE - but it's generous) of their time actually planning / growing / improving life.

What happened? I call it getting lost in the weeds. It's when the details have overwhelmed you and taken control and minutes become days, which become months and yes, the next thing you know a year has passed and you cannot figure out where it went.

Ya, no thanks.

It's good to set time aside and take assessment of things. You have to get above it and look at the big picture - you know, that thing you are calling your life - and see where it's going and if that's what you want. When you put yourself in charge and get above the crazy minutiae you get a much better overall view of things. Imagine yourself in New York City, walking along the street, and the types of people and moments you experience. What if you spent your entire life always on the ground level of NYC - never once going to any of the higher floors to have a look-see-around.

Then you get a chance to fly in a helicopter above New York City for the first time and you see how MANY buildings there really are, that it's surrounded by water, and the beautiful horizon that can be hidden by the huge buildings seems to be never ending........there's so much new and amazing things to see up there! A whole new perspective.

This past Sunday was the 16 year anniversary of when the sunshine of my world, superhero, defender of fun, and extrovertedly amazing friend Sara died in a terrible car accident. She was 19 years old and I was 2 weeks away from graduating high school when it happened. Until that point, life seemed never ending and we had all the time in the world to do everything we had ever wanted and planned --- and then it all ended. My world exploded into a million reflective glass pieces and now the task was gluing all those pieces back together, one by one. It took about ten years for me to feel nearly "human" again (closure never truly happens, by the way, there's always shredded pieces and chunks missing from you after things like this). Ten years of surviving.....moments becoming weeks, leading to months.....and then years.

Every time I experience a huge life event, I always remember Sara isn't ever going to have this chance. As a result, I fight to capture and remember every nuance for myself - and for her. I am very precious with my plans. I sit down, I assess, and I redirect my course if I have to. I am always working hard to improve and my goals all focus towards 80% personal growth and 20% life maintenance.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE spontaneity and unexpected awesomeness (that was Sara's forte). I also know what it's like to disappear into the vortex of "busy" and "surviving" and find you've lost yourself in the process.

So, next time someone wants to chat inanely about the fact time seems to be flying by......don't let yourself get sucked in! Is it really flying by? Then do something! Catch onto it - focus - and make sure you aren't missing out on maximizing what you've been given and even work to improve it.

Some people don't get that chance.

Being a Building Gawker in NYC | New York City Photos by Rachel Abrahams

Being hobbit sized (almost 5'2") means I spend most of my days looking up at things. My husband is 15" taller than me. I need a footstool to reach the 2nd shelf in our upper kitchen cabinets. I need a full chair to get to the 3rd shelf or I just make a life decision of whether or not I really need whatever is up there. Most times, I decide I don't really need it. I have a footrest at work because putting my chair low enough for my feet to be flat on the ground means my keyboard then is almost chest height. My altogether favorite? Sitting in booths at restaurants. My feet don't touch the ground and I look like a child with my legs just dangling in mid-air.

So, what does that have to do with anything? Before my first visit to New York City, several people gave me the advice to not look up at all the buildings because it marks you as a tourist and then you're likely to get mugged. That's a really hard task for me to achieve. I spend my life looking up and around me and to not look at the buildings was even harder because they are SO COOL. It's amazing to see when you're from a small and flat area like mine.

I get it, though. Locals really don't like it because gawking up at the buildings also means you are probably blocking up the traffic on the sidewalk and then they have to get around you, which is super annoying. It's kind of like in our area where you know the people in front of you are tourists because they are driving slow, everyone is looking towards the ocean (including the driver), and they are weaving like drunks on the road. You risk your side view mirror trying to get around them and curse the car full of tourists the entire time. I bet it's just like that for NYC locals and the building gawkers blocking up the sidewalk.

So, what's a newbie NYC tourist (or even a seasoned one) to do? We jumped onto the hop-on hop-off tourist bus and had a great time being driven around to see everything (more than we ever would on foot), didn't care if we looked like tourists, and also let an expert guide point out the buildings with historical design/details/stories for me to capture as photographs. It's a win win situation in my book! I'll admit, I am a big advocate for taking those hop-on hop-off tourist buses (I even recommended them in my lessons learned from Paris posts). I know these buses aren't everyone's cuppa tea but I think they can be fun when you're overwhelmed by the massive list of things you can do in such a big city.

The bus tour let me get my stare-in-awe-with-mouth-wide-open-like-a-fish at buildings on and then shake myself out of my reverie long enough to take some photographs. Anything that had a cool detail or a great profile against the sky wasn't safe from my camera and I almost had whiplash from trying to capture it all and not miss a thing.

You've probably noticed by now something very different about these photos compared to my usual photos. Yup, I went with all black and white edits. Mind blowing - right?!? I think this might be the first time I have ever posted all black and white photos but I really felt like that was the better choice here. Sometimes the color can overwhelm the details and that is what my main focus here is, capturing the intricate and small details on the buildings that most people rushing by on the sidewalk completely miss as they avoid looking up (like a tourist) and try to keep the traffic flow moving on the sidewalk.

So here, this is your chance to really pay attention to that area above your heads - and don't be shy you can grab your I Heart NY shirt outta the closet and rock that bad boy. No one's judging here. Especially not this shortie whose feet aren't touching the ground while typing this.

If you're also interested in seeing the color version of these photos, I uploaded them on my website.

What do you think of the black and white photos? Do you also deal with tourists where you live? Any other shorties out there, like me? Or, if you're tall, what kind of fun challenges do you encounter?

It Takes Time | New York City Photography by Rachel Abrahams

New York City | Flat Iron Building

Not too long ago, I went on an amazing trip to New York City and Paris and have been madly editing photos since I got back. I typically take a million bajillion images and then get home, super excited, attempt to edit them and then overwhelm myself. I have a REALLY hard time breaking things down into bite-size pieces. I like to attack all at once and then can get lost in my effort and just walk away........abandoning the project.

I am trying hard to get better about this and I started with editing the NYC and Paris photos - one day at a time - just a few photos at a time. All so I can take my time and put an extra effort into each individual photo.

Here's my first one out of the gate. Many more to come.....