new york city photos

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.

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?