I was walking to church one morning passing through the Wall Street area and passed a familiar statue of George Washington looking very large and confident on the steps of some old building. It building was old and cool with these colonial pillars and was at the intersection that seem collect foreign tourist in matching t-shirts. That was the extent of my knowledge on this particular landmark thus far and it hadn’t occurred to me to ask more questions. I began to read the inscriptions of the building because, well, it was a rare morning that I wasn’t actually running late to church. I was gloriously on time which made me feel like I had some time to kill. I learned that this was Federal Hall. The first City Hall of New York and, for a brief time, the capitol building of the United States. More relevantly, it was the site of George Washington’s inauguration. One could argue, the birthplace of our nation. Well, that’s cool. Yeah I’d probably look that confident too. It’s one of many historically significant places in that district that I had ignorantly ignored or rushed past on the way to church before I blamed the subway for why I’m so late.
Even now that I live here I don’t really think of New York as this super historic place. Philly, Boston, of course, but not NYC. I didn’t hop off the plane expecting to see underpaid actors in colonial attire giving tours on quiet cobble stones streets, spewing questionable historic “facts” in a bad accent to middle school field trips about stuff that happened a long time ago (but not long enough ago to be that interesting). I hopped off expecting (quite accurately) the hustle and bustle of really important people doing important things, watching the busyness of the stock market, or see what’s new on Broadway.
The better I got managing my time, the more I stumbled upon things that ended up being really amazing historic sites. It made me wonder why New York isn’t exactly associated with history when so much has happened here! Yes, I pass everyday on the train from Manhattan to Brooklyn and see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island off in the distance, but I honestly don’t think of that as something of the past as a continual part of our nation and what makes it so remarkable.
I was walking through Union Square and passed a rather large protest after the most recent election. Every time I walk through Union Square it reminds me of the musical Ragtime and the protests of the immigrant workers living in tenements demanding a fair wage to simply survive here. A sad but important time to remember in our history. But things of equal significance are still happening here. But remembering those protests that happened one hundred years old isn’t why people come to New York. The world-changing, history book-making, large-scale events continue to happen in New York like no other place I’ve been in this country. New York continues to be the site where history happens. You don’t come to remember you come to witness something live and participate in.
Living here has taught me to live in the present. New York is the city about the here and now. The dangers of living here remind us that we aren’t promised tomorrow and the weight of the things we do today keep us from dwelling on the past. History is still being made here and that demands our focus more than anything that has already happened.
It’s not just the important stuff though. Living here and being forced to live in the moment has been a reality because for one, I’ve had to move so many times since I got here. It seems to be a fact of city life. I’m assuming because living here isn’t stressful enough and they (whomever makes these decisions) thought it would help to add the pressures of living like a gypsy. In a year and a half, I have moved seven times (four different buildings, three different neighborhoods.) Things can change so fast and getting used to something will only be that much more difficult when you have to pack up and drag your small but way too heavy second-hand furniture on the subway or cram a mattress into the back of a taxi. Again. Moving, working, living— it doesn’t matter. Since I got here, I have yet to have a day that went the way I expected. The idea of having control? Having a plan? Hahaha. I felt like I was tempting fate by unpacking and buying curtains.
But that applies no matter where you live. Maybe not the moving every three months but the part about being present. Living in the now is the only way to make an impact on the people around you. To have faith for things aren’t even on your scope because your plans are so much smaller than God’s. To meet with and know God closely, because God exists in the present. He isn’t “I Was”, or “I Will”. He’s “I Am”. And every curve ball, unexpected circumstance, life interruption, and crazy surprise has been so much better than what I would’ve calculated my life plans to be. This history in the city is incredible. But so is today, wherever you are.
By: Rachel Goddard