I was working in college admissions at the time and summer is definitely the slowest time of the year so I had a chance to get my bearings and make a plan for the busy fall season which involved getting to between 50-75 high schools all throughout the city.
I first devised my plan by laying out the huge subway map on my desk and determining, using a huuuuge directory of New York City High Schools, which train stop each school was closest to. Then, I made a schedule of when I would visit each school based on which schools were closest to each other.
|I know this map like the back of my hand! via
That fall, I racked up some serious miles on my MetroCard. Some days I took a 2 hour train ride to the very bottom of Brooklyn, near Sheepshead Bay. Some days I went from the Bronx to Brooklyn and back to Manhattan. Some days I went to Queens and took the train as far as I could go and then took a cab to my actual destination.
By the end of that summer, I knew New York better than my friends who grew up there. Sometimes, they had to call me to find out how to get home from places and which trains to take to get where they wanted to go.
And there's where my New York story differs from so many others. So many people I know who have lived in New York their entire lives have never actually seen the city. I got out and saw the city. I saw parts of Brooklyn that looked like they could have been out in the suburbs. I got lost in Queens because there is not only 34th Street, but there's also 34th Road and 34th Avenue. I walked up the hill in Riverdale (in the Bronx) near Manhattan College and almost forgot I was in the city. I took the bus all through the Lower East Side, through Alphabet City, all the way to the FDR.
My New York story isn't just based in one place. My New York story was about exploration and discovery; not just of a city of 8 million people, but of myself.
I made my own way that summer and from that first summer, I was ready to take on the city!