Living in Manhattan definitely has its idiosyncrasies, let me tell ya.
For starters, you don’t know your neighbors…unless they give you a noise complaint…and only then will you know them as the nuisance downstairs.
Sirens are the soundtrack of the city. As are boisterous passers by. You get so used to them, only when you have people visit and point out how noisy it is, that you even realize that’s not normal.
People aren’t friendly. They’re not mean, just direct. Time is money and being nice will cost you extra.
Apartments by law, don’t have garbage disposals in the kitchen sinks.
And Manhattan is one of the only places that actually uses cardinal directions, (i.e., north, south, west, etc.) to describe one’s position in the city.
These are just little idiosyncrasies.
One of the most iconically New York thing about this city though, is the window-to-window view of your across-the-street neighbor.
Now, I’ve already mentioned that you don’t know your actual neighbor…which is true. Meaning, the person you actually share walls with, you don’t know.
But the person who’s window your apartment looks into across the street…now that is a whole ‘nother story all together.
The saying goes that you either have a “naked neighbor” or you are the “naked neighbor…”
Across the street from me, there’s the newly weds who like to have dinner parties on Friday nights. There’s the cat lady with all the plants in the window. The couple with the art collection. And an added bonus is the restaurant across the street, who — although is not technically a single-apartment dweller, offers fascinating vignettes of diners eating al fresco on the sidewalk down below.
Steven’s apartment, as well, has a slew of interesting ATS (across the street) neighbors. You’ve got the “Turkey Couple” — as in, the bird, not the country. You’ve got the influencer with the pink pom-pom chandelier; the gamer who plays video games at all hours on his wall-sized, projection TV; and the yogi who has a completely empty living space, except her desk and her yoga mat.
It’s like looking into a doll house, and seeing everyone living their lives right in front of you. Fascinating, yet equally isolating.
And now look, I’m not some creeper looking into peoples’ windows 24/7. No way. It’s just right there, I can’t avoid seeing what’s directly in my line of sight, and sometimes I’ll catch a glimpse of life on the “north side.” And living in this same apartment for 10 years, I’ve come to “know” these people I share a city street with.
But what I very regularly forget, is that, just like I can see into their lives, they can also see into mine.
Which, to be honest, should scare me half to death, and make me feel like I’m living out the plot of a horror movie or something. But, in true “invincible New Yorker-fashion”… it doesn’t.
But it’s true. My entire life is on display to my ATS neighbors, just like theirs is with me.
Which begs the question, what do they see?
Not like…do they seem me having crazy dance parties by myself in a face mask, or raiding the fridge for a midnight snack. But rather, what does my life communicate?
Because I think…maybe you’re like me in this…the Christian way that I want to be living (ie, how I treat people, how I spend my time, what media I consume, devoting time to God)…those best intentions are not always congruent with the way I am living.
And I’m afraid that if someone were to look through the window at my life, I fear that they wouldn’t see anything different than how any other young woman in Manhattan is living her life.
They’d see the same overextended, too busy, oftentimes self-centered, sleep deprived girl, just with the addition of an hour of church on Sundays.
I mean, do my ATS neighbors even know I’m Christian?
I’m guilty of boiling down these people’s complex existence into a one sentence, blanket generalization about their life: yogi, influencer, newly weds, cat lady, gamer…
What would their “one liner” be about me?
And what’s more, what would I want it to be?
The good news is that, nothing is set in stone, and change is capable of happening every day. Every day, I can start aligning the actions of my life with the intentions of my life.
So that when my ATS neighbors look through my window, they see Christ’s light glowing from inside, not my TV.
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