humansofny humansofny

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Humans of New York  New York City, one story at a time.

“We’d only been together for a year when I was diagnosed with a blood clot in the brain. I couldn’t work for months. I couldn’t go out. I could barely leave the house. I became completely dependent on him in every way: he provided emotional support, he ran a lot of errands, he even helped me with bills. It was a very tough time for me. I’ve always been independent. I’ve never had to rely on someone like that before. And it scared me. We hadn’t been dating for long. I thought the burden would become too much for him. So I got frustrated. I’d get pissed at little things and I’d take it out on him. But he never got rattled by it. The whole time I was afraid that my situation would become too much for him. When in reality, it was only a big deal to me.”

“I always wanted to be a mental health therapist. Ever since high school, I've enjoyed encouraging people and giving them hope. But I lost my way. I got caught in a world of addiction. I lost ten years of my life to drugs. I stopped when I became pregnant with my child, but by that time it was too late to go back to school. I started working as an office manager. I never completely lost my dream. But I just put it on a shelf for thirty years. Then five years ago I took it off the shelf. I heard a lady in my choir talking about how she enrolled in community college. I drove there the very next day. I was so nervous when I filled out the application. I was so nervous the first day of class. All the old voices were telling me: ‘You never finish anything.’ But I said ‘fuck you’ to the old voices. And I started getting A’s. On my first test, I got the only perfect score in the class. I graduated at the age of 50. I got my Masters at 55. And just last night I completed a mental health first aid course. I’m so close now. There’s still fear there. I used to be afraid of it never happening. Now I’m afraid of it happening. The old voices try to come back sometimes. They tell me: ‘You can rest,’ or ‘You’ve earned a break.’ But I’m not stopping this time. Somebody out there is waiting for me to finish because they need my help."

“Both my wife and I were raised in Guyana. Neither of our families demonstrated much affection. Physical contact was always reserved for discipline. There was a certain harshness in our household that I believe was passed down from slavery. Slaves were always punished for showing affection. They were never allowed to bond. And the effects of that have been passed down through the generations. My wife and I aren’t passionate people. We don’t express our feelings. We don’t say ‘I love you.’ We just banter back and forth. But now she’s sick with a major diagnosis. I’ve had to do everything for her: the shopping, the cooking, the housework. I try to be as responsive as possible to her needs. It’s the only way I know to show her that I care and I feel and I hurt.”

"First grade will be more harder than kindergarten cause I won't know how to write all the words."

“My older brother was my hero growing up. Everyone called him ‘Jise.’ He was this hip-hop dude. People loved him, especially the girls. Everyone knew when he walked into a room. I was the opposite. I blended into the crowd. I was quiet. I made straight A’s. I liked comic books and action figures. So I always looked up to him. He was murdered one night in 1989. Somebody shot him. I was fifteen at the time, and I just kind of gave up. I thought our family was cursed. I always had this feeling that I was up next. So it was like, ‘What’s the point of being good?’ I dropped out of school. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd. We started robbing people. I never actually took anything myself. I just tagged along for the adrenaline high. Even at my lowest, part of me was always the same good kid. I always held down a job. I wrote poetry. I kept dream journals. Whenever we were getting into trouble, my friends would always tease me. They’d say: ‘This isn’t you, man. Why are you here?’ Hip-hop saved me. It gave me a voice. I started doing open mic nights. I took all those dream journals and turned them into lyrics. I joined a group called The Arsonists. We toured all over Europe. We pressed a lot of records. Of course I always held down a second job. My proudest moment was when they wrote about us in The Source. My stage name was ‘Jise,’ in honor of my brother. It was like I’d gotten us both there.”

“My English is not good. Spoken English is very difficult. But I want to study at Columbia so I am trying to improve. I decided to come to America because of Forrest Gump. I’ve watched the movie five times. I like Forrest very much. Forrest is very simple. He picks one thing, and he keeps going. When I was young, I thought Forrest was stupid. But now I have a different view. I think people are too complicated. They complain about everything. Forrest never complains. Forrest chooses one thing and he keeps going. I watched the movie last month to encourage me. My life is hard because people don’t ever know what I’m saying. But I just think of Forrest. Forrest figured everything out because he just kept going.”

“My mother wasn’t the best person in the world. She was hooked on heroin for most of my life. She sold our childhood home for drug money. She left me alone to raise my brother and disabled nephew. I used to wake up every night to feed him and change his diapers. I supported us all on the $5.15 an hour that I earned from the grocery store. My mother passed away a few months ago, and I think I’m just now coming to terms with how awful she made my life. This is the most stable I’ve ever been. I have a permanent address. I have someone who legitimately loves me. But my anxiety has never been worse. I’ve been having panic attacks recently. I think I've never had to deal with the trauma because things were always coming at me. And now I’m not sure how to handle the quiet.”

“Graduation weekend was a nightmare. My parents haven’t spoken to each other since my dad had an affair. Yet they both wanted to come to the ceremony. So we spent the whole weekend together. Except they didn’t speak a word to each other. It was ninety percent silence and ten percent me talking about nothing. The celebration dinner was the worst. Nobody said a word. I ended up drinking a lot of tequila. I tried to fill the silence by commenting on every single dish on the menu. I made several observations about my pasta. Then I spent an hour ‘looking’ for the perfect dessert place on Yelp. I’m pretty sure at some point I even pulled out the subway map and described how the entire system worked.”

"My first husband had an affair after eighteen years of marriage. So I made this one wait nineteen years before I married him."

“I lost my job last week. I was there for six years. It was the first job I’ve ever lost. It’s hard not to take it personally when someone tells you that you’re not needed. There were ten people on my team, and I’m the one they chose. So my mind has been running through all the possible things I could have done wrong. The first few days were the hardest. I spent a lot of time crying. But my birthday was a few days ago, and my friends took me out for a taco night. And it woke me up. I started laughing. I couldn’t even remember why I'd felt so sad. My life was so much bigger than that job. I’m healthy, I live in a wonderful city, and I have a great group of friends. I just lost a small piece of the pie.”

“I don’t think I’m going to miss eighth grade. It’s been a tough year. A lot of my friends are struggling with depression and self-harm, and it’s hard for me to watch. I just care about them so much. Growing up is so hard for some people. It’s such a big thing. It’s your foundation, I guess. You’re becoming you. It’s such a big thing and we’re going through it right now. Some of my friends are struggling with loving themselves and loving life. I think they forget that we’re still learning. They think that they’re already who they’re going to be. They think they know the future. And it’s going to be horrible. And they’ll never be able to fix it. But that’s not true because we’re still changing. And we’ll always be changing. Even when we’re old, we’ll be changing.”

“I grew up in an abusive household where I never got any approval. I always felt unattractive and gross. But everything changed the first time I walked into a gay club. Everyone turned to look at me. I was the newest thing. I felt like I could have anyone I wanted. It was the first time in my life that I felt a sense of power, and I became addicted to it. I started using sex as a way to satisfy my juvenile need for approval. And that need didn’t go away when I found a long-term partner. I tried to tell him about it one time. We were walking in this park, and I told him about my strong desire to be with other people. I thought maybe if we could talk about my feelings, they would go away. But he took it personally. He teared up. He looked like he’d been stabbed in the heart. So I took it all back. I never mentioned it again. Until he caught me cheating on him.”

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