Finding the silver lining in a tumultuous world

What I learned from facing my fears and moving to New York City

Columbus Circle
Photo: 
Is facing your fears actually worth the pay-off? That’s what I found myself wondering as I sat on the train with all my belongings moving to what I now consider the greatest city in the world just five months ago.
 
But first, let me back up a bit.
 
After going through somewhat of a rough time during my third year at Queen’s, I decided I needed to do something different and out of my comfort zone in the summer. 
 
Even though I was 20 years old, I was still feeling that teenage angsty “I need a change” mood.
 
After lots of time spent on e-mail and Indeed.com, I landed myself two internships in the place I’d dreamed of living since before I can remember — New York City.
 
Even though I knew I should be thrilled to be living out my dream, there was something that felt off to me.
 
Ever since the US election, New York and America in general has felt a little bit less like home. This is coming from a girl who has a New York State flag hanging in her bedroom and always wears a necklace that has ‘New York’ written on it in cursive. 
 
I had always loved my cute little Stars Hollow-esque town in Upstate New York but following early November, I couldn’t stop thinking about the 72 per cent of my county that had voted for Donald Trump. I thought about the anti-New York Safe Act signs everywhere, protesting a bill passed by Andrew Cuomo to regulate gun control.
 
When I was home, I was always conscious about the fact that gun laws in the United States were already so unruly and combined with a Republican, pro-Second Amendment President being in power, reducing the possibility of gun law reforms even more.
 
It’s not even that I’m against the allowance of gun ownership — but knowing that people with bad intentions can own and access guns so easily in my home country terrified me.
 
There’s a sense of comfort and ease I feel when I’m in Canada that vanished when I went back to the United States. Even though New York City is overwhelmingly democratic, it was the concept of having people in the country with this sort of social norm that really gave me anxiety.
 
In the last 1,735 days, there have been 1,516 mass shootings in the US. That means over nearly five years, there have been just over 200 days where there wasn’t a mass shooting.
 
I’ve always been very conscious of these statistics — as a curious person and a politics major — and have always been sure I was making every possible conscious effort to stay safe, even in some over-the-top ways.
 
I haven’t been to a movie in the US in over two years because of my fear of a shooter in the theater. Whenever I’m in a public place, I’m mostly focused on the people around me and what they’re doing. I tense up every time I see someone with their hand in their pocket.
 
While I had been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder earlier in the summer, my fears weren’t entirely out of line. If people innocently enjoying a night out in a club, walking to school or heading to the airport have been shot dead, then what’s stopping it from happening to me?
 
Going to New York and living by myself meant opening myself up completely and forced me to let my guard down.
 
New York City is arguably one of the centres of the United States — if there was another mass shooting, it’s likely that it could occur somewhere in Manhattan.
 
Living in the city, I was going to be seeing iconic things every day — which is obviously great in a sense — but also terrifying given the fact that I could see the headlines for the next day. “30 shot dead at Penn Station” or “Mass shootings cost lives of 50 at Columbus Circle.”
 
Despite this, I knew I had no control over what was going to happen and while that can be really scary, it also gave me a sense of freedom. I boarded the Empire Service train from Albany to New York Penn Station and forced myself into a whole other adventure — one that terrified me.
 
Looking back at it now, my summer in New York City was the best it could possibly have been. I was constantly going on crazy adventures and living like the characters in all my favorite TV shows set in New York like How I Met Your Mother and Friends. 
 
While there were moments I was much more anxious than others about my surroundings and my safety, I was given a renewed sense of faith in humanity with each day in NYC.
 
If you knew me, you’d know this sort of cheesy sentiment isn’t what usually comes from my mouth, but in New York City I was able to experience that sort of positivity every single day. 
 
Whether it was someone helping me grab my suitcase on the subway, someone offering me a dollar when I didn’t have change at a cash-only bodega, or life chats with an Uber driver about my career in journalism, there was such an obvious presence of love that surrounded me.
 
When 9/11 happened, New York City came together to deal with the time of tragedy and I think that mentality has 
stuck — this is a city that takes care of it’s own people.
 
Having spent the summer there was an important experience to me because it reminded me of something that’s so easy to forget — the majority of people are inherently good.
 
When I hear about mass shootings on the news — most recently happening in Vegas on October 1 — I find myself feeling sad about the state of the world. It’s hard to comprehend that someone so awful could exist and do that to other people with families, loved ones and full lives. 
 
But the thing is, while those people definitely do exist, the majority of people are good people. New York City isn’t the only example of this — think about all the people who lined up to donate blood after the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting or drove each other to the hospital after the Vegas concert shooting.
 
In times that are so tumultuous, it’s easy to lose faith in humanity, but it’s important to remember those times people have united together. 
 
For me, it took moving to New York City to be able to figure this out but that doesn’t have to be the case. In times of such turmoil and hopelessness, it’s important to look out for the positives and remember we live in a world of 
general good.
 

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