new york

In 2009 I visited with three young women in New York City who were dealing with the consequences of  financial meltdown and getting on with their lives. Their initiative and energy were beguiling at the time. My thoughts and prayers are with all the people of New York as they face the challenges of Covid-19.

Stretched out on a double bed on the seventh floor of a hotel in New York City, dinner  spread around the bed in take-away cartons, One of my many nieces sat  beside me. I was famished but could not eat a bite  due to my laughter over her description of her attempts to come up with a banner ad for a fiber supplement for the better part of the day. She had been laid off from a job as a graphic designer at an advertising firm several weeks ago; she is back to free lancing again. Around ten o’clock she shuffled out of my room to go home. She was clearly exhausted but had a couple hours more work waiting for her at home before she could call it a night.

The next afternoon I was standing on a corner of Union Square to meet up with another friend, Rosebud Baker, who is an aspiring actor, for something to eat and a stroll around the city together. She quickly had me seated in a corner of her favorite place to eat which serves macrobiotic food….which I found out is large platefuls of delicious steamed vegetables, bowls of miso soup, and several sets of spring rolls for $7 a person. The place was packed and the food was fantastic. I was my usual self – full of questions for my NYC friend whose life is so different from mine- and she patiently explained the roles agents, managers, and producers play to aspiring actors like herself. Then Rosebud delineated, at my request, the initial steps she has already taken to produce her own show. She is tired of waiting for someone to give her a part, so she is taking things into her own hands. Rosebud’s currently teaches pay-what- you- can yoga classes to pay her bills these days and simultaneously helps other people keep going to yoga when most everyone’s budget says you can’t afford that right now. She asks for $8 donations, and is amazed to find twenty dollars bills stuffed into the pot at the end of the hour long session. And then Rosebud says – Aren’t people great?

The next morning I was having coffee with another friend, Trish Clifford,  in New York City who had given birth to her first child, a son, three months ago. Liam slept peacefully on my lap as Trish told me about the transition she is making into being a full-time Mom. Before Liam, Trish was a high school English teacher, and LOVED her job. Her students must have loved Trish, too, as a teacher myself could well imagine. Trish loves life and her enthusiasm is contagious. In the course of our conversation, Trish told me that the strangest thing has happened to her. Susan, it used to be all I cared about was myself. Now all I care about is Liam……Her husband works in finance and has to travel a lot right now, leaving Trish at home alone for long stretches with Liam and their dog, Blondie, in their small apartment. She has a sitter that comes in the morning so Trish can get to the gym – a priority for most new mothers – and to take Blondie for a walk, for she can’t quite manage walking both of them at the same time just yet. But she’s working on it.

The purpose of my visit to New York City was professional development. I attended a conference addressing the skills that must be taught in our classrooms now to prepare current students to be employable in the 2020 global workforce. The conference was stimulating, to say the least, but the time spent with these young people who have already completed their education and are somewhere between 20 and 30 years old left me confident about what 2020 is going to look like. They have the energy of two-year-olds. They have a beguiling sense of humor. They flock to New York City with a dream determined to make it a reality and they are flush with the new-found joy of becoming a parent. The conference gave me the data I needed to refresh myself professionally, but it was the time with these three young women which enabled me to see that we are, indeed, in very good hands.

Photo courtesy of Brendan Boland

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