White Noise

As I sit here at my new desk, in my new room, in my brand new SoHo apartment, I’m thinking about the noise around me. I’m living, for the first time, on a busy NYC street and on the lowest floor yet (3rd, after fifth-, fourth-, and seventh-floor apartments). Every time a bus rolls by, my apartment shakes like there is a minor earthquake. Whenever a truck goes by, I hear the aggressive screeching, rattling and clanking that distinguishes it from any other vehicle. Cars whiz by in a relative whisper compared to these big gas-guzzling monsters, and even motorcycles add a loud chuckle and spit to the busy background sounds that will now become my new New York white noise.

Like the traffic outside, things are moving quickly. I just spent my first few nights in SoHo, and what can I say? It takes a couple weeks to get settled into a new place, but I think I’m on my way. Here’s what the past week has been like:

On Monday, I woke up really early to spend four hours sitting at a sterile, isolated computer desk while people all around me took important, possibly life-defining standardized tests. There was a palpable sense of stress in the air that seemed to parallel the weather outside, where humidity condensed into the blackness of a summer-like thunderstorm. From the 17th floor of a high-rise in midtown Manhattan, I watched the rain crack down from the sky like it was never meant to be up there in the first place.

I was taking the GREs. The first hour was rough, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable. It had been twelve years since I took a standardized test, and the security measures of the facility were a bit over-the-top (I was not allowed to wear long-sleeves!). But at about the halfway point, I got into a groove and felt comfortable. In a sick way, I was enjoying myself; there was a certain nostalgia to the whole test-taking experience, and I found myself sinking right back into the experience of it, like sitting in the same nook of an old smelly couch you haven’t sat in for years.

Stillness at sunrise on Isla Floreana, Galapagos Islands. Ecuador.

After celebrating my completion of the exam with several beers that evening, I found myself a bit dazed and burnt out the next morning (ok, fine: hungover) when I was supposed to be packing for my final move into the new digs. (I had postponed the move because I realized I was focusing way too much on the apartment and not the GRE-studying, so decided it was wisest to focus on my exam, and move in immediately afterwards). On Wednesday, I loaded the last things I had at my parents’ place into a taxi and headed downtown. Finally, I was home. Sort of.

Home is an empty word when you haven’t lived there yet. The apartment needed a lot of things, and I wanted to take care of the odds and ends before the weekend. Thursday, I spent most of my day running errands around the new ‘hood, with a quick stop in ‘Dash, the Kardashian’s store because I couldn’t resist (just to look and see if they were there, while pretending to admire sparkly mini-dresses and $75 tank tops. Mmhmm… not so much what I’m going for these days!).

The afternoon was spent at the famous wedding dress mecca that is Kleinfeld’s. This was a pretty wild experience for me. I went to help my sister’s girlfriend/fiance find a wedding dress for their wedding this August, and let me just say: WOW. Like, WHOA. I have never been surrounded by that many brides-to-be. It felt like I was in some diamond-encrusted bubble of beaded silk, embroidered organza, satin, chiffon, charmeuse and lace. Needless to say, I felt out of my element.

But, there was something slightly fantastic about it all too. I mean, this was a bizarre place for ME to be in, and yet, it only takes one moment surrounded by racks of designer wedding dresses to get you in the mood. My mom, future sister-in-law, and I began plowing through the dresses. These weren’t just dresses, they were GOWNS. Not to get all GRE on you, but here is a quick multiple choice analogy question:

Kleinfeld wedding gown: dress

a) carrot: vegetable

b) stiletto: flip-flop

c) Kobe beef: hamburger

d) limo: bicyle

e) diamond: dirt

(The best answer is C.)

It didn’t hurt to have the cast and camera crew of “Say Yes to the Dress” all around. The experience was somewhat thrilling, and at the same time, confusing. I am not one of those girls who fantasizes about their wedding, but there is something to say about the whole experience when you see some of these dresses. I mean, my mom CRIED (like, actual tears behind the leopard print eyeglasses) when a girl she didn’t even know walked by in what appeared to be seven layers of dresses in one. I was like “Mom, are you crying?! You don’t even know her!” as she, the same woman who told me to play in the traffic as a kid (jokingly), struggled to coherently say “but that DRESS! It’s just so, so, exquisite! It’s beautiful!” Shit, it was true. But I will NOT get choked up for a wedding dress that is not mine! Every time I made a comment about a dress, my mom would laugh at me and say “but Rachel, it’s not YOUR wedding” and I would bite my tongue and take the scathing bullet that I didn’t even think would hurt. Obviously I didn’t care. Right? I really wasn’t there thinking about me at all… And yet, why did that hurt just a little? Probably because, as we all know, there are layers and layers of depth to a comment like that.

Blue feet: dare to be different. Blue footed boobie. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Alas, watching my sister’s fiance prance around in these actual wedding GOWNS was a fun, out-of-body experience for me. Every now and then, I would catch myself noticing dresses that I liked for me (how could you not?!), and I’d have to quickly look at a mirror, see my jewel-less style, my blue plaid flannel shirt, and my dark circles under my eyes to jolt me back to reality.

But hey, my reality aint so bad! Yesterday, I had my NYU post-bac pre-med orientation. I met some awesome people along with whom I will be spending the next couple years struggling through hard sciences. It was so cool to be with a bunch of other people whose friends and families think they are kind of crazy for doing this, and to commiserate over the fact that we are all in our mid-t0-late twenties and even thirties, starting something new, and excited as heck to begin.

Among my new classmates: a couple professional musicians, a published novelist, a Marine, a Navy pilot, a twenty-two-year-old who just graduated early from NYU and already wants to get back into school, a bio major who has to retake all the pre-requisited because they’ve expired, and… me.

In a couple hours, I will be heading to Connecticut for a high school friend’s wedding — the first of six (give-or-take what I can actually swing) this summer. On Monday, I have my first class. It all starts to happen. I bought my first textbooks yesterday, and am standing in the gates, waiting for the doors to break open so I can fly through. I’m going back to school hungry, and the time has almost come to take my first bites.

But first, I will toss back a little champagne and get my dance on at an old friend’s wedding to celebrate the important stuff and the amazing friends that happen along the way — the calming white noise that will counter the loud cacophony that is about to become my new life as a student. While, as has been the case for a few weeks, I feel a bit in-over-my-head, everything is under control at this point.

On Monday, I begin. Right now, I pack. And, in case anyone was worried, the writing won’t stop. TwT is along for the ride.

Here’s a little rock and roll for you, coming from an uptown (North side?) turned downtown girl:


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