I hear people talking about the City and how she’s changed. I keep thinking to myself that maybe it’s us who have changed. Maybe it’s us who have forgotten to take care of the streets or how to clean up after ourselves. So, in fairness, maybe it’s not the City at all.
Maybe it’s us.
I keep hearing about the problems with our sanitation and the problems with the homeless and how the City has lost its way because of crime. But again, I don’t see this as a problem of the City. I see this as a problem of the people. I see this as a reminder that we have forgotten what it means to show the pride of ownership. I see this as symptomatic errors that result from real problems.
Then again, I say there’s a need to remember where we’ve come from and what we’ve gone through over the last three years. I say the changes in our culture have made an impact on our lives – and whether it was the pandemic or the quarantine or if this was a result of the fear mongering and the steady stream of media driven inaccuracies, or if this was due to the battle of politics and racism, the morale of our society is low. Once again, this is us. This is not a problem of our City nor is this a problem of our Country. This is us. This is an inability to apply understanding and change.
I go back to that quote from author, G. Michael Hopf, which goes, “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”
Although I think this should be more person-centered than gender specific; I agree. I agree that people who never struggled or dared or the people who never had to work hard or “knuckle-up” and roll up their sleeves because otherwise, they’ll starve to death are the people who are in danger of a rude awakening.
I think the person who believes that everyone should get a trophy is in for some troubling news. Life’s going to hit them hard when they go for a job interview and learn that not everyone gets a trophy.
Life is a competition. There are those who “do” and those who “don’t.”
There are people who talk and complain and then there are people who act and make changes.
It’s that simple.
I was told by a young intern that they believe that no one has the right to speak to them a certain way. I was told that, in fact, they are entitled to choose what they’re willing to do and how they’re willing to work.
Then again, it was clear to me that this person has yet to undergo any real pressure in life. They’ve never worked a real job. They’ve not sat in front of a large deal which is essential to paying their bills nor have they operated multi-million dollar equipment that is essential to earning their daily bread. As such, they have yet to learn the faces of financial deaths, bankruptcy, or the loss of a job or the feeling of waiting in line or on a call with unemployment. Yet, the economy doesn’t care if you like the way you’ve been spoken to or not. The mortgage company does not care about your feelings. Neither does the landlord.
At the same time, I had a different summer intern tell me some similar things and although our talks were enough to make me shake my head – as soon as this person graduated, they started a business of their own to avoid the misguiding of an angry boss. They earned their real estate license. They built their business and earned money and now they’re on a level of their own. They’ve built something of value and because they have, they will care for this and nurture it.
Somewhere between the two halves of this experience is an interesting lesson.
One person saw themselves as entitled. The other saw the need to entitle themselves by working to create a better life.
And just like the participation trophy, which everybody gets, one person thought that everything was going to be given to them. They believed that life is always rewarded. All you have to do is show up and that’s enough. This is an example of someone with hard times that are yet to come.
However, the other person who graduated is a person who worked and learned. They produced and created a future which is a task that will inevitably lead towards easier times in their future.
I see us all as cyclical people who sometimes learn quickly. Sometimes the process is slow and other times the process is unending because we never learn at all.
I have seen my City through different times. I have seen those who cheer for diversity become the same people who cheapen the true meaning of the word.
I have seen the skilled trades and the blue collar positions become secondary; as if this was only for people who could not make it through college or earn their degree.
This is funny to me too because I have lived on both sides of the fence. I have worked on the white collared side and the blue side as well.
I have listened to the inaccuracies of both; yet, I have worked with people who have dirty hands and tough skin which, in fairness, if you would look – maybe you wouldn’t see their six-digit salary or their annuity or their pension. Maybe you wouldn’t see the college tuition paid for their children.
I have watched a generation of people work to feed their families and I have seen the youth who never understood the labor behind this. Because they never had to dare or brave the elements, they expected and assumed that there would always be someone around to bail them out.
This is not so.
I heard someone talking about my City just the other day. They told me how the City has become a shithole. They told me this place stinks. The subways are for shit. They complained about the homeless. They complained about the crime and about the politicians.
I wonder if this was a hard person or a soft person who was living in hard times.
I do not blame my City or my Country. I do not blame the pandemic or the handling of the pandemic.
I’ve heard people blame the figureheads of our government and to them, I ask – okay, then what have you done?
Forget about the powers that be and the people in charge; what have you done?
Have you picked up a piece of trash? Have you volunteered? Have you done anything besides vote and wait for someone else to clean up the mess?
When people talk to me about the stench and the smells of the City or when they complain about the shutdown or the closing of businesses, I ask them, “What have you done?”
What have you tried to create?
Or, other than your opinion, what have you given to make things better?
Not everyone wins a trophy and yes, sometimes second place is the same as last.
There are no free rides and anyone who expects them is in for a rude and painful awakening.
I don’t know how hard I am or if I am soft.
I don’t know much of anything anymore – except that this is not my City’s fault. Her spirit is still strong.
It’s us who have failed her.
All I know is that it’s time for me to roll my sleeves up and get to work.
Times won’t get easier on their own.
Good morning New York City.
I’m on my way . . .