Photographer: Tarishi Gupta (

“I prayed for the city to be cleared of people, for the gift of being alone,  a-l-o-n-e: which is the one New Yorker prayer that rarely gets lost or delayed in channels, and in no time at all, everything I touched turned to solid loneliness.” J.D. Salinger

New York can be though on you but NYU could be a lot tougher. If you come from anywhere around Asia or the countryside, you would know that nosy neighbors are bats that gained bad reputation arising from the folklore that ties them to vampires and Dracula. In terms of usefulness, bats are prime agents of pollination and seed dispersal. Often devalued, most bats are not blood sucking creatures but a friend to the mankind: killing insects those of whom are threats.

Nosy neighbours are skilled at dispersing gossip. But drifting away from the reputation of gossipy housewives in their mid-forties, neighbors drop your kids, bring you food, help you when you are locked out or when you run out of sugar.

In New York, you don’t speak to your neighbors, it’s an unspoken ground rule that everyone seems to abide by. You don’t greet them. You don’t know them. It isn’t uncommon to live in your dorm room without speaking to your suite mates for days.

Elevators give you stress and phones without signals are awkward getaways. More than anywhere in the world, New York is where you most need a friend.

My classmate, Aerin Reed comes from a small town known as Eastern Connecticut where the only revolutionary thing that has happened in the last few years is the renovation of the Eastern Village Store. Moms and gossips and hitting deer accidentally are as much a part of her childhood vicinity as are bagels, frowns and subway horrors in New York.

“My town has a thousand people more than NYU’s graduating class,” Reed said while describing her transition from a traditional small town to the city that is overly crowded even on Sundays.

Unlike her friends and classmates, Reed never dreamed of studying in a traditional campus setting, which made NYU one of her first choices. “I remember walking down the road after welcome week and thinking I do not know anyone on the street,” quite unlike the million recognizable faces she would encounter while driving a car in the part of the world which she calls “home.”

At this exact moment what she would have missed is a friend. At this exact moment she needed the kind of love Greeks call “philia.”

Philia was first used by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who defined it as brotherly love or love shared by friends. The English language does not have a separate word for what Aristotle believed to be unconditional and pure i.e. “with good reason,” so we shall do what we always do: follow the path lead by Greeks.

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni recently wrote a column titled, “The Real Campus Scourge,” which discusses the overwhelming theme of loneliness in a campus setting. “In a survey of nearly 28,000 students on 51 campuses by the American College Health Association last year, more than 60 percent said that they had “felt very lonely” in the previous 12 months. Nearly 30 percent said that they had felt that way in the previous two weeks,” he wrote. All these folks deprived of Philia.

In New York, everything is always on the extreme as is this feeling of loneliness. No amount of Rainbow themed Starbucks or insta worthy cookie doughs can fill the void that only friendship can fill. But my dearest, you are not alone in this. New York has that power over you but you have something that the city lacks: the option to halt, start over and rebuild.

Text your freshman year roommate.

Don’t let Netflix govern your life.

Talk to the person sitting right next to you, chances are she feels the same way.

Log off Instagram.

Remember, loneliness is a feeling that is temporary; It is not a lifestyle.

Don’t just make acquaintances. Get to know them. Turn them into your friends.

Most of all, remember to let go of whatever is holding you back: fear, shyness, insecurity, rationale, over possessive boyfriend and then you will learn to live. You need a friend and so does the person next to you. All you need is that one wide smile.

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New York, I love you

The View of the Manhattan Skyline from the Staten Island Ferry


“I know my New York City by heart,” she screamed over the phone; sliding her fingers between her black curls with a force that lead me to believe, she could at any moment, rip them apart. Rest assured, she didn’t hurt herself at any point but stood up, took deep breaths and walked towards the observation deck. I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

She may be gazing at the ripples or rejoicing at the sight of Staten Island from afar, breathing in the silence of the chaos. Whatever she may have chosen, wherever she was headed, her sudden declaration of authority, self-declaration of possession of the city, made me wonder how much of it was mine if all of it weren’t hers.

And then I remembered that each person makes her own New York. The 70,000 passengers that the Staten Island Ferry carries everyday make their own New York. The 60 million tourists that come flocking into the city live and relive the fantasy that is New York. And no matter how different your New York is from mine, we are all united, in the exact moment when someone utters the word, “New Yorker.”

I have been living in Manhattan for about three years now but had never been able to get myself to take the Staten Island ferry – the only form of free transportation in New York that runs around the clock – or explore even a little bit of Staten Island, the “forgotten borough.” But when I did, there was nothing like coming back home, to my Manhattan.

I am quite a frequent traveller and the same annoying economy class passenger you might encounter every now and then, who continues to fight for her right to occupy the window seat, even before standing in line for the check-in counter.

Yet, I had never gotten weary of staring out of the window, waiting for New York to approach me, or maybe reject me. With New York, you never know, you can never be sure. But today the sight I witnessed, I had never seen before.

Traveling in an airplane or in a subway is quite unlike traveling in the Staten Island Ferry: the struggle, the wars, the history, you see all of it looming over the sea. And then you see the Liberty. “It is gorgeous,” says the middle aged-woman from Texas.


The Commuter’s free pass


It indeed is, for her and for thousands of tourists like her who visit everyday quite easily seduced and compelled by the city’s charisma. For immigrants like me, it is what New York is: a symbol of hope: an open invitation that reminds me that I can mold it, make it my own.

I have never had a bad narrative to offer after moving to New York. I have been catcalled, yes. I have had mice problem in my house, yes. I have waited for the subway for more than 20 minutes, yes. I avoid Times Square, yes. I think I should move to LA, get a car and a big house, yes. But does that ever make me love New York any less? NO. “It’s a bitter sweet love affair,” my classmate had said.

And the fact that she called it an affair instead of a melancholy one-sided love story, tells me she knew the city loved her back. Just like I do and just like the millions of others who come to the city and engage in an ever lasting love affair.

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How Georgia Lale Is Confronting Xenophobia With Art

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An NYC-based Greek visual artist is using the human body to convey exactly what human beings lack today: empathy.

It wasn’t until #orangevest went viral that Georgia Lale’s work received recognition. The 28-year-old Greek artist swam through New York City streets wearing an orange vest with black clothes underneath it: the vest symbolized hope for refugees trying to reach European borders and the black clothes honored the lives lost to the Aegean Sea.

Her first solo intervention took place at the Metropolitan Museum of the Art. Wearing the orange life vest, Lale walked from the museum’s Syrian-Arab galleries to the Greek galleries. The second performance was at Times Square where people mostly ignored her presence on the streets.

But it is normal to ignore what makes one feel uncomfortable, and every sensation generates attention and, later on, reflection.

Lale, who had come to the city in 2014, pursued her master’s degree at the School of Visual Arts and documents Refugee crises ever since. One of her recent projects is called “Emergence” and is a statement on the uprising of xenophobia and racism against Muslim refugees, immigrants, and USA citizens.

What influenced your decision to move away from Greece?

It was my dream to come to NYC and establish a career here. I decided to leave Greece even though I was doing pretty well with my career but the community was too small; I couldn’t expand and I wanted to speak out louder to a bigger audience. I needed more like a multi-cultural audience and that wasn’t so easy to find in Greece. After the financial crisis, things were getting more and more difficult not just for visual artists but also for everybody. My projects only really gained a status after I shifted to NYC.

How did #orangevest come about?

Initially, these performances were solo and I had no support. But it soon gained momentum when other artists came forward to join the cause. The performance was based on the usage of public spaces in the city and attempted to create an aesthetic balance between a protest and work of art.

The performers did not disturb everyday public routines: they were simply present and quiet. They spoke to the people around them only if they were questioned about the nature of the performance.

I think social media really played an important role in the popularity the performance gained. The outreach was great since #orangevest was performed in New York City, Washington D.C, Philidelphia, and Brussels. I was later invited as guest speaker at a panel discussion in Yale where I spoke about the role of an artist in the changing era.

How has your personal life influenced your artwork?

My great grandmother had to flee from Turkey with her six kids during the war that broke out between Turkey and Greece. She gave birth to the youngest one on the boat itself! Her husband had to dress as an old lady in order to avoid labor camps the men were forced into. Two of the youngest kids died due to lack of aid and austerity.

My grandfather came with his mother and the rest of the siblings at the age of five, and after he died, we figured that he was actually circumcised, so he was probably an adopted child of a Muslim family. We also found some adoption papers later on. I have the feeling sometimes that I might have some lost roots here and this makes me feel closer to the Muslim and the refugee community. There are a lot of misconceptions about what being a Muslim is and I want to familiarize myself with their culture.

How would you describe the daily routine of an artist?

As an artist, I don’t have free time. I’m always thinking about my art. I consider everything that I do as work. If I need a break, I would go shopping or go out for dinner. My ideal day consists of: work at the studio, reading, watching the news, spending time with my husband and going to an art show or at the movies. I love being by myself at the studio but I also enjoy socializing. I spend most of my time with people that are not directly related with the art world and I’m speaking with strangers all the time. I like to hear what the have to say and learn from them and their experience of life.

So how does Europe and America go hand-in-hand in your artworks?

Americans don’t really understand how privileged they are. As a Greek artist based in NYC, I am always trying to find a balance between Europe and America and create a cultural mix or establish some kind of intersection. Europe is going through a financial and a refugee crisis. We also have a Neo-nazi party in Greece and they are protesting outside schools were refugee kids are going to learn Greek and participate in other programs. I am really sad to see this and this is not just happening in Greece but all over.

At the conference in Yale, politicians and policy makers were advising upcoming politicians in Europe to base their campaigns not on facts but on emotions after the presidential election results in America. You see everything is changing and everything is connected.

What is your next project about?

My last piece is called Emergence and is a statement on the uprising of xenophobia and racism against Muslim refugees, immigrants and USA citizens. I’m very sensitive when it comes to cultural identities and the human rights of freedom of speech and of expression of beliefs. No one must ever feel that they need to hide his/her cultural identity or religion beliefs in order to be accepted by the society.

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

I can’t tell you where I see myself in five years. What I can tell you for sure is what I will be expressing through my art: our times. Art can be more effective at conveying a message than a news report since we have become desensitized to images and statistics of tragedy. And that is why I would never stop producing art.

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