Sure, I was born and raised in my early years in the Bronx and from my teens on in New York City. Sure, I was reared by the typical fabulous dysfunctional family, not unlike most in my generation. And yes, I learned the true definition of chutzpah and how to fend for myself at a young age. But as a native New Yorker, I've always been irked by how people think of me and my urban brethren as rude. In all honesty, it makes me twitch! After spending years figuring out what I wanted to do with my life (and having some tumultuous ups and downs along the way), I have made it my life's purpose to come from love, to defy the stereotype and live with positivity.
When challenges and frustrations arise, I've learned to stop in that very moment, take a breath, and find a more centered resolution to the problem at hand. It's that simple. By fighting against this NYC standard -- this notion that we're all angry hunchbacks -- and opening my heart to new people and opportunities, I've also learned how to open my mind, how to stay focused and optimistic, even when it seems impossible to do so.
My late grandfather taught me to be a giver, not a taker. He instilled me with this theory at such a young age that I have him to thank for my perspective on life ... and him to blame for my addiction to generosity. I simply don't know how not to give. In the past, I've even battled with a lost sense of myself as a priority while caught up in the whirlwind that is philanthropy and altruism.
Alas, while planning my 11th trip to the Sundance Film Festival for work, I decided to make an impromptu stop at the Clinton Foundation Health Matters Summit in Palm Springs, CA. With the annual Summit Series event in Lake Tahoe right on the heels of these two events, I opted out of flying and chose to take an 11-hour Amtrak ride from one site to the next. Why? Because when I leave New York City, I find myself with the time I need to really get quiet with my thoughts and dreams. Nature is the drug of choice for me! Away from it all, I find the time to love myself and my aspirations, to expand. These days, I am married to myself -- no husband has scooped me up yet! -- and I find these inspirational moments help me, mind, body and spirit. With these bouts of reflection I can really grow, I can truly come from love so that, one day, I may find the love that I am destined for.
I have had a blast talking to people from all over America on this rail trip. The world sees the Big Apple as this great scary giant, yet to me, it's a tiny slice of heaven. Leaving the city is when I get the privilege of meeting the quilt of beautiful souls who shape the land beyond New York. From spending a semester in Israel during college and doing a program at Duke University in North Carolina several years ago, I simply know that leaving the city -- helps. And ultimately, shapes me. It softens my lens of the world to know that not everyone lives a fast-paced gotham life.
Dont misunderstand, when descending in a plane into JFK or Laguardia airports and driving towards the city, that first look at the Manhattan skyline gives me a feeling of deep inner peace. It feels like all the lessons I've learned while away converge, finding themselves with even more purpose in the concrete jungle where dreams are made from. They rise inside of me from hope, gratitude and love.
After all, home is home, wherever you are.