Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Reflections post New York

It’s been a crazy time since arriving home on Wednesday, mainly because I leave again this coming Wednesday for Australia for a month, and I have a ton of work to complete before I go. I sit in front of my lappie, trying to write write write up New York. And I am surprised by how much I am missing the city that I got to know, and fell in love with in just 9 days. Facebook and twitter are my distractions, and I am so saddened by local news of the Limpopo education crisis, the brutal rape and murder of children here at home, and other stories that remind me so shockingly of how we live. Granted, while I was in New York I didn’t have half a moment to scan the internet for news, and there might have been a ton of stuff there that I missed, but it felt like Maria Carey and Sarah Jessica Parker entertaining Obama on one night that we were there was the big news (and Justin Bieber on the Today show).

My sadness is the realisation of how much I carry here, on my shoulders and in my heart, when I am home. I am so drearily sad of being white. Yes, yes, I know what it means, and where it comes from, and how privileged I am and how 90% of South Africans are worse off than me and they are black. It’s not incorrect, just heavy. When the Spear issue exploded in South Africa I found myself in the truly awkward position of having such strong opinions about it (I identify with the artist, and demand the right to freedom of expression) and the overwhelming reality that my opinions were somehow unimportant in the context of where I am. I realised that my struggle history is not visible and will never be counted. I am identified in a certain way regardless.

Back home I am white. Back home I am Jewish in an anti-Zionist way. Back home I have been called “a struggling artist”.  Back home I am “of a certain age”. Back home I feel like I am stuck to the pin board of classification and definition.

Something liberating happened to me in New York, the melting pot of diversity, money and poverty, immigrants, art, commerce, power, old, new, fast food and health food, dogs more spoilt than children, and hot subways where intimate conversations about everything under the sun can be heard. I was, for the most part, just me; made up of all sorts of bits and pieces, background, quirks, ethnicity, nationality, gender, class. And all of it was true and ok and unquestioned. I was me. And, overwhelmingly, I felt huge pangs of jealousy that I was not born there, or had moved there to live years ago.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no doubt that NYC can be depressingly lonely, and hard, and cold in winter, and scary if you have no job and money. It’s not that. It’s that you aren’t being pre-judged, pre-decided on. It’s ok to admit that you are obsessed by money, or are passionate about theatre or want to study for the rest of your life. It’s ok to be a waiter, or a tour guide, or an actor-in-waiting who is a waiter or tour guide.

In NYC everybody except the biggest celeb is anonymous. Everybody is getting on with it. Everybody is doing stuff. I’m not suggesting for one moment that there isn’t injustice, or crime, or ugliness, or corruption, or racial profiling, it’s just that I’m not walking around overwhelmed by it all. And the truth is, at home I am.

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11 Comments

  1. Peter Terry

    You really do write nicely (for a middle aged Jewish thingy).

  2. Gail Super

    that’s why I love it here and it never, in my experience gets lonely, even in the dead of winter and even when one is alone. You describe the SA thing beautifully.

  3. megan

    Thanks Gail. I want to live there like you.

  4. Trevor du Buisson

    NY will do that to you! One of the most isolating things after my travels is that not many people understand one’s experience of a place like NY. I sometimes feel that people tend to blow off the perspectives I’ve gained as arrogant and over-bearing. Then again, I remind myself that the other thing one takes with you, after having experienced the ‘hive’ of humanity (and all it’s tangible electricity in the air), is that it’s also not about everyone else but about the uniqueness of one’s own perspective.

    Be thankful that you had Jaci to share the moment with you. That’s what it’s about in the end.

    Beautifully written Megan!

  5. Beilla Gans

    Well written, Megan. But, oh so superficial. NY City is not a melting pot. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer and lives are eked out precariously.

    But a couple of days in Manhattan, just skimming the good stuff, is intoxicating. I am glad you enjoyed.

    A m-o-n-t-h in Australia.? Enjoy. Tante B

  6. megan

    Thanks Tante B. Good to have a home advantage as they say. Ja, a m-o-n-t-h! I must be crazy.

  7. Jaci de Villiers

    You sum it up so perfectly Meg. Being in a city whose liveblood is the arts always feels like a homecoming -to have that smorgasbord of options of theatre, Music and art every day is what drives my soul. And I love the way I am in NYC -hungry, alive, active and engaged! I love SA like I love a self obsessed family member- you just have to reserve a place for them. Back home now and I ache for being able to walk at night -to have all of those extra hours of street life instead of lock down and car capsules.When I move to NY I will not be running away from SA but travelling towards a part of myself I wish to play with -I don’t have to justify it-it’s the next adventure, the next bit of self expression and its the best time to be going. and then my very creative friend…I hope you’ll find your way there too. Less struggle, more creation! SA Whites generally suck -we’re so priveledged, patronising and think we ‘deserve’ stuff. So I for one will do the African continent a favour and take my white ass out of the equation -go back to this ‘fictious’ land I am supposed to have come from and play in a city that is flirting with integration. I think it will be fun.less heavy.I can leave behind my white guilt and shame, run away cowardly and go for self absorbtion for a bit in la la land.

  8. Wow. I love the way you express these truths, Megan. I love South Africa and feel at home nowhere else, yet nowhere else do I feel as utterly stripped of any right to express any thing. Too white, too middle-class, too privileged, too Jewish, too young, too old, too radical, not radical enough … too pegged and pinned to that pinboard as you so rightly put it. It amazes me how you blaze through regardless and still find a voice. Bravo you.

  9. Beilla Gans

    You know, I am perplexed and don’t really know what You, Megan and Jaci et al are carrying on about. Being white, being racist, being a white minority? Being Jewish?

    You think the good old USA is not racist? The Civil War between whites and blscks in the USA is not over. Look what is happening to President Obama. They oppose everything he suggests – why? Because they resent having a Black President and that attitude pervades the white population.

    Tante B

  10. megan

    I am not saying USA isn’t racist, I am saying that I don’t feel targeted as a white, therefore racist somebody in NY. And I only speak for NY; the rest of USA I am certain is completely different.

  11. Beilla Gans

    After my shower during which I do my best thinking (pitiful tho’ it may be) P>S> and most important :-

    Bon Voyage – maybe you’ll fall in love with Canberra(?) ? Hope you get to see Nikki in Sydney.

    Here the Whites also have a sense of entitlement which they are trying to maintain at all costs. They don’t want to have to say apologetically, “exccuse me for living in your space”.

    Tante B

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