Social Exhaustion

Entry 8 / 20th to 23rd June 2022

The NYC high lingered on the Monday as we returned back to work. Everyone in such good spirits that I felt the insecurities of “fitting in” slimmer away.

            After work on Monday, I joined a couple of the girls from the internationals group by one of the pools. It seemed to be the go-to-spot for chilling out, as almost everyone gathered there after a long day’s work. Besides, the scorching heat made it essential to cool down. Most people were in the pools, while others lounged beside it, dipping their feet or legs into the refreshing water.

            It was really nice getting to know everyone, especially those of different cultures.

            Interestingly, later that night, upon returning to the university campus, most of the internationals decided to play hide and seek. They scattered, concealing ourselves in various spots around the campus grounds and inside our residential building.

            When I say most, it was pretty much everyone – except me.

            Looking back, this may have added to the insecurities resurfacing, but at the same time…

            I wasn’t used to being around so many people twenty-four seven.

            Although I had a half-sister from my maternal side, Gretchen, we weren’t close. Growing up, I was effectively an only child from my Dad’s side. While I had friends in the neighbourhood and at school, those interactions were limited, and even when opportunities arose, I often preferred solitude. As a child, I relished being immersed in my own fantasy worlds, feeling that sharing them would somehow dimmish their magic.

            As secondary school began, I found socialising challenging; half the time, I struggled to navigate social cues and politeness. It was exhausting to keep up. I often found myself saying the wrong thing or unintentionally acting impolite.  

            As I got older and once, I got better with my better health, dealing with social interactions got better. But it was still just as exhausting.

            ‘Social exhaustion,’ the responsible voice labelled it at one point.

            I anticipated this when I signed up for Camp America. That’s why, when I initially applied between 2016-2017, I didn’t follow through with it. I didn’t think I could handle it at the time. But now, I believed I could, and I saw it as an opportunity for personal growth. It would push me to be more social and help make new friends.

            But there was only so much social change that one person could take.

            So, I decided to skip the hide-and-seek adventures in favour of some downtime.

            Luckily, I stumbled upon an unoccupied room in the university campus where I could retreat. I nestled myself there with my tarot cards, crystals, and earphones, engaging in meditation, conducting a reading, and simply unwinding. It was a moment to reconnect with myself and find my centre once again.


The remainder of the week was filled with further camp preparation and training. We were briefed about the upcoming pre-camp open day, where parents could visit the camp, meet the counsellors, and learn more about the program. Each of us was assigned specific roles for the event.

            In keeping with the back-to-school vibe, a few dramas unfolded throughout the week. It was challenging to remain detached, especially when it involved people I’d grown to like and care about. While the wise and balanced adult in me urged to ignore it and advise others to do the same, it felt reminiscent of that How I Met Your Mother episode – being in an environment or with people that evoke a certain time and age makes it hard not to revert backward.

            I tried to separate myself from it a little by the end of the week. Realising that this wasn’t how I wanted to remember the camp experience.

            It wasn’t all bad though. The school atmosphere helped when meeting and getting to know our fellow American workers. It was nice being around fresh faces – though I can’t hundred percent say by the end of the week they could say the same about us.

            As, at one point, as we all gathered around a stage area and playing some kind of game, one of the international camp workers was brought on.

            Just after he gave his answer to whatever question was given into the microphone, he ended his performance by declaring: “God save the Queen!”

            I physically face palmed myself as a few international staff around me, mainly those from the UK too, looked mortified.

            ‘Is it too late to say we don’t know him?’ The bright voice questioned.


This blog is a personal diary, and the content shared here is based on my own experiences, thoughts, and opinions. I am not a professional in any field, and the information provided on this blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only.

I do my best to ensure the accuracy and validity of the content I share, but I cannot guarantee the completeness or timeliness of the information. The content may evolve and change over time as I continue to learn and grow.

Please keep in mind that any advice, tips, or recommendations I provide are based on my personal experiences and should not be considered as professional advice. Before making any decisions or taking actions based on the content of this blog, I recommend consulting with qualified professionals or experts in the relevant field.

I am not responsible for any consequences that may arise from following the information provided on this blog. However, I will do my best to ensure any sensitive topics will be warned prior to each post. Your use of this blog and its content is at your own discretion and risk.

I value respectful and constructive discussions, so I welcome comments and feedback. However, I reserve the right to moderate and remove comments that are offensive, spammy, or violate the blog’s policies.

By accessing and using this blog, you agree to abide by this disclaimer and all applicable laws and regulations.

Thank you for visiting and reading my blog. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

“That’s my nightmares sorted for the next few weeks.”

Entry 7.3 / 19th June 2022

As we explored the exhibitions showcasing animals from throughout history and the modern world, my dislike of birds increased slightly. Of course, to haunt my nightmares, all the animals were modelled to their near-exact forms.

            Usually, this wouldn’t bother me too much, and none of them did to a significant extent. I even chuckled at a cheetah looking so shocked.

            However, the modelled birds… I understood less why Roosevelt was so fond of them.

            The first few sets of modelled birds weren’t too bad. They just looked like birds. But it was when I came to another display that I almost threw up at the sight of. It depicted Western Marsh Birds, with one of the adult birds having one of their babies rammed into their throat for food.

            If they were moving and it was actually happening, it wouldn’t be so bad. But since they were modelled and frozen like this… Okie dokie, that is terrifying.

            I quickly moved on to another animal, but then a few more minutes later, found myself at another modelled bird window.

            “Oh bloody hell.” Seeing the next bird display also having the model feeding their babies. “Okay, I get this is how the babies feed but do they really need to have stuffed statutes showing it?”

            Lewis snorted beside me. “Guessing you’re not a fellow bird fan then?”

            I breathed out heavily. “If I see another bird display after this it will be too soon.”

            About ten minutes later, while I was engrossed in reading about a new animal species, Lewis called me over to where he stood in front of another window display. He had a tiny smirk on his face as he gestured me to join him.

            I made my way over, my eyes quickly turning to the window display and my smile quickly falling as a result. “Oh bloody hell!”

            It was another bird display, only with vultures feeding on some kind of dead animal and, from the looks of things, each other.

            “Well,” I groaned out tiredly, “that’s my nightmares sorted for the next few weeks.”


Six and a half hours. That’s how long it took us to explore the entirety of the American Museum of Natural History. I was quite impressed with myself; enduring such a lengthy visit was no small accomplishment. And I was equally impressed with Lewis, Hanna and Diego. We all committed ourselves to fully experiencing the museum, and the sense of fulfilment was palpable.

            Though, what’s a better reward than a physical reward along with the feeling?

            We explored the gift shop afterwards, and I saw a top with the museum logo on it. Naturally, I looked for an XL size (I prefer my relax/potential nightwear tops to be baggy) and went to the counter to buy.

            “What are you getting?” I asked Lewis as we waited to be served.

            “Just a book of the museum.” Lewis stated, gesturing the booklet in his hand. “What about you?”

            I waved up my top. “We spent over six hours in this place, I damn well deserve T-shirt for it.”


Feeling exhausted and hungry, the four of us searched for a restaurant with affordable prices. Eventually, we stumbled upon one named Applejack Diner. When it was time to order, I opted for spaghetti Bolognese. Little did I recall at the moment that the portions in America tend to be larger than those in the UK.

            The portion I received was far larger than expected, and although I managed to eat more than anticipated (given I spent six and a half hours in a museum without fuel), I couldn’t quite finish it all.

            “That was actually better than what I thought it would be.” I breathed out as I set down my cutlery to indicate I was finished with my food.

            Hanna had nodded, “yeah.”

            Once everyone had finished, we did the math, making sure to add in the tip, and set off to meet Courtney and Mary at Grand Central Station.


Courtney and Mary had a great day. I had seen what their adventures through their Instagram stories, and any feelings about being left yetted out the window. I was really happy for them that they had such a good time and did something they wanted to do. Moreover, hearing about their experiences, particularly their visit to Brooklyn Bridge, sparked my excitement to explore those areas as well.

            I was glad to have done the museum today. While it may have not been as emotionally profound as The Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh Museum, it was impactful. Learning about Theodore Roosevelt and discovering more about the Grand Canyon set the stage for my post-camp adventures.

            Though, upon returning to the university campus, we were all exhausted. Ready to go to bed, and not looking forward to the next week’s preparation work and training.

            ‘You signed up for this,’ the responsible voice said as I laid down in my bed. ‘Just embrace it instead of dreading it.’

            Easy for you to say, I mentally argued. You’re not doing the physical labour.

            But the responsible voice was right. This was what I wanted – both the travel and the work experience. I have no right to complain.

            With that in mind as I clocked out for the night, I fell into an easy sleep.

Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall

Entry 7.2 / 19th June 2022

It was bustling with people, as expected – after all, it’s one of the most famous museums in America, if not the world. But it did raise my anxiety levels slightly. I made sure to talk to Lewis and Courtney, hoping that doing so would help calm my nerves amidst the crowds.

            After scanning all of our tickets and having our bags checked, we entered the museum. It was a bit overwhelming to decide where to start, as we all studied the map, trying to plan the best route. Eventually, we found ourselves in the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth.

            Since we all read and absorb information at different speeds, we gradually separated from one another. However, I made sure to glance up occasionally to check in on everyone’s whereabouts. I didn’t want us to lose track of each other.

            Upon all the different learning this section provided, there was a detailed history and science to the Grand Canyon.

            Before coming to America, I had contemplated where I would like to go after camp. New Orleans was at the top of the list, but I was unsure on where else. I’d hoped to possibly go to places on the weekends off we had, nearby places anyway. But other than that? I wasn’t overly certain.

            I overheard some people discussing a trip to the Grand Canyon. Despite the stupid moment where I forgot it was in America, I even considered joining them. After all, how often do you get the chance to visit such a remarkable place?

            I still wasn’t sure though. It was a big maybe.

            But reading about the Grand Canyon. It’s history. Its biology. It made me inspired. It made me excited.

            I’m so going to the Grand Canyon. I promised myself, taking an Instagram story of the displays on the Grand Canyon.

            ‘Duh.’ The responsible voice came in, ‘it would be stupid not too.

            Eventually, I caught up with Lewis in geology section of the area. I looked around, searching for the other four. However, I grew concerned when I only managed to spot Hanna and Diego among the crowds.

            “Hey.” I said to Lewis to gain his attention. “Do you know where Courtney and Mary are?”

            He looked up, blinking for a moment as he looked away from what he was reading and looked around. “No… I swear they were just up ahead of me though.”

            I frowned and reached for my phone in my pocket. “I’ll text them, see… Oh, wait.” I saw a notification on my phone and my frown grew. “They said that they’ve finished in this area and gone on without us.”

            Lewis had frowned too. “Already?”

            I shrugged. “Maybe they are really fast readers.”

            It wasn’t until we entered the space-themed areas of the museum that I received another text from Courtney. It stated that they had finished exploring the museum and were leaving to join the others for sightseeing in the city.

            “They paid twenty dollars for entry and only spend an hour here?” Lewis was just as flabbergasted as me.

            I was completely confused. Considering the museum’s vastness, it would take a lot more than one hour to fully experience it. I knew earlier that they were interested in what the others had planned for the day, but what Lewis made a valid point. They had paid to visit the museum, and an hour hardly seemed long enough to appreciate it. Despite feeling a bit offended by their sudden departure, I recognised that they had every right to pursue their own interests. After all, they weren’t obligated to stay with us, especially considering our recent acquaintance.

            So, it was a mixed bag of emotions I was feeling, but I decided to brush it off and enjoy what I paid for.

            “Then there was four.” I joked with Lewis, Hanna and Diego as we made our way to the space theatre.


One of the exhibits that surprisingly impacted me was the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall. To say the 26th President was an interesting man would be an insulting understatement. I didn’t realise how much of an influence he was on the perseveration of the natural world in America. He thrived in nature, possibly being one of the first figures to speak out on climate change and how important it was to look after our mother earth.

            He helped declare the national parks within America, one of them being the Olympic National Park. Something that sparked my interest, and I mentally put on the possibility list of places to go too.

            I remembered a much younger version of myself, declaring myself a city girl, resisting the idea of long hikes and camping activities. I preferred shopping, hanging out with friends, and enjoying the perks of city life.

            Now in my mid-twenties, I find myself less drawn to the chaotic life a city promises. Instead, I’m increasingly attracted to the tranquillity of nature, small towns, and villages. I crave connection with the world that nature offers.

            Learning about Theodore Roosevelt and how he resonated with my sentiments sparked a desire to explore the national parks he worked tirelessly to protect.

            Though, there was one downside to Roosevelt.

            He was really into birds.

            ‘Ew.’ The bright voice cringed.

            Don’t get me wrong, birds are nice to look at, and I understand how important they are to the environment, but… I must confess, I used to have a fear of pigeons. Especially when I was sort of attacked by one once (as well nearly attacked by swan as a child). While I’ve outgrown this fear, it was fair to say that myself and the bird species would never be on the same wing of life.


As the museum visit progressed, I found myself alternating between absorbing new information and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of exhibits. Nonetheless, it was a rewarding experience to immerse myself in histories and countless narratives. Moreover, spending time with Hanna and Diego was enjoyable. I learned that Diego was pursuing a degree in biology, with a focus on entomology. He shared numerous fascinating facts about ants as we explored the relevant exhibit.

            By the time we got to the dinosaur exhibits though, I was nearly knackered out. My eyes strained, feet killing me. If this museum wasn’t the cause of my death, then I must be some kind of immortal.

            Luckily, the dinosaur exhibit was a blessed relief. As a child, I was wildly fascinated by dinosaurs – a huge fan of the Jurassic Park trilogy (original, of course). I learned everything I could about the extinct species, devouring information online and in books.

            As I wandered through the exhibit, those childhood memories flooded back as I read about each skeleton and various species of dinosaurs. The fondness I once held for these creatures emerged once again, reminding me of the fascination I had for them long ago.

            It was when I got to one information point that I burst into laughter. Startling the crowds close to me.

            It read: “since the closest living relatives of Tyrannosaurus and other carnosaurs are birds, it’s probable that Tyrannosaurus walked like a giant bird.

            This comes off as the biggest burn towards them since the asteroid.


American Museum of Natural History

Entry 7.1 / 19th June 2022

During a relaxed evening, with a bunch of the people hanging out in the basement entertainment area of the university dorms, a sudden scream of pain caught my attention while I was doing my laundry. Racing to the source, I found Janette and Becky in the stairwell, and it became apparent that Becky had taken a fall. Sharing a concerned glance with Janette, I watched Becky attempt to assure us she was fine, despite clearly being the opposite.

            The following morning, as I was preparing for our museum outing, Becky called her mother for advice regarding the fall and the pain that followed. After the call, she informed us that she didn’t think she would be able to join us for the day’s activities in New York City or visit the museum.

            “It’s probably for the best.” I assured her, grimacing as she grimaced. “With a bruise and injury like that, you need to rest it.”

“It’s just annoying though.” Becky groaned out. “I literally already paid for the ticket and then I fell. Stupid stairs.”

            I couldn’t help but agree with Becky’s assessment. Those stairs were a death trap. Since my first descent, I made sure my clumsy ass was careful. The plastic tiling made them incredibly slippery, dangerous for even un-clumsy people.

            After making sure Becky would be okay for the day, the three of us set off for New York City.


When the five of us had decided to go to the American Museum of Natural History, we had sent a message to the camp internationals WhatsApp group chat. Two people seemed interested – Hanna and Diego – and asked how it was possible to get tickets. We directed them to the website, suggesting it was probably cheaper and easier to buy online than at the museum.

            Since Hanna and Diego were staying at the camp with Courtney, she had arranged with them to meet us on the train to NYC. In preparation for this, myself, Lewis and Mary got on the carriage near the end of the train to help the three of them locate us.

            “I feel really bad about leaving Becky behind.” I had muttered at one point on the train, conflicted feelings roaring inside of me.

            “Yeah, same here.” Lewis agreed with a heavy sigh.

            Mary grimaced. “Yeah. Hopefully she’ll be alright though.”

            Before any second thoughts about whether we should have stayed with her crossed my mind, the train stopped at the station where Courtney, Hanna, and Diego would be joining us.

            There was a burst of laughter as a crowd boarded the train. I knew who it was before even looking. It seemed that Courtney, Hanna, and Diego didn’t come alone to the train.

            A few of the other internationals came too, though not for the museum experience.

            It turns out they had quite a full day ahead of them. First, it would be Brooklyn, then Chinatown, and then Central Park (if I remembered correctly?). While I was excited for those who would be doing all these things today, I couldn’t help but mentally cringe. That’s a lot to do in one day.

            Eventually, we all arrived at NYC and the groups went their separate ways.


I had never been a big fan of museums growing up. Possibly because I wasn’t particularly fond of school. Constantly being forced to learn subjects that held little interest for me made museums feel like just another thing I was compelled to endure.

            Unfortunately, it wasn’t until my solo trip to Amsterdam back in 2020 (before everything went to shit) that I truly appreciated the beauty of museums. They weren’t just educational tools; they were preservers of history, storytellers in their own right. While some might debate whether we’d remember history without museums, I believe specialised museums are the most impactful. They allow the history they present to shine, honouring the stories and individuals at the heart of their subjects.

            While in Amsterdam, I visited only two museums – The Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum. It’s hard to say which one was my favourite; both left a profound impression on me.

           The Van Gogh Museum was deeply intriguing, offering insights not only into the artist’s work but also the writer and the man. A special exhibit was on display during my visit, showcasing Van Gogh’s best self-portraits as well as various artists’ works on self-portraiture, including a few photography pieces. But the one that hit home the hardest was the one of Van Gogh. It was him staring towards the on looking with dead eyes. Different shades of blue swirling around him. Radiating his inner loneliness and despair.

           As I stared and stared at the painting, the audio description of the painting ringing in my ears, it was hard to keep the tears at bay.

           The Van Gogh changed how I saw art. How art has the ability to speak our darkest truths, and for those darkest truths to give comfort to others.

           The Anne Frank House was another deeply moving experience for me. I knew going in it would be emotional. My paternal grandfather, who was born and raised in a small Ukrainian village, had a similar experience during World War II. While he didn’t share many details about his life in his native country, I learned from my Dad that his village was raided, and he was taken to a concentration camp at a young age, around seven to nine years old.

           My Dad had assured me it wasn’t one of the worst concentration camps – but it was a concentration camp. I think that’s pretty much as bad as it gets.

           Fortunately, my grandfather survived and eventually immigrated to England. However, he rarely spoke of his Ukrainian heritage. He never taught his children the language, and he never mentioned any other family members.

           I’ve always been curious about my Ukrainian heritage. As a child, the pride of this part of my identity made me consider learning the language. Though, I figured I’d need to start with some easier languages before tackling something more challenging.

           So, going to The Anne Frank Museum, I was prepared for any emotions to smack me in the face.

           Though, you can never be fully prepared.

           Hearing all the stories of what Anne Frank, her family and many others went through during those times were sickening and devastating.

           But the thing that smacked me the most was Anne Frank herself. And how connected I felt to her.

           She was an aspiring writer, her diaries being world-famous. But I didn’t realise how much of a writer she was until seeing all the dedication to her diaries. She understood, as we all know now, how important her story was. Before she and her family were found, she started editing and writing new drafts of her diaries.

           This connection of Anne Frank was furthered towards the end of the museum. Quotes from her diary entries were painted on the walls in different areas of the house, but one in particular caught my attention, leaving me frozen with wide eyes.

           “I’ll make my voice heard, I’ll go out into the world and work for mankind!”

           It was a miracle that I didn’t end up breaking down right there.

           And now, in the present day, as we went from subway to subway, the six of us talking amongst ourselves, I wondered how this museum would affect me. It wouldn’t be as dedicated to one subject as my two favourites were, but it didn’t mean I couldn’t get some meaning from it.

           It didn’t mean that it couldn’t awaken something in me too.



This blog is a personal diary, and the content shared here is based on my own experiences, thoughts, and opinions. I am not a professional in any field, and the information provided on this blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only.

I do my best to ensure the accuracy and validity of the content I share, but I cannot guarantee the completeness or timeliness of the information. The content may evolve and change over time as I continue to learn and grow.

Please keep in mind that any advice, tips, or recommendations I provide are based on my personal experiences and should not be considered as professional advice. Before making any decisions or taking actions based on the content of this blog, I recommend consulting with qualified professionals or experts in the relevant field.

I am not responsible for any consequences that may arise from following the information provided on this blog. However, I will do my best to ensure any sensitive topics will be warned prior to each post. Your use of this blog and its content is at your own discretion and risk.

I value respectful and constructive discussions, so I welcome comments and feedback. However, I reserve the right to moderate and remove comments that are offensive, spammy, or violate the blog’s policies.

By accessing and using this blog, you agree to abide by this disclaimer and all applicable laws and regulations.

Thank you for visiting and reading my blog. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

You Will Never Be Forgotten

Entry 6.2 / 18th June 2022

Understandably, with all the travel and walking, after our exploration of – probably – five percent of Central Park, we all were hungry. After walking the streets a bit more, a debate ensued about where to eat, and we all decided on Wendy’s. It was my first experience with Wendy’s.

            It was not unlike McDonald’s or Burger King, which I was so used to in England, but it had its own unique flair to it. The first distinctive feature was that they sold cheesy chips, which was what I ordered. They also offered various spices for their foods – some I had never even heard of.

            ‘Well, that’s not too surprising.’ The responsible voice, diplomatic as ever. ‘You and spicy foods? Not a great combo.’

            Unfortunately, despite my initial excitement for the cheesy chips I ordered, they were… not so great.

            “Ugh.” I pulled a chip from the rumble of cheese with great difficulty. “I can’t believe I’m gunna say this but this has too much cheese.”

            Lewis laughed. “You did order it.”

            “Yeah but I’m used to the British cheesy chips.” I stated, as if that explained everything. “I started having them on night’s out when I lived in Newport. But they were fantastic in Cardiff – they had a whole street filled with chippy shops. Nicknamed Chippy Lane.” I dropped the overly cheesy chip back on the tray. I wonder if I can briefly return to the UK just to get an actual cheesy chips.

            “I think that’s the American way though.” Courtney piped in, holding a similar look of disgust at my food. “UK food with an extra large dash of unhealthiness.”

            I snorted a laugh.


It was decided at some point to visit the 9/11 Memorial. Once Lewis and Courtney had located the right subways to take, we soon left Wendy’s and set off for our final visit of the day. As soon as we got to the location, the atmosphere within our small group changed.

            It was crowded, with many people gathered around the steel borders where one of the towers once stood. Engravings of names adorned these steel borders, commemorating those who lost their lives on that fateful day. While navigating through the crowds, I noticed a couple of Franks and Josephs, Janes and Lindas. The sheer number of names and lives represented was overwhelming. Despite the bustling crowds, there was a sombre and respectful silence that pervaded the atmosphere of the location.

            “I think it’s great that they did something like this.” I said at one point.

            “Yeah.” Lewis replied, taking in the area like the rest of us.

            “It might be a bit of a tourist attraction nowadays but a good one… Never forget.” I ran my fingers over one of the names in front of me, uttering it aloud. My heart clenched with a sense of grief. Though I had never known this person, there was a profound sorrow in my voice as I spoke their name – a life lost in terrible and unforgivable circumstances. I vocalised a few more names, allowing them to settle in my soul. With each name, I felt the weight of each death, each pang of grief.

            A part of me yearned to go around each memorial tower, to speak every name and declare to the world, in some way, “you will never be forgotten”. However, time was not on my side, and neither were the crowds.

            “I can’t even imagine what all of them went through.” I said after a few moments of silence. Just speaking my thoughts, not really expecting a reply.

            It was Courtney, standing beside me, taking in the same things and emotions as I, who first hummed in agreement before speaking a reply. “Yeah, they just went to work one day… They literally just went to work one day didn’t they.”

            “Yeah.” Lewis nodded.

            I felt the urge to cry in that moment, coming dangerously close to doing so. However, shedding tears in front of a sea of strangers and people I had only recently met didn’t seem very appealing. It was a different story with Daphne the previous day – though crying in front of a new acquaintance was somewhat embarrassing, it felt necessary, and my conscious brain didn’t particularly care about the setting. Besides, there was no large crowd to bear witness either.

            So, instead, I blinked the build up of tears away and gave a side hug to Courtney, who returned it.

            After a while though, as the weather turned slightly and the wind picked up, Courtney glanced to the rest of us. “I’m freezing.”

            Forcing a smile on my face, I glanced to Courtney. “We’ll try to find you’re a hoodie!” I said with a laugh.

            Courtney grinned. “I want one that says ‘I heart New York.’”

            “Yeah!” I laughed, my whole body relaxing due to the lighter topic.

            We then moved away from the memorial, everyone thinking about where to go next or which direction to go in.

            “It looks quite colourful that way.” I suggested, “I don’t know why.”

            “Yeah.” Courtney agreed and the group returned to it’s normal size as we started headed in the direction I pointed at.

            However, I then whipped my head around as I tried to figure out something. “Wait, which way is the Statute of Liberty ferry?” I asked, remembering that we discussed at Wendy’s getting the ferry around the attraction after the 9/11 Memorial. “But we got to get you a hoodie first because –”

            “I’d like a hoodie first beforehand…” Courtney giggled.

            “Yeah.” I laughed in return.

            “Because that will be a little bit more windy.” Lewis chipped in with a small amused grin.

            I laughed again. “I think she might get pneumonia.”

            Courtney laughed along. “Yeah, I was thinking the same.”

            I looked over, slightly panicking as I couldn’t see the others. “Where’s – oh shit, there they are. One, two three, four, five…” I pointed at each person – including myself – to count and reassure myself everyone was here. I then reached into my denim jacket, another panic going through me. “Oh shit, is my data still on?”


We wandered around the World Trade Centre Shopping Centre for a bit, searching for a shop that offered reasonably priced hoodies for Courtney. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anything suitable. Even at the nearby souvenir shop, everything seemed a bit too pricey or not to Courtney’s taste.

            As the weather was gradually turning colder, we decided that going on the ferry wasn’t a good idea. Even if we managed to find a hoodie for Courtney, the increasing wind and cold made it less appealing. There was only so much my denim jacket could do.

            Plus, we were all exhausted and wanted to crawl into the nearest bed.

            So, we made our way to Grand Central Station and made our way back to our university accommodation.

            On the train back, we started talking about other things we wanted to do in New York, and I believe it was Lewis who brought up going to the American Museum of Natural History.

            “Is that the museum that was in The Night of the Museum?” I asked.

            Lewis had nodded. “I really want to go there.”

            I thought about it. “I would be up for going too.”

            “Maybe tomorrow?” Courtney suggested.

            The group agreed, and those with access to data checked online for ticket prices. It was around twenty dollars for full access, with additional charges for the special exhibits.

            “I’m not too fussed about those.” Lewis said and I nodded in agreement, paying for my ticket.

            A stop before the university campus stop, Courtney left to return to the camp, and soon enough, we were back at our university dorms. Taking a relaxing evening, understanding that the next day would be a long one.

New York City

Entry 6.1 / 18th June 2022

I woke up on Saturday deeply refreshed and excited. My alarm rang out, and I quickly leapt up, so swiftly that I felt my head spin a little and turned it off. Glancing over at Becky’s bed, I wondered if she would be up for the planned outing that we had all organised. I wasn’t sure if any of those who went out last night would be joining us today. As, from briefly waking up in the night when Becky returned, they were all out pretty late.

            Nevertheless, that wouldn’t stop me, and I got up, starting to get ready for the day.


Fortunately, a few people who went out the previous night weren’t too hungover the next day, and I was joined by a couple of individuals to go to NYC. Despite the growing bumbling excitement, everyone remained quite relaxed.

            I wasn’t too sure how to feel. On the exterior, I probably looked more excited than a priest on Christmas Day. But internally… I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It was only merely two months ago that I sat with my Dad in a pub across the street from where I lived, with my flatmate by my side, telling him that I would be going to America for three months.

            I didn’t truly believe at the time that it was going to happen.

            And it was even more unbelievable that it was happening.

            The uncertainty of it all gnawed at me. Do I deserve this? It was a question that had been etched into my mind for the last few years. The years of… contentment. Peace. Or as close to peace as one can get without being dead.

            I hate the word happy. That term felt like a significant mockery, repeatedly applied to describe my past self. However, I believe that, up until recently, the sense of contentment I experienced over the last four years was as close to happiness as I have ever come.

            But then, events occurred that made me see life in a different way. Even though I was content, was I fulfilled? Could I honestly say, fifty years from now, as I’m sitting in front of a TV, unable to move much because everything aches, that I had done everything I ever wanted? That I challenged myself and reached my full potential. That I risked everything to get much closer to that feeling of true happiness?

            After posing those questions, the contentment I had been experiencing suddenly didn’t seem enough.

            But do I deserve more?

            ‘Maybe the real question should be why don’t you believe you deserve more?’ The responsible voice spoke softly within me as I watched the train windows darken entering the Grand Central Station tunnels.

            Fortunately, I didn’t have much time to dwell on that hard-hitting question as the train came to a stop, and everyone around me wore broad smiles.

            “Ready?” Courtney asked from beside me.

            I let the excitement wash over me finally as I matched her smile. “Totally.”


Grand Central Station was exactly as my fifteen-year-old self remembered it: busy, dimly lit yet overwhelmingly bright, chaotic yet enchanting. Admittedly, this time around, I was able to fully take it in – appreciating the architecture and artwork. I felt a twinge of shame as I realised that, despite my initial recognition, I couldn’t recall the ceiling artwork from my previous visit.

            It was moments like these that made me want to slap my younger self.

            However, at the same time, maybe that’s what made this second-first sight more special – observing and noticing things that escaped my attention the first time around.

            We lingered at Grand Central Station for a while, capturing photos and discussing where to head next.

            As we made our way out, the decision was unanimous – our first stop would be Times Square, given its proximity and iconic status.

            As we strolled through the areas, I found myself scanning the surroundings, attempting to recall if I had walked these streets before. While it’s likely I had, the memories were either fuzzy or the areas had undergone significant changes since my teenage years. One distinct recollection about these streets was my consistent stumbling over a gap in the ground that seemed to have been struck by the Hulk.

            I doubt that’s still there.

            Before I knew it, we had rounded the corner and my eyes laid on Times Square for the second-first time.

            ‘OH MY GOD!’ The bright voice screamed in my head, rivalling the sounds of the busy New York streets. ‘LOOK! IT’S TIMES SQUARE! IT’S TIME SQUARE! LOOK!’

            I frowned, shaking off the wincing that was forming. Bloody hell, people call me loud.

            (I’m seriously debating renaming you the loud voice.

            ‘Hey! That’s not nice!’)

            The enthusiasm behind the bright voice was justified. It was Times Square, after all, with all its vibrant charm – though a somewhat disorderly charm if you spare a glance at the ground below. However, as we approached, a tinge of disappointment began to seep in.

            It’s looks… smaller.

            Both my recollections and the films had deceived me. They painted Times Square as this radiant, enchanting, and vast expanse. In reality? It was cramped, somewhat unclean, and bustling. However… it retained its magic, albeit in a distinctive manner. Despite its hectic nature and the fact it could be brighter at night, you couldn’t help but be captivated by it. You felt like you were genuinely part of something – a mere individual in the crowd, predominantly comprised of tourists.

            We snapped photos of each other, and at one point, a professional photographer captured me in the midst of my impromptu photoshoot on my phone. I politely declined the pictures he took, satisfied with my iPhone shots.

            Soon, we were moving onwards, finding a subway station to take us to Central Park.

            The subways were both exactly as I remembered and as I expected – hot, crowded, and a bit uncomfortable. We were saved from the heat once inside the actual subway, as air conditioning was a must in America. We all chatted amongst ourselves, with Courtney and Lewis on subway direction duty as they knew which subway to take and when to get off.

            Eventually, we found ourselves in Central Park.

            ‘CENTRAL PARK!’ I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. ‘I’LL BE THERE FOR YOU! WHEN THE RAIN STARTS TO –’

            Okay! I get the point!

            To be honest, I was not not acting in a somewhat similar way.

            “Oh my god!” I squealed excitedly, hanging onto Courtney’s arm briefly as I outwardly expressed my excitement. “I can’t believe we’re finally here! I finally get to see Central Park!”

            Courtney raised an eyebrow with her growing smirk. “Haven’t you already been to here before?”

            I frowned with a small nod. “Technically yes. But it was February time, which meant a lot of snow and coldness. We didn’t really get a chance to fully explore the park due to that, only briefly walking through it.”

            Courtney shot me a small sad smile. “Well, we’re here for the next few months. Plenty of time to explore.”

            We all ended up sitting on top of a large rock that reminded me a lot of Pride Rock from The Lion King. After taking a set of photos, we all relaxed temporarily. As I sat with them, I was grateful to have listened to Lewis that morning and brought my backpack instead of the small bag I bought the other day. Not only was it a good way to carry around water – which I had been drowning in since we stepped onto the New York streets – but it also provided extra room for me to stuff the denim jacket that I decided to bring.

            “Bet you’re regretting that now.” Courtney commented once I fully stuffed said denim jacket into my backpack.

            I shook my head. “Nah. I like bringing some kind of jacket or cardigan with me, even on hot days. Makes me feel more secure, like a security blanket.”

            We hung around on the large rock for a bit before it got more crowded. Slowly, started walking through Central Park, admiring all the beauty that nature had created. Obviously, photos were taken in the process, but I felt a bond, small and light, developing between our group. Even if we didn’t remain close or long-life friends, there would be a bond there that we could look back on with the fond memories of our first exploration of New York City together.