By guest blogger Nebojša Vlaškalić.
As a kid born in a small, beautiful country with open wounds, I have always carried a big burden of the well-known, troubled past of my region. However, as a firm believer that we are not defined by our circumstances, I have always lived my life walking a fine line between the life’s cruel realness and a completely self-made positive vision of life. Maybe that’s why when the hardship would become too heavy for my back, I would escape from the painful reality and would dream of a better place.
As I got older, that Eldorado fantasy dissolved and it turned into a hunger. Hunger for new experiences, hunger for traveling, hunger for discovering the world and coloring it with my colors. I would always find the sweetest escape in big cities. The immensity of a big city to me is a synonym for an absolute freedom. You can lose yourself by exploring the magnitude but you can always create your small oasis when the chaotic lights of a big city become too bright.
To live a lot of different lives and to have the lucky chance to become a citizen of another country or another city, even for a little while, is a big privilege. I consider myself extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to visit a lot of big cities and to currently live in one (Rome), but all of my dreams have always led me to the same destination – that big city that I have always seen as a metaphore for a place where all of your dreams can come true, a symbol of freedom – New York City.
Everything you heard about New York is absolutely true – She is noisy, big, magnificent, but most of all She is simply irresistible! The Big Apple is made out of/with/of contrasts – She is cruel and warm, uplifting and completely consuming, scary and welcoming, rich and poor, so fast and so slow, so dirty and so elegant, so wild and charming. As someone much smarter than me once said: «We have just one world, but we live in different ones.» This beautiful phrase describes New York perfectly – «New Yorkers have one city, but they live in different ones.» And New Yorkers are truly the biggest and the most beautiful impression of my first trip to the USA. They are all so different, but unified in their love for the Big City. Because of them New York speaks all the languages of the world. Because of them She is a city of all races, She says prayers of every religion, and above all, She loves with no prejudice while celebrating Love.
Now that I have had a taste of the Big Apple and when it finally became a real, palpable place, I have realized that New York truly does have dreams built in her foundations. This epicenter of the world is writing her history with handwriting of perpetuous renewal. This modern Babylon winkes at you with her traffic lights and encourages you to be the best version of yourself, while its indescribably powerful energy captures you so strong that you have to let yourself be carried away in/by the waves of this luminous megalopolis.
Somewhere between restaurants and cafés, I heard the voices of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. On the ferry boat to Staten Island, I heard «Moon River» and I felt Audrey Hepburn’s perfume. Somewhere in a long walk down the Fifth Avenue I heard the laugh of Joan Rivers. While wandering in West Village I saw the beautiful messages left on concrete: «In pursuit of magic» and «Protect yo heart!» I have experienced a private show put on by the bright lights of Times Square at 3 AM, and I sang for them – «If this town is just an apple, then let me take a bite…» I heard the melodies from Broadway musicals in orchestra made of taxis and ambulance car sirens. I saw Will and Grace, Carrie Bradshaw and Samantha Jones walking in parks and I saw Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in museums. And just when I thought that I was lost in the stardust of the Big City, walking so tired somewhere on the concrete between the Empire State and Flatiron, New York hugged me and whispered to me: «Never forget who you are, because here you are celebrated for who you are! Your authentic you is simply… fabulous!»
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Nebojša Vlaškalić was born on October 18th 1987 in Novi Sad, Serbia. His name in Serbian means “fearless”, but if it sounds too complicated, feel free to call him Nebo. He is currently working on his PhD thesis in French literature at La Sapienza University in Rome, Italy. He is a professional daydreamer, polyglot, music lover, travel and change addict, hopeless romantic. His moto is: don’t dream it – be it!
I would like to dedicate this blog to all the beautiful people that I have met during my US adventure and who have made me feel so welcome! I am proud to call you my new friends and I hope to see you soon! — Nebo.