Humans of New York@humansofny

New York City, one story at a time.

“My mom left the Philippines when I was five years old. My sisters and I were very young at the time. We basically raised ourselves because my dad doesn’t talk much. It must have been hard on my mother. She wasn’t able to come back because of her visa status, and we didn’t have the money to visit. We talked on the phone about once a month. She’d send us letters, and clothes, and toys. It took ten years of working and saving for her to finally bring us over. I think the reunion was much different than she imagined. She probably expected us to be grateful, but all of us were teenagers by then. We weren’t used to being told what to do. So we were pretty awful to her. And my father divorced her soon after we arrived in America. But her sacrifice paid off. We all graduated college and have good jobs. But it wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized how lonely those ten years must have been.”


Today in microfashion...


“My dad came here when he was my age, but I don’t feel especially connected to Vietnam. I haven’t even really asked him about his history. I’m a proud person. But for me it’s about what I’m doing right now. I didn’t experience my father’s history. So I’d rather not identify as the son of a refugee. I’m an American kid going to an American school. I’d much rather see myself as an adjective. Preferably one that refers to my personality. Like ‘cool.’ Or ‘nice.’ Or ‘interesting.’”


“Last year I did an exploration of having a child on my own. I went to the doctor, and after she looked at my uterus, she said: ‘Not only is it possible, but your uterus looks younger than its years.’ Then she put me in the stirrups and did a demo to show me exactly how the procedure would work. The ultrasound screen was right next to me. I kept looking at it and wishing I could see a baby on there. But I was already 48. I was single. My income wasn’t secure at the time. And I didn’t have family that could take care of the child if something happened to me. So I decided not to do it. I finally closed the door for good. I cried uncontrollably for weeks. It’s a gaping hole in my life that will never go away. I’ll just get better at dealing with it. I wish I’d done it on my own when I was younger. I wish I’d stopped complaining about the past, and hoping for the future, and just said: ‘Fuck it. This is where I am now, and this is what I can do about it.’”


“Last week I was picking through the trash, looking for bottles and cans to recycle, and my social worker walked by with her family. She walked just a few feet from me. And I know she saw me. But she didn’t say a thing. Not even ‘hello.’ I asked her about it during our next meeting, and at first she denied seeing me. But then she told me that she had been in her ‘private space.’ That really put a stake in my heart. Why can’t you say ‘hello’ to me in your private space? So I’m writing her a letter. I’m using a dictionary because I want the words to be perfect. If you mess up your words, then it’s easy for people to ignore what you’re trying to say. And I want to be sure she knows exactly how it made me feel.”


“It happened on Father’s Day. I took him out to lunch, and then afterward we went to a barbecue at his family’s house. He’d been drinking all day. At one point he’s got our daughter in his arms, and he tells her to call me a ‘biatch.’ So I start yelling at him. And he hits me so hard with his fist that I had to get ten stitches. That was the last straw for me. I still think he’s a great dad. I’ll give him that. A lot of people ask me how I can say that, but I see it like this: when he’s around my daughter, I see the love. She lights up when he walks in the room. I wanted that love for myself, but at least she gets it. And he’s a good provider. He works. He just bought her a bunch of new clothes this weekend. When he dropped them off at the house, he asked me if I was going to drop the charges. I told him ‘no.’ Not this time.”


“I feel like I had so many more stories before I came to film school. I wrote so much when I was young. I’d fill up entire journals. I was a quiet kid, so writing was my way of imagining conversations that I’d never have in real life. But it doesn’t feel like I’m expressing myself anymore. It’s become less about whether I like it, and more about whether my professors and classmates like it. I’m always focused on the rhythm, or the structure, or the notes I received in class, or all these rules from a long time ago that everybody uses because they work. And it just feels like I’m swapping out decorations in a house that’s already been built. But I’m afraid to be more inventive, because if your work doesn’t fit the rules, then people will doubt your talent. So film school has made me much better at making other people happy. But it’s made me less happy. And that’s not a direction that I can see myself continuing for very long.”


“My mother was sick for most of my life. She had nineteen years of treatment for Hodgkin’s disease. But she was the kind of mother that would come home from chemotherapy, vomit in the bathroom, and then still cook dinner for all of us. And she did this while getting a PhD in clinical psychology. She just loved being a mother. Even after the chemotherapy destroyed her ovaries, she adopted two more children. She passed away I was twenty-five. Shortly after she died, I realized that I couldn’t remember her voice. I’ve just never been an oral person. It was maddening. It felt almost disrespectful. I had all these old videos of her, but they were silent. So I thought I’d just never know what she sounded like. Then last night, my sister found a small cassette in an old box. It was from my mother’s answering machine. And she picked up the phone during one of the recordings. It was a month before she died. She was so sick at the time. But she said to the person: ‘Nicholas is coming to visit me, so I stayed up late baking, and I’m waking up early to clean.’”


“I was in a relationship for most of my teenage years. He wasn’t a bad guy, but I think long relationships can be toxic when you’re that young. That’s the age when you’re supposed to be figuring yourself out. And that can be hard if you’re completely focused on another person. I was always more worried about ‘us’ than I was worried about myself. I’d make decisions just to maximize our time together: the places I worked, the classes I chose, the friends I spent time with. Recently I looked through my high school photos, and I don’t have a single picture when I’m not with him. And, I don’t know… it feels like some of those memories should have been mine alone.”


“I like to shop, but I hate going to those fancy stores in midtown. They treat me like I don’t have any money. They’re always telling me prices when I didn’t ask. Either that, or they figure I’m coming in to steal. I went to one store recently, and as soon as I walked in the door, I saw the manager lean in to the clerk and say, ‘Watch her.’ And so this girl starts following me around-- real close. She was acting like she wanted to help. If I picked up an item, she’d say: ‘Let me hold onto that for you.’ So I thought to myself: ‘I’ll give you something to hold.’ I walked around that entire store. I went on a real spree. By the time we were finished, she was holding 25 dresses. You could barely see her face. Then I led her up to the cash register and said, ‘You know what? I changed my mind. I think I'll shop somewhere else.’”


“I came to it late in life. I was already in college. We were playing a dice game in the back of a bar and my character transformed into a lion. I’ve been hooked ever since. Now I’m part of a huge role-playing community, and next week I’m going to a three-day event in Pennsylvania. Basically it’s a bunch of people getting together and pretending to be something we’re not. It’s the bonding that’s most important. The hobby is great, but you always spend more time talking then doing the hobby itself. We’re building a shared history. And each time we meet there’s more to reminisce about. It can be hard to meet people when you’re older, but I’ve made hundreds of friends in the community. When my dad got sick recently, I asked for ‘spells, prayers, and cat videos.’ The post had 111 comments and 94 emoticons.”


Really incredible update for everyone who donated to our Rohingya fundraiser earlier this year. Thanks to the hard work of @jeromejarre and Love Army, our expectations have been wildly exceeded. 2500 homes have been built and the remainder should be finished by next month. These houses were built by over 1500 *paid Rohingya volunteers.* Not only were they built to specification, but extra features were added to each house. Solar panels were added to every roof. (In the words of Jerome: ‘These are high quality solar panels, not cheap ones that break in two weeks.’) Lights and fans were installed. A custom cooking stove and chimney were also added, along with additional shelves for storing food. Thanks to Jerome’s obsession with controlling costs, these additional upgrades came in at just $70 per house, which Jerome funded from other sources.
Extremely thankful to Jerome and Love Army for being such good stewards. The money could not have been spent more efficiently. Jerome asked if I would mind sharing the fundraiser link again to help with routine maintenance of the houses. So if any one wishes to help more, they can be assured that their donations are in the right hands. LINK IN BIO.