By Chloe Milne
I write this from John F Kennedy International airport hours before I board a flight that will start me on a European trip, taking me to seven different countries before I land in my new home, Berlin. I leave New York City with an overdue visa, a camera full of memories and a very heavy heart.
I remember not so long ago being very unsure about whether I was going to enjoy being sur-rounded by Americans; “Aren’t they loud and obnoxious,” I wondered. Well the stereotypes I had gained from American television, bum bag wearing tourists and having a closed mind, couldn’t have been more wrong. It turns out Americans are some of the kindest people I have ever come across. In fact there are some wonderful things I have learned from living and working in the States, the most of which is the selfless ability to help others.
I cannot even think of all of the amazing people who have helped me over the past year. I reached out to this person and then that person reached out to someone else. One connection lead to another, suddenly I was working for a digital design firm in Soho, living in the East Village with one of the most wonderful women I have ever met and spending my weekends in different parts of one of the most exciting cities in the world. This was, in part, because I booked a ticket on a wing and a prayer and just “knew” that everything would work out.
My risk paid off, but it paid off most of all because of the kindness of strangers.
New Yorkers have this amazing sense of community where you can say something crazy like; “I want to go to the moon,” and someone will reply with; “Oh, I know an astronaut – I’ll give you their contact details so you can connect”.
New Zealanders seem to be so shy about making connections and asking for help, the whole idea of networking seems restricted to a confident few. We also struggle with tall poppy syndrome, it might feel wrong to help someone else out, when we’re just trying to get where we want to be too. I know I was guilty of it. If I replay the last 23 years of my life, there were numerous occasions where I could have helped someone just with a contact, a piece of advice or even a smile and the times where I did are fewer than I would like.
I’ve learned that helping someone else doesn’t put us back at all, it gives us good karma, which we might redeem at any moment.
Any meeting, on a plane, at an airport, a lunch bar, or at your friend’s, uncle’s, nephew’s Bar-mitzvah might just be the connection you need … or the connection they need. Having been surrounded by 8 million other New Yorkers every day in Manhattan I learned that by and large people are kind and willing to help if we just give them a chance.
“Reaching out” and “making a connection” are terms I hear almost every day and I just wish they were as common in New Zealand.
I hope we Kiwis start to realize that tall poppy syndrome is something that should be eradicated along with possums, ferrets and Facebook selfies and we start to see a future where all of us are flourishing together.