I have some (slightly delayed) news to tell you all. Maybe it’s not really news. Oh well. I’m telling you anyway. A few weeks ago, I took the New York City subway alone for the very first time. Yes, alone! I’ve taken the subway before, just never unaccompanied. There’re many reasons for that, one being The Fear is multiplied by a thousand when there’re subway tracks involved that I can easily fall or trip onto and have massive trains running along them. Second, there’s anxiety that other people on the subway wouldn’t help or rather, wouldn’t know how to help if there were a need for it. Finally, the NYC subway system is awfully inaccessible. At least it has been for the majority of my life. The subway station closest to me––on the corner of my block––doesn’t have an elevator. Not only are there stairs, there’s also more anxiety about falling down the stairs. It almost happened once or twice, you know. Super scary. Not to mention totally unnecessary had the station been accessible in the first place.
I never thought I’d be able to take a subway trip alone. People literally “rushed” during rush hour, sometimes pushed and shoved others, not to mention all the crowds…going alone never appealed to me. I always refused or shot down the possibility. Once somebody non-disabled in my life asked me, “Don’t you think someone will help you or offer you their seat if you need it? Don’t you think those are things people do?” My answer was a straightforward no. Every single time. Still is. Why? Because I simply can’t afford to make the assumption that people around me will stop whatever it is they’re doing and help me out. I’m disabled. I was never given that specific luxury. As much as it sucks, I can’t expect people to outright help me out of nowhere. Can’t rely on it, either. No way. While taking the subway solo, the only person I can rely on is myself. Maybe that’s a weird way of looking at it but I just consider it a reality, being that I’m a realist and all. Believe me, I wish it wasn’t that way. I wish I was more open or reliant on others helping me. In an ideal world, maybe I would be. But I’m not. It’s probably a defense mechanism or something. Because this world we live in definitely isn’t ideal. I’ve been ridiculously independent for so long that I’m almost conditioned to just do everything myself. Not saying that’s particularly good or bad. It’s not one hundred percent good. It’s not one hundred percent bad, either. Some independence can be good. Total independence is not. We should focus on being more interdependent.
So what motivated me to take the subway alone? What was that final push? Mostly money, if I’m being totally honest. I had to get to Manhattan and really didn’t feel like spending a small fortune on an Uber, like I had so many times before. All those cab rides add up. Basic math. I suppose a small part of it was about finally conquering my fear of the subway.
Happy to say that my first-ever unaccompanied subway trip was a success. Great news is, the stop I travelled to has a functioning elevator and ramps. Was super grateful for that. I took one train the whole way there and didn’t have to transfer. Definitely put me at ease. I know not all subway trips will be that “easy.” Plenty of subway stops don’t have elevators or ramps. Some even have escalators. I hate escalators! Talk about anxiety whenever I’m staring down one of those things. You’re telling me I have to walk onto a moving belt? No thank you. I know that eventually I’m going to have to transfer trains if I’m willing to make that journey. Nevertheless, that first solo trip was a great way to “dip my toes into the pool” as some say. Get a real taste of it. Build confidence to do it again.
I’m even happier to say that since that first solo subway trip, I’ve taken another one! Same route, same destination. Still, though! Every successful attempt builds confidence and breaks open the world around me. I’m not restricted to just getting around either by walking or by Uber anymore. That’s huge! Plus, I don’t have to drain my wallet every time I want to go somewhere. Hooray!