The New York Public Library’s famed main building is one block away from my office. I walk by it every day when I get off the subway. I have yet to set foot inside.
When I began my job, it was August, and I would use my break to take my lunch to Bryant Park and read. It was lovely to have a place to go sit outside and people watch, and a good way to ensure that I got away from my windowless office building for a little while each day. But I’ve had to give up that luxury in the winter months, and now I usually find myself heating up leftovers and eating alone at my desk, in front of the computer.
It occurred to me one morning, as I passed by the giant library, that it would be the perfect place to pass my lunch hour–I could browse for books, read, or write at one of the giant tables. And I could still people watch. But I haven’t made this plan a reality yet. Why?
Something about this imposing building is intimidating to me. The very basis of a library is that it’s open to the public. That’s its entire purpose–to give people like me (and not like me) a space to read and sit and wander. But I just can’t seem to shake this feeling of apprehension–as though I’m going to try the door and it will be locked, or I will be yelled at, told to leave, or I will get lost and wander somewhere I am not allowed. Or maybe it’s the ever-present discomfort of sitting in public alone. Don’t get me wrong–I do it all the time, but there’s always a sense of vulnerability I get, as though everyone is watching me and judging me because I’m there by myself. It’s ridiculous, but I usually don’t let it stop me from doing things on my own.
Does anyone else get this feeling? I promise to go to the NYPL on my lunch break, by the end of January. And I will tell you all about it.