A few months ago, I discovered Humans of New York (HONY), an Instagram account and blog that features one-question interviews of New York’s unique inhabitants. HONY is the brainchild of NYC photographer and blogger, Brandon Stanton. After perusing through his quick portrait and interview snippets, I was stunned by each person’s story and the human experience Brandon is able to create. And with over four million fans and a #1 best-selling book, I’m not the only one who thinks so! Since HONY has moved and affected my life, I wanted to share a few of my favorite posts with you today, in hopes that you can find the beauty and honesty in them, too. I also recommend following HONY on Instagram — it’s without a doubt the most meaningful account I follow. Have a beautiful day, friends!
“People waste way too much energy taking things personally. That Facebook post is probably not about you. It was probably an accident that you weren’t tagged in that picture. And the person you’re dating is probably acting sad because that’s how they respond to setbacks at work, not because of anything you did.”
“I had a child when I was sixteen. I got kicked out of high school because of all the absences. My family and community pretty much wrote me off. But right away I got a job at a sporting goods store. Soon I was able to get a job as a receptionist at a tax company, and they gave me enough responsibilities that I learned how to do taxes. Eventually I learned enough to become an associate. Then I got offered a job at a smaller company, and even though it was a pay cut, they offered me responsibility over all the books — accounts payable, accounts receivable, everything. It was less money but I wanted that experience so I took the risk. And I’m so glad I did, because six months later, the controller of that company left and I was given that position. They told me they couldn’t officially call me the controller because I didn’t have a college degree. So I finished my degree 5 months ago — just to make it official! So after having a child at sixteen, I made it all the way to controller of a company, without even having a college degree. Can you believe that? Honestly, I’ve been waiting to tell that story so long that I told it to a customer service representative on the phone last week. She was nice about it and pretended to care.”
“What’s your favorite thing about your mother?” “She loves life more than anyone I’ve ever known. I hope she doesn’t mind me telling you this, but recently she’s had some health problems. And her health got so bad at one point, she called me and said: ‘I was starting to wonder if there was any reason to go on. But then I had the most delicious pear!'”
“When I told my mom that I was going to rehab, she was about to catch a flight to her 40th High School Reunion. I told her: ‘I guess you won’t be bragging about me to your friends.’ She said: ‘Actually, I’ve never been prouder of you.'”
“I’m glad I had a daughter. Ever since my grandmother died, I’ve needed the female energy in my life. It’s good energy. I mean, when things go wrong, another man can tell you that everything is going to be OK. But not like a woman can.”
“Do you remember the happiest moment of your life?” “This one time I was in Hawaii with my family, and we were walking to the beach, and we came to the top of this giant hill. And I said, ‘I’m going to take it.’ And I put my skateboard down, and started rolling down the hill, and I got going so fast that the board started to shake because the trucks were loose, and toward the bottom of the hill I came to this crack, and the board got caught and I was thrown onto the pavement. I got all bruised and scraped and my mom was screaming because she’s a total freakout.” “That was the happiest moment of your life?” “Yeah, I was just glad I took the hill.”
“When I started, these rocks were bathed in light. Now they’re just shadowy masses. So I have to decide how I want to remember them.”
“At the end of my senior year, I took some advanced level entry exams from Cambridge University. They are very difficult and very important. When the exam scores came in, my friend called me and told me that the principal was looking for me. My father was sitting next to me. He saw my face and asked me what was wrong. ‘I think I did very poorly,’ I told him. ‘Because the principal is looking for me.’ He told me that he would come to her office with me to support me. When we got there, there was a huge line of students waiting to get their scores, but the principal called me in. She told me I was one of three students in the school to get all A’s. My father was so nervous when I came out, and when I told him, he hugged me so hard that I could tell he was trying not to cry. He was so happy, he took all the money out of his wallet, handed it to the security guard, and told him to pass it out to everyone in line. It was the happiest moment of my life.”
“In my heart of hearts, I wanted to do the right thing, but selling drugs was easy. Everyone was doing it. I mean, I’m not using that as an excuse, I made my own decisions. But I grew up around these Robin Hood figures who would sell drugs, then buy supplies for kids who were going back to school, or pay rent for an old woman who was about to get evicted. All my friends were doing it. It almost seemed fashionable. I never felt proud of it. I always thought I’d transition to a job with the Transit Authority, or a job like this– something I’d feel good about, but instead I transitioned to jail. I did six years. When I got out, it was tempting to go back to the easy money, because everyone around me was still doing it, and I couldn’t get a job. But luckily I found an agency that helps ex-cons, because there aren’t many companies looking to give people a second chance. I’ve had this job for a few years now. You know what product I’m selling now? Myself. Everyone around here is my client. Times Square is a drug to these people. And I’m picking up all the trash so that they can have the full Times Square experience.”
“I was an English teacher. The demands of the system required that I give out grades, but I never felt good about it. How do you grade someone’s writing? Writing is about revision. It’s about access to self. If a student writes a poem, and it’s the best they can do at the moment, how are you supposed to compare that to the student sitting next to them? How are you supposed to give one a 90, and one an 85?”
“Right after I lost vision in my eye, I was so bad at walking that I ran into a girl eating ice cream, and knocked her cone out of her hand. She screamed: ‘Are you blind!?!?’ I turned to her and said: ‘I am blind actually, I’m so sorry, I’ll buy you a new cone.’ And she said: ‘Oh my God! I’m so sorry! Don’t worry! It’s no problem at all! I’ll buy another one.’ So we walked into the ice cream store together, and the clerk said: ‘I heard the whole thing. Ice cream is free.'”
“What’s your greatest struggle right now?” “No struggles.”
Check out the HONY Instagram and let me know your favorites, too!
p.s. You might like this…15 Ways to Be a Good Human Today
All photos and interviews via Humans of New York // Brandon Stanton