Sarah: Portraits of the 14th Street Y


Growing up, I feel like it was hard for me to find community because I felt different without understanding why I felt different. I think, in that sense, it’s totally like a breakfast club thing where I’ve found misfits all throughout my life.

I think 14th Street Y, besides a place of work, is a place for friendship! I always think to myself that it’s pretty common to get along with your coworkers, but not that common to actually fold them into your life. I think it’s really special that everybody that I work with has become part of my life.

I find a bit of sense of community for me in music. People who are naturally creative are drawn to the 14Y—I feel like in many creative people there is this sense of vulnerability and not knowing where your community is, feeling different and maybe a little weird. There’s something about the people at the 14Y that makes you feel whole and provides that sense of community.

I came to the 14Y because I wanted to put my passion somewhere where it felt like I was making a difference.

Being from a quaint, suburban town in Massachusetts and growing up in a first generation, immigrant-Bengali family is like growing up in two colliding worlds. One world is studded with Bollywood movies, 6 minute musical interludes, bright bold beautiful clothing, and spices that leave your taste buds excited, confused, and tingling all once. It also comes with a lot of baggage. My parents, at my age now, left everyone and everything behind with the expectation that their child, yet to be born, would go on to do bigger and better things; that’s a lot of pressure to put on a tiny human. In the other world, all I wanted was to fit in—I was ready to swap out my curry chicken and rice for mac and cheese, replace all my sari’s with Abercrombie and Fitch, and load my boombox with CD’s by Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and N’Sync instead of traditional Bengali music.

Over the years, I have learned that I will never fit perfectly into either world. But, I’d like to think that I am the result of two great worlds crashing together.

The friends I have made here at the Y remind me of that every single day. Although we all come from different places and experiences, we have all somehow found our way to this community center, each with big hearts and bright ideas. I am emboldened every day to be the best, happiest, smartest version of myself by the people around me.

To anyone else who feels that they have been precariously straddling two strange and different worlds without knowing which path to take, I say forget the old, beaten path and make your own.

Portraits of the 14th Street Y
is a photography project by Bridget Badore that tells the stories behind the many faces of the 14th Street Y community, including members, staff, teachers, trainers, artists, caregivers, families, and local business owners. Each year, the unique stories of more than 20,000 New Yorkers is woven into the fabric that makes the 14th Street Y a Downtown home for all.

Learn more about this exciting photography series here. You can also follow along and support the Downtown Stories on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.