On my third anniversary in New York City I ask myself what it means to have lived here that long, what I’ve learned, and why I pay four times more to live here than in my last city, and I realize it’s time to move.
Just kidding, I think a ton of people conclude that, but I am just getting started blowing tens of thousands. Still kidding, but it’s true. To celebrate appropriately I invite friends to a FREE event: the last movie with a view at Brooklyn Bridge Park. What better way to toast today than with friends, a park, the skyline and the completely unrelated flick people voted on: Clueless.
This year has been a beautiful disaster. I spent half of it on crutches when I’m already a total mess and what felt like half of it in other cities. When I was here, I learned to love Chinatown and finally feel at home in my own neighborhood, followed a dream and took my first course in Italian, tried at least 100 new things on weekend adventures and finally won in an argument with Time Warner.
It’s hard to narrow down the list of my favorite new discoveries, but I unexpectedly had such a blast shooting golf balls off of Chelsea Piers, finding new rooftops and tastings, pretending to have beach days on Beekman Beer Garden’s patch of sand, and taking advantage of weekend getaways. The spirit of the city motivated me to keep moving and has taught me to not let anything, including immobility, hold me back.
What I’ve learned from New York among a million lessons is that you’ve never really made it. You never reach that imaginary place where you’ve attained the career, apartment, relationships and income you dreamed of, because each new opportunity opens doors to others and every pathway is lined with motivation and inspiration as you come up with idea after idea on your walk (it’s a brisk, efficient walk for us). And you can’t truly grasp that this is actually a good thing until you live here. Because making it implies an end point, and no New Yorker is slowing down anytime soon.
Here are three more lessons on living in NYC–of the million–to last three years and still love it:
- You’re going to have to be aggressive. Even if this is not your personality, this is a requirement for staying. Or maybe for staying and not being miserable. Aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean use aggression, believe it or not you can get somewhere without shoving other people or forcing them off the sidewalk, contrary to popular belief. It means you have to call your super the second something’s wrong in your apartment and hound them until it’s fixed. You have to apply and apply and interview and fail before landing your first gig. And you may look at 20 apartments before finding one remotely suitable. Keep at it, everyone else does and it pays off.
- You’re going to be late. Not because you become an inconsiderate person, because that’s a real possibility as well, but because you rely on public transportation in one of the most tumultuous atmosphere’s on earth. When you’re first here you’ll stress about this and let your mood be affected and then you’ll arrive and whoever you’re meeting will be even later. Delay after delay you’ll learn to let it be and maintain your composure, and you’ll keep a book on you.
- You’re going to need to say yes. This isn’t the place to stay in on weeknights and watch TV…or ever actually. You can budget your time and money and responsibly manage maintaining rent, but you shouldn’t if it means missing out on all the things that make that rent worth it. I’ve said before, unmatched proximity to the best of music, theater, art and eats is included in the price of your rent–take advantage of it. The best experiences I’ve had here are still from nights or weekends when I was exhausted but said yes to an invite. I think this concept applies anywhere if you’re an adventurer, but the return is three times more sparkly, strange and unexpected in NYC. You’ll see.
Sometimes when the chaos, motion, cost or confusion overwhelm me here, I simply go back to my first blogs where I was kicked out of my dorm before I could even get dressed or applying to dozens of jobs a day while waitressing, and re-read how far I’ve come and what a journey that distance has taken me on. My first and second anniversaries are the perfect examples, as each occasion has provided perspective upon reflection.
If you get to New York and inevitably get discouraged, take note of the process, it will comfort and amuse you along the way. Then be aggressive and say yes and don’t worry when you’re running late, you’re where you’re meant to be.
New Yorkers, what’s the best advice you give newcomers?