Try Your Luck: 5 Things I Learned From My First Year In New York City
A year ago, I told friends and family I would be packing up and moving to New York City with no job, no apartment and limited connections.
I watched as the color slowly drained from their faces.
Moving to New York was the ultimate challenge, and I was up for it.
With two weeks to go until my Boston lease ended, I secured a one-month sublet, leaving me with four fleeting weeks to get my footing.
That was all the assurance I needed.
I bought a one-way Amtrak ticket to NYC.
By the end of the week, I had packed all of my earthly belongings into 1o cardboard boxes, and I placed both them and myself onto a train headed to Penn Station.
Four hours later, I stepped out into the chaotic heart of Manhattan.
It's been exactly a year and two weeks since that moment, and it's been filled with learning experiences far beyond my initial expectations.
So, here's the fledgling NYC knowledge I've stored away over the past 12 months, for other hopeful newcomers with a one-way ticket and a head full of hope.
1. You'll be forced to prioritize.
The logistics of living in the city means outside of work, the average person really only has four hours a day that are completely his or her own.
By necessity, New Yorkers develop discerning tastes when it comes to where and how their time is spent outside of work.
Learning to listen to your needs, and being resolute in your decision to satisfy them, is the first and fastest lesson you will learn after moving here.
Turning down the unlimited options that come your way in favor of what will benefit you will at first be difficult.
But, it's an entirely necessary part of maintaining your own “personal space” amidst the hustle and bustle.
2. The first thing anyone will ask is, “What do you do?”
It's a very valid question in a city that houses many powerful and successful people.
Moving to New York is nearly synonymous with the pursuit of something — a dream, an identity, a way of living — and everyone's time is usually spent pursuing this goal.
So, when people ask, “What do you do?” they are trying to get to know your New York story.
Your answer will inform them of your potential social circles, and what you two can offer each other professionally.
3. You need to get out of the city, and then you'll need to come back.
The pace of New York is as fast as it's rumored to be.
Manhattanites are constantly bombarded with a sensory overload of information, and they're surrounded by crowds.
Finding a quiet, solitary moment is difficult, and this is why New Yorkers either frequently go on weekend getaways or park it in style with a “stay-cation.”
Stay-cation options are available at nearly every price point, and they are a good option to hold you over until you can score discount tickets to somewhere with a slower pace of life.
Once you've been swept up in a New York minute, it's hard to let go and decompress.
It's difficult to completely relax on vacation after having adjusted to the city's breakneck speed.
Any New Yorker can tell you, though, that living here is addicting.
New York has a magnetic quality that nags at its residents when they've been gone for too long, and it brings everyone back for another round.
4. The subway has rules.
Most of the obvious ones are printed in whimsical cartoon ads, and they're broadcasted over the loudspeaker.
But there's also another behavioral code that's learned through experience.
The first and most valuable lesson I learned was not to get into an empty subway car.
This has obvious safety implications, but there's also a chance other passengers have passed up those seats on a packed train for good reason.
Follow their lead.
The second thing I quickly realized is there is no cell service on most lines.
Stranded from texts and Internet, commuters like to block out the claustrophobic experience of their subway ride by reading, listening to music, podcasts or doing all three.
The lack of cell service quickly became one of my favorite parts of commuting.
It actually forces you to be still and take a moment to breathe (provided the subway isn't so full that when you breathe, you're inhaling someone else's hair).
And lastly, subway rage is real.
You will feel it, and everyone around you will feel it, too.
If you let it, the efficiency of your morning commute will completely determine how the rest of your day is going to go.
5. It's transient.
People move through the city at a rapid pace, and there's a good chance the people you knew when you moved here will be gone by the end of the year.
At the end of my first year, many of the people I initially met had moved away for careers, travel or a change of pace.
Although I was sad to see them go, I was amazed by how many incredible people I got to know in just a year's time.
One of the greatest benefits of living here is everyone is always passing through, and you have opportunities to meet and befriend incredible people from all over the world.
Realizing I'm still here gives me a (misplaced, if not yet fully earned) sense of pride.
What side of my love-hate relationship with Manhattan I lean toward still depends on the day, but my admiration for New York only grows greater with time.
I don't know what to expect out of the second time around, but if it's anything like this year, the only thing that's certain is it will be brilliantly, completely unpredictable.
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