Read this if you've ever wondered whether New York City lives up to its hype.
Some iconic views at the beginning, middle, and end of my time in New York.
A few weeks ago I pulled an Irish exit and left NYC without much hoopla (read: no social media announcement) and temporarily moved back to my parent’s place in Dallas; more on the “temporary” part later. I’d been toying with the idea since April and if I’m being honest pretty much since I moved to New York 4+ years ago. Most of my friends know I’ve been through phases of wanting to leave NYC; specifically my “I’m only here for 1 year” phase in 2014 followed by my “this is my last year here” phase which started in 2016 and never really ended.
My relationship with New York City can be best compared to Stockholm syndrome. For many people New York City is a dream full of endless possibilities but I knew pretty much right off the bat (even before I moved) that it wasn’t for me. Surprisingly, 4+ years later I found myself all too comfortable in the chaos that once unnerved me.
Even though I left somewhat abruptly I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how it’s possible to love and despise the city at the same time. Psychology says that the mental discomfort that someone experiences due to having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes is called cognitive dissonance. F. Scott Fitzgerald said “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”. For the sake of sanity (literally) let’s go with the latter.
When I think about why I loved the city two things rise to the top of the list: people & food. My years in New York would not have been as special without the people I got to share them with and those delicious, viral, Instagram-able restaurants that show up in your newsfeed. It’s been amazing to eat my through the gimmick capital of the world.
Now that those are out of the way: Hits and misses of New York sans people and food.
New York Hits
Unlimited food - I know I said I wouldn’t write about food but this isn’t about food but rather the access of it. Getting any type of food at any hour of the day, excluding quality as a factor, is pretty amazing. This is simultaneously everything that is so right and yet so wrong with the world.
24/7 public transportation - Self-explanatory. New Yorkers like to complain about the MTA all the time and I agree it’s pretty awful when it’s bad but when it works (which is actually most of the time) it’s pretty incredible.
Style-spiration - For someone who has relatively low interest in fashion it’s been rewarding to be surrounded by people who make very intentional dressing choices. While fashion comes and goes there is a certain style and flare that people in New York truly take pride in it. I can finally say things like “that’s not me” while shopping.
Transience - There’s a common stereotype assigned to New Yorkers of being “caught up in their own world” and being too selfish to care about anything else. While this is partially true the counter is that people are more willing to engage in fleeting interactions which makes it easy to meet a lot of new people often. While it’s harder to form meaningful relationships there is something valuable about constant change.
Diversity - This is probably true of most big cities but New York attracts people of all different walks of life, particularly different professions. I will miss having friends and acquaintances who work in industries I know nothing about and passions different from mine that they are willing to share. The Bay Area doesn’t have as rich professional diversity (ehm, tech) but I hope I’ve learned how to seek it out and immerse myself.
New York Misses
After I wrote this section I realized these might not be New York specific but maybe just a list of pet peeves. Oops!
Smells - Specifically that nose cringing, dry-heave-inducing smell of dried pee that comes without warning. Literally anywhere and anytime. Nowhere is safe. I’ve been told this is a San Francisco problem as well … can’t wait!
Time - People are always “running late” and usually blaming it on the MTA when in reality it’s just a lack of planning (see 24/7 transportation point above). This is especially annoying for someone who is annoyingly punctual.
Age is just a number - To be honest this is both a hit and a miss. I think it’s incredible that New York is full of opportunity for anyone at any time in their life and the energy of the city encourages risk-taking. However, I struggle with is when people use that phrase to shrug off any sense of responsibility and ownership and allow that mentality to avoid living a purposeful, intentional life. If you’re Peter Pan looking for Neverland this might be your place.
Poverty & wealth - The painful juxtaposition of poverty and wealth within steps of each other was one of my biggest qualms with New York that lasted my entire time there. This is a recurring problem that older, established cities have faced for decades and newer hubs (read: Cupertino) are likely to face it too. What I struggle most with is the complacency of the status quo and how easy it can be to overlook it.