I was so proud of finally finishing this particular post, as I’ve wanted to write a “recap” article since New York City and I hit our one-year anniversary on May 28th. It’s been sitting in a word doc, nearly untouched, for two weeks because I felt particularly naïve after rereading it again and again. I started many times and always deleted it feeling like all I was doing was complaining and comparing (which… it kind of is) but, in my final attempt, I was reminded by a friend (thank you, Robin) that it was naïve but, “endearingly naïve.” These are things I could never have learned or prepped for before living here. (Kind of the same way that you can’t get used to Seattle’s overcast skies until you’ve dealt with a sunless existence for a bit.) All that said – despite my mild embarrassment for not anticipating some likely obvious nuances, I am so happy I took the risk and jumped. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t have a Plan B and I landed feet first… after crashing and tumbling and standing back up to brush my knees off.
I was never silly enough to think I was going to move here and “make it” overnight but I was under the impression that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. (Thank you Ol’ Blue Eyes.) Mostly, that is true. New Yorkers, whether born-and-bred or relocated, are here because they all want something more. Finance, fashion, food, talent, talent, talent: this is a breeding ground for greatness if you can wade through the trash (literally.) It will make you or break you. There is no in between. This past year was arguably the most exciting year of my life. The adrenaline I experienced from a city that feels like a live wire led me learn a lot of things about myself and also realize how bizarre living in this concrete jungle actually is.
Ways I didn’t know life would change when I moved to New York:
I never do laundry. I haven’t stepped foot into a laundromat since I arrived over a year ago. I drop it off. Someone else washes my clothing. It sounds like a luxury saved for elitists (mockingly, “I don’t do laundry”) but time flies in this city and you don’t want to waste a precious hour waiting for your spin cycle to end when you could be drinking. Which brings me to my next point…
Everyone in this city is an alcoholic1. Happy hour is never happy hour – it’s happy night. There’s no such thing as grabbing “a” drink. The bars load up post working hours (unless you just don’t go back after a boozy lunch – which is also a thing) and happy hour turns to dinner (with drinks) and then post dinner drinks and then there’s-this-great-spot-around-the-corner-from-here-with-live-music-and (you guessed it)-a-great-cocktail-program drinks and then you’re walking/stumbling in the door to your shoebox apartment at 3am… on a Wednesday… because last call isn’t until 4am and you wanted to leave “early”. (Because also, Wednesday is the new Thursday [which was the new Friday.]) And that is just during the week. Don’t get me started on day drinking weekends. Two words: boozy brunch. We skipped brunch last weekend but, on the train to Long Beach, we popped our first beers at 10 am. “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” turned to “well, it’s after noon…” turned to “fuck it.”
Now, back to that shoebox apartment I mentioned. Whether it’s an apartment you went to check out that didn’t have a floor (this amazingly happened to a friend of mine — seriously) or the exorbitant cost of moving into a place (1st, last, deposit all equal to a month’s rent plus a broker fee of 15-20% the annual rent), everyone in NYC has an apartment horror story. While my experience wasn’t/isn’t bad enough to call it a horror story (knocks on wood), it certainly made my jaw drop out of sheer shock. I’d heard all the tales about how tiny and expensive New York living spaces were going to be but didn’t fully realize it until I was immersed. I moved into my first apartment on the UES (Upper East Side) sight unseen. I’d found my roommate on Craigslist while still in Seattle. (I amazingly found someone that would take me as a roommate after a relatively quick Skype call from across the country.) Long story short: cool roommate and $1250 a month for a teeny… teeny tiny apartment — on the top floor of a six-story walkup. I felt like the genie in the lamp. (You know, the scene in the Disney version where Aladdin opens the lid and sees Genie crammed in? Like that. But, with two people.) My queen bed was basically the size of the room, save for the three feet wide walk to the closet that wasn’t even deep enough to properly hang hangers. (The bed was lofted which gave me a little more space for a large and convenient shoe rack and a rad chair I found curbside on a walk home from work one night.) Despite loving the location, I couldn’t take (literally) crawling into bed after happy “hour” one more time so, I ubered myself and my stuff to an apartment in Brooklyn where I now have a bed, desk, full-sized closet and still have enough space to do yoga in my room – if I did yoga.
Despite everyone’s alcoholism, this is a surprisingly active city. They have to counter it and do so by walking – everywhere. My pre-BK commute involved me walking straight over 78th Street to Park Ave and hoofing it down to my office in Midtown. This pleasant walk (not even sarcastically) was just shy of three miles one way. I got into the habit of walking home from work. Then started walking to work. And, because the drinking weight struggle is real, I started walking from work to HH in Greenwich Village/LES (Lower East Side). My Fitbit is proud of my 15k+ average steps a day and it’s also likely the only reason I’m not an entire blob of squish from all the eating out and, yes, drinking.
Throwback to my SATC loving girls: Carrie Bradshaw used her oven to store shoes. (Using the oven for storage is also a thing here. You have to make the most of your space!) While I didn’t store apparel or accessories in my oven, it was definitely used few and far between (under 5 times in a year… a year.) Living in New York is a high-energy sport. You’re up in the morning and out the door and come home with just enough time to take some ibuprofen and down a Gatorade before crashing. Since no one is ever home nearly every meal is eaten out. Breakfast at the craft coffee spot (Bluestone, Blue Bottle and Culture are my Midtown favorites) and then lunch out (Fika, Maison Kayser and Ipanema for the best $14 lunch you will ever have. Bitoque, order the bitoque but you have to sit at the bar for the lunch pricing which usually means you need to top it off with a caipirinha.) Dinner can be anything from a $0.99 slice of pizza (or four) to a delectable fancy pants burger at Grape and Vine or NoMad to blowfish and spicy key crab sushi at world famous Morimoto. Looking at my bank statements since I arrived, over 75% of my discretionary income has gone to, we’ll call it, socializing2.
Of course, the biggest shift in moving to New York that you never fully understand until you’ve experienced this city is the energy. It is alive. You feel it from the moment your plane touches down at JFK/LGA/EWR. There is an excitement, a buzz in the air. It hits you full force when you walk out your door in the morning and doesn’t dim until you’re back in your genie bottle. I was talking to a friend about this the other night at the Wythe rooftop (where another friend took me to show me “you can’t see Manhattan from Manhattan.”) New York City is full of extremes. You either find yourself here or you lose yourself. Everyone from Mark Twain (“Make your mark in New York and you are a made man”) to Frank Sinatra/Jay-Z (“Since I made it here I can make it anywhere”) knows what the draw is. And, yes, it’s hard but, no, there isn’t anywhere I’d rather be right now. New York City is a playground for 20 & 30-somethings. It’s not a life I would want to sustain long term (so I say now) but I am loving (nearly) every page, paragraph, sentence and word in this chapter of my life.
“By comparison with other less hectic days, the city is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience — if they did they would live elsewhere.” E. B. White
Additions to the “only in New York” living realizations:
- Garbage piled on the sidewalks because this city doesn’t have alleyways or dumpsters.
- Mystery puddles. It hasn’t rained in weeks yet this murky puddle hasn’t evaporated. (I read about these in an Onion article and chuckled. There’s no way right? But, I remember the first time the one of my street was gone because the street cleaner sprayed the water up the curb. It was surprisingly deep and full of random lost items: assorted wrappers, a child’s pacifier, a coffee cup and a bottle of hairspray – no joke.)
- No recycling – it nearly broke my little green PNW (Pacific Northwest) heart when I first arrived.
Extra bits after a conversation with the very cool English photographer sitting next to me:
- It’s “shabby, dirty and unkempt. It’s filthy compared to London” (and Seattle for that matter.)
“When you leave New York, you are astonished at how clean the rest of the world is. Clean is not enough.” Fran Lebowitz
- The smell in the summer — don’t, I repeat, don’t inhale too deeply. It’s not safe.
- The pace. It has a 24/7 vibe. You can get anything at anytime from anywhere.
- Because you can do something at anytime of the day, people tend to be flaky.
- People plan 5 things a night and are really loose with their plans. It’s an opportunist city.
- The trains are always an excuse whether it’s being late for work or being the flakey friend and cancelling plans – and no one questions it because everyone does it.
- Everyone is “busy.”
- People steal your sh*t. Excuse me — I’m slightly bitter as my (2 week old brand new super amazing awesome) bike was stolen in Williamsburg during the 30 minutes I was checking out a new apartment. Yes, it was locked up with a Kryptonite lock. No, I didn’t get it back.
Not all points are negative:
- People are just themselves – unabashedly honest. Even if you’re a craft-class-aholic burlesque drag queen that works at JPM (J.P. Morgan) and loves to knit while doing paddleboard yoga there is a welcoming group for you, no judgment.
- Sunsets and beaches — they definitely surprised me with their beautiful-ness.
- This city encourages you to go to extremes.
- Anything is possible.
“I regret profoundly that I was not an American and not born in Greenwich Village. It might be dying, and there might be a lot of dirt in the air you breathe, but this is where it’s happening.” John Lennon
1 (and, well, 2 fits here as well now that I think about it.) I’ve managed to tame the go-go-go out-out-out all the time mindset. Some people can handle it extensively. Those people are extroverts – or trying to run away from something. I am not – an extrovert at least. (I know, that nugget may shock some.) After a year of cocktail-ing my way through Manhattan, I can finally say I’ve hit the 7th stage of moving to a new city: return to normalcy – or as normal as living in New York can be.